As you may have noticed, I am rather fascinated by Apple Music. One terribly interesting part of the app and service mashup is Beats 1, the global, 24/7 radio station led by for BBC Radio 1 DJ and new music expert Zane Lowe, hip-hop DJ Ebro Darden and grime aficionado Julie Adenuga.
Apple introduced us to the idea of radio at its WWDC keynote last week, emphasizing discovery and shared experiences, but the company failed to answer a number of questions, namely why exactly Apple is doing radio at all.
I've been thinking about Beats 1 since Apple Music was unveiled, and have a number of questions swirling around my head that I hope to see answered in time:
Why is Apple getting into content, specifically radio?
What is Beats 1's purpose, its reason for existence? How does it benefit the overall Apple Music experience? How does it - like every other service Apple offers — help to bolster device sales?
Why did Apple keep the Beats branding?
Apple dropped the Beats name from its streaming music component, while keeping a number of its features and underlying technologies, but retained this branding for its new radio station. Is the Beats name symbolic for who this service is aimed at and what it is for?
Who is Beats 1 for?
Leading from that, who, exactly, is Beats 1 for? The company can't play music that will satisfy all listeners in all countries with their diverse tastes and preferences. What market is Apple targeting with Beats 1 and how will that manifest itself in the service?
How will it work with 3 DJs over 7 days?
It doesn't take a genius to figure out that 24 hours divided by three DJs equals 8 hours each, 7 days a week. It's unrealistic to expect that will be the case in reality — especially considering that Darden and Adenuga are apparently keeping their jobs at Hot97 and Rinse FM, respectively. How will Apple fill time on Beats 1? "Radio shows" were mentioned in the keynote, but what kind of programming can we expect? There are also rumors of "guest" DJs, the likes of Pharrell Williams and Drake being named as candidates (the former's song being prominent in Apple Music's marketing and the latter making an appearance on stage at WWDC). I'd say this is likely, and could be a key component in the success of Beats 1.
What music will Beats 1 play?
Jimmy Iovine stated that Apple Music will simply play "great" music. That means a great deal of different things to a great deal of people. Lowe is known for his talent-spotting in terms of new music and emerging artists across genres, but again that isn't an answer! How can Beats 1 please as many people as possible without losing its identity?
Which slot is considered "prime time"?
Lowe is broadcasting from Los Angeles, Darden from New York and Adenuga from London, but which show is the headliner? We all know particularly slots garner higher listenership — commuting times, generally — on local and national radio. But it doesn't work quite like that when your audience is explicitly global. Personally, I want to listen to Zane but, being here in the UK, I expect I'll miss much of his live content. If I do, will I be able to catch it in my own time with a replay? That kind of undermines Apple's message of the live, shared experience of radio if so.
What kinds of exclusive content will Beats 1 have?
Beats 1 is said to have some exclusive content up its sleeve. During the Apple Music portion of the show, we saw shots from inside the studio (with Dr. Dre making his first appearance) and "worldwide exclusives" being mentioned. Will Beats 1 get first plays of new singles? Will artists participate in interviews? Perhaps Zane Lowe and the ex-BBC producers he likely brought in will create something akin to what Radio 1 has with the popular Live Lounge.
Why isn't Beats 1 free on Android?
Beats 1 is free on iOS, whether you subscribe to Apple Music or not. To access it on Android, however, you'll need to pay your $9.99 a month. My guess is that Apple is pumping money into this project and perhaps it is content to make that back on hardware sales, but isn't willing to give Android users the station for free.
Radio is huge in the car and has been for quite some time. Apple has also begun to make inroads into that market with CarPlay. Does Apple have bigger plans for Beats 1 in the car? It is the ultimate mobile device after all.
Will there be a Beats 2?
Does giving Beats a number suggest there are plans for subsequent channels? Could Apple diversify its offering in future, should Beats 1 be a success, by launching a Beats 2 and 3? Perhaps. Or maybe Zane Lowe only feels comfortable at radio stations with a 1 in the title.
Beats 1 is an unprecedented move from Apple and indeed from any streaming music provider. It's so out of left field that no one really has a grasp on it or its purpose just yet. I hope some of these questions will be answered come June 30th.