As we near WWDC 2015, which kicks off on 8 June, rumours are hotting up about the possibility of an Apple Music streaming service that rivals the likes of iTunes Radio. Apple's acquisition of Beats is a massive clue here, as are leaks and reports from various sources from around the web. Here, we bring you all of the rumours about Apple Music, including its release date, features, and whether iTunes Radio will join it here in the UK or be replaced completely.
iTunes Radio is a service launched by Apple with iOS 7 back in 2013, letting you set up and customise your own radio stations that stream music tailored to your likes and dislikes. Those in the US have had iTunes Radio for more than a year, but we're still wondering when (or more accurately, if) iTunes Radio will launch in the UK. It arrived in Australia in February 2014 but there's still no sign of it on this side of the Atlantic, and we now suspect that we'll get an all-new Beats Music service instead, or in addition to iTunes Radio this year. Here, we bring you all of the rumours about Apple's music streaming service including release date rumours and speculation about its features.
Apple Music release date rumours: When will Apple Music come out?
Following Apple's acquisition of Beats last year, questions emerged about how the company might be planning to use Beats Music, and the consensus is that it's going to launch an amazing new music streaming service that we had assumed will replace iTunes Radio.
Prior to Apple's 9 March event, there were some rumours to suggest that the company might debut its new music streaming service then. However, we're now expecting it to be shown off for the first time during WWDC 2015, which is set to kick off on 8 June, as part of an iOS 8.4 update.
But the most recent reports that have emerged just weeks ahead of the rumoured unveiling of the new music service say that Apple still doesn't have the licensing deals it needs.
However, those same reports seem confident that Apple will still launch the service in June, and that it might manage to secure the deals it needs to quickly. "If any company can pull it of, Apple can," a source told Billboard, who published the reports about the deals. "Labels are more likely to play ball with them," the source added.
Some speculation suggests that, while Apple may still show off the music service in June, the actual release date may come much later when the company has completed all of the necessary deals.
On 13 May, 9To5Mac reported that the Beats-based music streaming service is likely to be called Apple Music, and that it'll have a focus on social networking integration with some features users of the now discontinued iTunes Ping.
Artists will be able to cross-promote other artists' music if they want to using the social integration features, the report claims, and Apple Music users will be able to comment on posts from artists. Users won't, however, have their own Apple Music profiles, so it's not trying to be the next Facebook. This feature will be called Artist Activity, as spotted in the iOS 8.4 beta.
And surprisingly, the report claims that Apple will keep iTunes Radio and iTunes Match after all, in addition to Apple Music. This strikes us as strange because they'll have some very similar features, but apparently iTunes Radio will come to the UK to coincide with the rollout of Apple Music.
We'd been expecting iTunes Radio to arrive early last year in the UK, but quite clearly our expectations haven't been met. There's still no sign of iTunes Radio in the UK and we're beginning to think it'll never happen.
According to a Billboard report, Apple executives had hoped to see a boost in song sales after launching iTunes Radio in the US, but so far only 1-2 per cent of listeners are making purchases.
iTunes Radio's success has been described as "underwhelming," according to the report, so it's possible that Apple will wait until the service has seen significant updates before releasing it to additional countries.
Apple Music features: What will Apple's Beats Music-based service be like?
In March, 9To5Mac published a convincing report claiming that the Beats-based music service would be introduced, perhaps in beta form to begin with, at WWDC, according to "music industry sources briefed on the launch timeline."
"The new iTunes music streaming service is based on technology acquired from Beats Music," the report reads. "Including curated playlists, cloud-based libraries and offering customised to the musical tastes of individual users."
It'll be similar to Beats Music for iPhone, but will be integrated directly into Apple's iOS Music app as well as iTunes on the Mac. It'll also arrive on the Apple TV as a replacement for the current Beats channel.
That report also claims that Apple had planned to launch the new service in March, but that it ways delayed due to the departures of some key employees, and some trouble when it came to integrating Beats human and technology resources into Apple.
Apparently, the new service will be available on Android, too, though it's expected to arrive much later than the iOS version.
This might sound crazy, but back in 2003 Apple decided against the odds to introduce iTunes for Windows, so it's not completely outside the realms of possibility.
At the end of April, reports began to emerge to suggest that Apple has been poaching some employees from BBC Radio 1 to help work on its music streaming service, which not only hints that the UK will get the service shortly after launch, but also adds evidence to its imminent arrival. Four producers from BBC Introducing have reportedly been snapped up by Apple, including James Bursey. Former BBC DJ Zane Lowe is also said to have been employed by Apple recently.
Former Deezer executive is also said to have joined Apple, while Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor has been rumoured as a major player in the overhaul of iTunes Radio, as he was formerly chief creative officer at Beats.
Apple Music rumours: The competition
If you can’t wait to create a custom radio station like the ones in iTunes Radio there are other similar apps available. One of the biggest radio services is Rdio, which enables you to listen to custom radio stations. Although it costs £9.99 per month for an account.
TuneIn Radio is a free ad-supported app that works more like regular radio, but enables you to listen to internet-based stations. Meanwhile the BBC iPlayer Radio is a good app for catching up on BBC radio shows.
But probably the closest competitor to iTunes Radio is Spotify, which enables you to create a playlist of tracks from a song. Spotify offers a free option if you don't mind ads, and there are apps available for a huge range of devices including iPhones, iPads and Macs.
For more see: Best streaming music services 2015
Reports that emerged in May 2015 from The Verge say that Apple "has been pushing major music labels to force streaming services like Spotify to abandon their free tiers." Apple is said to be hoping to reduce competition ahead of the launch of its own service, and the removal of a free version of Spotify would certainly do so.
Additionally, Apple could be offering to pay YouTube's music licensing fee to Universal Music Group if the label stopped allowing its songs on YouTube, the report says.
Sources claim that the Federal Trade Commission, the Department of Justice and the European Union's Competition Commission have been looking into Apple's business habits surrounding the pressure it's apparently putting on music labels, similar to the investigations that occurred during the ebook antitrust case.
Why hasn't Apple launched iTunes Radio in the UK?
This isn’t because Apple is tardy, or because of technical challenges. But it’s more to do with licensing deals, these are generally negotiated with the major record labels and Apple has to negotiate with each label for each continent and country. Apple typically starts with the US because it is a US company and that’s where its primary market is. The UK, along with Germany and France typically come shortly afterwards.
The iTunes Store launched in April 28, 2003 in the US and June 15, 2004 in the United Kingdom. So that took just over a year to negotiate. iTunes Radio launched in the US in September this 2013, and while we had expected it to launch in the UK by the end of 2014 it's likely that the Beats acquisition triggered a change of plans for Apple.
There are already services available that perform similar function to iTunes Radio in the US and the UK, as mentioned above. While these are popular services, the integration of iTunes Radio directly into iTunes on the Mac, and especially into the Music app on the iPhone and iPad, must surely be compelling to the music industry. After all, Apple is the leading music store and iTunes Radio aims to encourage people to purchase music that they’re listening to.
Apple has a pretty good, if somewhat fractious, relationship with the music industry. So we're hoping the company will be able to bring Beats Music to the UK quickly.