Although rock star and Beats chief creative officer Trent Reznor had a front-row seat at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference, held at San Francisco’s Moscone Center on June 8, music took a backseat to tech announcements at the event.
The first mention of music came 30 minutes in during a presentation of new iOS 9 improvements like a “now playing” function that operates on the iPhone lock screen.
Some 45 minutes later, CarPlay earned its first mention. “We’re pulling the cord,” said Apple’s svp of software Craig Federighi, demonstrating that such music apps as Spotify and iHeartRadio will be able to operate without having to pull your phone out of your pocket or bag.
It took another hour for Cook to tease the conferences’s signature “One more thing…,” a carryover from the Steve Jobs era.
“We’ve had a long relationship with music at Apple and music has had a rich history of change,” he said in introducing a video to the soundtrack of “There Is No Light” by Wildbirds and Peacedrums.
Said Cook: “Today we’re announcing Apple Music. It will change the way you experience music forever.”
He then introduced Jimmy Iovine, who’s still title-less at Apple but is a music industry veteran if ever there was one. The founder of Interscope Records went on to explain:
“I’m here because of 2003, the record industry was a ball of confusion. Technology was this giant invader from the North. So I went to Apple and see Steve Jobs and Eddy Cue and they showed me a simple, elegant way to buy music online — iTunes.”
“Now in 2015 music is a fragmented mess,” added Iovine of his desire to “build a bigger and better ecosystem.”
Speaking of his tech partners, Iovine said, “They can help move culture the way art moves culture. Tech and art can live together. … All the ways you love music all in one place. One single app on your iPhone. Apple Music is a revolutionary music service curated by the leading music experts who we hand-picked.”
In a video played just after Iovine’s introduction, Reznor provided the voiceover which declared Apple Music “not just for the top tier artists, but the kids in their bedrooms too.”
The music service will feature three modes: My Music, For You and New. “All human-curated and available by genre or activity.”
Another Apple svp, Eddy Cue, was next to take the stage where he tackled Internet radio. Said Cue: “Internet radio isn’t really radio, we wanted to do something really big, a worldwide radio station. That’s why we hired Zane Lowe.”
Reznor is credited with coming up with the idea of a global radio station fully curated and broadcast from three cities. “It’s a music lover’s dream,” said Iovine of Apple Music Beats 1.
British DJ Lowe also appeared on video speaking of how what he played as a DJ on BBC would trigger debate among friends and listeners.
“Apple has been a singular force in the digital evolution of music,” said Warner Music Group CEO Steve Cooper in a statement. “The launch of its subscription service is a milestone moment for our industry. Right now, accelerating the global proliferation of paying subscribers is one of our most important goals, and Apple’s massive resources and huge customer base will make it a powerful player in turbocharging that growth. The increased competition in this space is also a big positive, and will help unlock as much value as possible for our artists and songwriters.”
Finally, a music star appeared on stage in San Francisco. Drake, who was supposed to be an equity partner in rival streaming service Tidal, took the stage and spoke of “The dream of being a new artist like myself and connecting with a real audience has never been better than now.”
Cue’s demo of the music service was impressive, allowing attendees to see functions such as search, song identity and even the ability to call up a top hit from a specific year. A new function called “Connect” also allows unsigned artists to get their music out.
The service will cost $9.99 a month with the first three months offered for free. For $14.99, up to six family members will be able to share the account. “It’s an incredible value,” added Cue.
As previously reported by Billboard, the service will launch at the end of the month.
Finally, for the grand finale, a performance by the Weeknd, who premiered a new song and signaled a break from previous criticisms that the tech company was out-of-touch, music-wise.
Competing streaming service Rdio issued a statement on the announcement, writing: “Welcome, Apple. Seriously. Welcome to the most exciting and important frontier since the digital music revolution began 16 years ago. We look forward to responsible competition in the massive effort to make music available legally for anyone to enjoy anytime, anywhere.”
The WWDC event kicked off with a five-minute opening film starring Bill Hader that seemed to take its comedy cues from HBO’s popular series Silicon Valley.
Tim Cook, Apple CEO, followed with an introduction of the WWDC which celebrates its 26th year in 2015. Some 1,000 Apple engineers are on hand to work with developers from 70 countries on new apps and state-of-the-art technology.
Among the announcements at the top of the talk were improvements to operating systems OSX and iOS, the former in the way of an upgrade named El Capitan which was demoed for the group. Boasting speed, ease-of-use and architectural improvements, such qualities also carry over to the new ApplePay, the renamed Wallet (formerly Passbook), maps, notes and, of course, Siri.
A new News app was also debuted which will deliver articles from such partners as The New York Times and Conde Nast.
Apple’s App store also got a big look during the presentation in the form of a video that featured such iconoclasts as Neil deGrasse Tyson and J.J. Abrams.
By Shirley Halperin, San Francisco