Thoughts on the relaunch of Apple Music Radio

Apple Music today relaunched its radio service with the offering of two new stations and a revamped Beats 1, in a move which bolsters its somewhat dwindling radio offering. 

I say dwindling, let’s be honest here, when you think of Apple Music, you don’t think of the radio bit, or at least, you don’t think of listening to Apple’s own stations. In the days of Beats 1 when Apple Music first launched, there was so much hype, but that soon subsided after six months. 

I listened to Beats 1 occasionally, but felt it didn’t offer what I wanted as a listener. The Beats List, Live from London was a decent programme, but everything else just seemed very American, and rightly so, given Apple is an American company. 

Now, listeners get even more choice with Apple Music. Beats 1 has been rebranded as Apple Music 1, which aims to play the freshest hits, with new additions including Apple Music Hits, which will play hits from the 80s, 90s and today, along with Apple Music Country which, you guessed it, will play country music.

Each station does exactly what it says on the tin, delivered with high production values and no ads.

The unique thing about these stations is, they are truly personality led. But they’re stations that aren’t trying to be local, they’re not trying to bring celebrity to the local arena like many traditional UK based stations are, put simply, Apple’s array of stations ARE celebrity driven, with hosts such as Elton John, Zane Lowe, Lady GaGa and Ciara all prepped, ready and waiting to host programmes.

These aren’t regular programmes either. The schedules across all three stations are so diverse and you’ll hear one show one week, then it’ll be back in say, two weeks time, totally throwing out the traditional radio rulebook.

On the launch, I listened to half hour of Apple Music 1 with Zane and guests. The production values are faultless, but you wouldn’t expect anything less from Apple and Zane, who’s the Creative Director of Apple Music Radio.

Zane’s knowledge of music is outstanding and his interactions with interviewees are easy going, fun and in some of what I heard, vibrant. They didn’t shy away from any faults either, they tried to Young M.A over on FaceTime, but failed first time. Zane acknowledged this with fun and vibrancy, perhaps a little more than what you’d get on standard radio, who would probably just cut to a song or an ad break. This type of radio Apple offers feels different, it feels raw and unique, even mores than the Beats 1 predecessor. 

Is Apple trying to compete with traditional radio? No, I don’t think so. What Apple is doing though, is offering something new and unique for listeners around the world. I wouldn’t say its main competitor is traditional radio, but rather Spotify, whose radio stations merely play you a selection of songs they think you’ll like with no presentation.

It’s not all great though, it’s very, American and whilst you can’t expect them to cater for every country in the world, I’d like to hope there would be some scope to have some evenings, or segments of the schedules, dedicated to presenters/music/information from our part of the world. Apple’s website boasts they have professional studios in places like New York, Nashville, and London, it would be great to see content driven from the wider world. Equally, it would be nice to know if the programme is being broadcast from which studio (I mean, that might just be a geeky thing, but you know).

Also, stop with the time checks. I’m in England, it’s not the morning where I am, it’s the evening, and I have no idea when 5pm PET is in BST. If you’re going to mention the time, at least mention all the major time zones (America’s, Australia, UK, for example). 

Amongst these new stations, you’ll find a plethora of podcasts and listen again programmes, both in visual and audio format. The content here is super slick, presented well and of high production quality, but again, would you expect anything less?

This is certainly a move in the right direction from Apple and it will be interesting to see what happens to these stations, six months, or indeed a year down the line. Apple’s competitors like Spotify need to rethink their radio game – perhaps not by offering personality led programmes, but something different, that isn’t just an array of non stop music – because, isn’t that what playlists are for? 

If the stations aren’t your thing, Apple still offers you an array of ‘broadcast radio’ thanks to the tie-in with TuneIn. So, Heart (and all variants), Absolute Radio (and all variants), all the usual, traditional stations, we all know are available via the Apple Music app, and you still have the ability to select a song from your library and turn it into a station of it’s own.

But if you’re after something new, potentially unique, that’s professionally put together, with all the celebrities you could shake a stick at, then I’d certainly give Apple Music Radio a whirl.