Is Apple's new radio station a welcome addition?

Is Apple's new radio station a welcome addition?

The tech giant changed listening habits when it launched iTunes. Will Beats 1 have a similar effect, Gurjit Degun asks.

As Drake, one of hip-hop’s biggest stars, broadcasts his radio show on Beats 1, it is clear to see how heavily Apple is investing in its new venture. The tech giant has not only signed up Zane Lowe, the former BBC Radio 1 DJ, for a primetime weekday slot but also secured the services of global stars such as Pharrell Williams, Sir Elton John and Dr Dre.

Apple’s live radio station was widely praised on social media after first hitting the airwaves last month. The nascent offering is "dedicated entirely to music and music culture" and will be broadcast to more than 100 countries.

Beats 1 is part of Apple Music, the new streaming service that is free to use for the first three months and costs $9.99 per month thereafter.

When the platform launch­ed, Eddy Cue, the senior-vice president of internet software and services at Apple, said: "All the ways people love enjoying music come together in one app – a revolutionary streaming service, live worldwide radio and an exciting way for fans to connect with artists."

By its own trendsetting standards, Apple is pretty late to the party. Spotify, for one, has been going since 2008 and, with an increasing number of internet-based rivals such as Tidal popping up, Apple could have its work cut out entering such a saturated market.

And then there are the established radio stations all over the world with which Beats 1 will need to compete. Ben Cooper, the BBC Radio 1 and BBC Radio 1Xtra controller, welcomes the new challenge. At the Cannes Lions last month, he admitted that the station’s audience could follow Lowe but added that he is "not scared".

Cooper believes that Apple will have trouble targeting global audiences because they are too fragmented. Cooper told delegates at the festival that Radio 1 will always have a connection with listeners as the majority are based in the UK, which helps to "bond the community".

It is early days for Beats 1 but, as Ian Stevens, the head of audiovisual at MEC, explains, with a player the size of Apple on the scene, such streaming services are "even more so on the forefront of the minds of consumers and advertisers".

YES Sarah Sutton, joint head of strategy, Mindshare UK

"Given its huge reach, Apple radio is uniquely positioned to bring shared content experiences to a large, affluent, initially influential and engaged audience. The real test, of course, is what happens to its audience once the free trial expires."

YES Geoff Taylor, chief executive, BPI

"There’s little doubt that Beats 1 will provide an exciting and inspirational window on new music for fans who want to ‘lean back’ or engage in a more direct way. We also love the promise of tailored programming from the UK."

YES Michael Williamson, head of audiovisual planning, Carat

"Radio has evolved into ‘audio’ with the likes of Apple, Spotify and Dax offering alternatives for listeners and advertisers. Newcomers are creating a larger overall audio audience, increased engagement and targeting opportunities."

NO Darin Brown, chief executive, EMEA, Possible

"It’s exciting to see the internet flatten but, when I think of Apple radio, I yawn. The launch feels late, arrogant and then awkward (following Taylor Swift’s scolding). It also felt massively dull. I expected more from Apple."

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