Drake and The Weeknd Help Unveil Apple Music at the WWDC
Apple wants to be more than just your music store — it wants to be your Spotify, your Tidal, your YouTube and your SoundCloud, and they announced that intention with the unveiling of Apple Music today (June 8). The highly anticipated announcement, made at the Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco, got a co-sign from Drake and closed with a special performance by The Weeknd, who performed the official version of his recently-leaked "Can't Feel My Face."
SNL alum Bill Hader kicked the conference live stream off with a sketch in which he played a fussy director finessing the final details of an over-the-top version of the WWDC (the sketch also featured Veep's Matt Walsh, and a heavily AutoTuned musical number from Community's Danny Pudi). The clip took jabs at two very real facts about this year's conference, and Silicon Valley in general: How mainstream tech nerdery has gotten, and that most of tech's big wigs are older white men — men such as Apple CEO Tim Cook and SVP of Software Engineering Craig Federighi, two of the event's hosts.
Cook, Federighi, and several other Apple execs provided a rundown of the new OS X, El Capitan, as well as what’s new in IOS 9, and what's planned for the App Store. And THEN, finally, after an hour and 45 minutes of dancing around the subject, Cook got to the big show.
"One more thing..." the text behind Cook read, eliciting applause from the audience, who had hopefully been sitting in comfy seats for the previous hundred and five minutes. After a brief introductory clip, veteran producer and Beats co-founder Jimmy Iovine took the stage to roll out Apple Music in all its glory. Iovine described it as an "ecosystem," and "one complete thought about music." With help from Trent Reznor in yet another clip introducing the project — plus a demo from Apple exec Eddy Cue —some of Apple Music's key points were detailed:
Pricing: Apple Music will launch on June 30. It will cost subscribers $9.99 per month, or $14.99 for a family plan — but they'll offer the first three months free to get you hooked.
Beats 1: A "24/7 radio station," Beats 1 will serve as a curated, constantly-refreshed discovery source for fans. Transmitting out of LA, New York and London, the faces/voices of Beats 1 are BBC Radio1's Zane Lowe, former Hot 97 bigwig Ebro Darden and DJ-presenter Julie Adenuga.
Connect: This function allows artists to share behind-the-scenes content with fans — examples included a lyrics sheet from Chris Cornell and a video of the Alabama Shakes' Brittany Howard playing guitar in the studio. It will also allow unsigned up-and-comers to grab more ears than they might on SoundCloud or Bandcamp.
Music videos: According to Eddy Cue, "tens of thousands" of HD music videos will be available with your subscription, ostensibly after for that Tidal customer who can't handle the grainy resolution of a YouTube rip.
Siri's getting smarter, maybe: Cue also demonstrated Siri's ability to respond to music-related requests, including playing a song from a specific year or a vague description of a song you've got a hankering for — though his request to "play the song from Selma" didn't work on the first try.
The music itself: Once you customize the For You setting with your favorite genres and artists, Apple Music will give you "human-curated" recommendations for playlists and albums. You can also discover new songs through the New button, which Cue reiterates is "more than just an algorithm."
Drake, wearing an excellent letterman jacket with the classic rainbow Apple insignia on it, strutted onstage to talk up Connect's ability to break new artists. The former Degrassi actor shared his own Started from the Bottom story of breaking into the music biz, saying that after some major-label rejections, “myself and my team brought our music and our vision directly to the people.” If Business Insider's earlier whispers are correct, the rapper may have been paid $19 million for his time. Fellow Canadian The Weeknd closed the day's live-streamed festivities with his new song (all of this Ontario pride, yet they still can't get Apple Pay in Canada?).
You can watch the ad for Apple's Beats 1 endeavor below, and let us know your thoughts on the new subscription service in the comments.
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