With an announcement of Apple’s new music streaming service expected on June 8 at the Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco, speculation as to what will be said, heard and shown is only gaining intensity in the final hours.
Speaking to multiple insiders with knowledge of the company’s plans, here’s what we know so far:
1. Apple’s new streaming service will launch at the end of June. An announcement will be made on the 8th, accompanied by a site demo, but the secretly-named streaming service will not launch until the end of the month.
2. Deals with labels are still being secured. Even at the 11th hour, Apple has not locked in all the key participants required to build a robust and complete on-demand music library. According to one source at a major label imprint, an Apple contract arrived for signing as late as June 3, while another described a “frenzied” last-minute scramble at Apple HQ.
3. The service will be global: Assuming Apple will close all its outstanding deals with rights holders, the end-of-the-month rollout for the new service will be global, impacting all territories at the same time, a source tells Billboard. A new report by 9to5Mac also cites an international impact plan.
4. Apple plans to spend more money on music this year than ever before… Or at least since the launch of the iPod. The music team, led by Interscope Records founder Jimmy Iovine -- who still lacks an official title within the tech giant -- has been campaigning hard for exclusive partnerships, meeting with every major label as well as imprint heads and managers. One source contends that the new service is offering rates three times higher than competitors like Spotify and Tidal.
5. A free option will be offered -- at least to start. The prevailing, as-yet-unconfirmed belief is that those auditioning the streaming service will have a 90-day window to experience the platform for free, after which Apple hopes to convert those listeners to paid subscribers (the likely fee: $9.99 per month). As many label execs pointed out, the company’s access to hundreds of millions of registered credits cards should see a significant uptick in free-to-paid transitions. (Comparably, Spotify claims a 25 percent conversion rate.)
6. Star power is expected in San Francisco, but not necessarily of the music kind. Who’s more gawk-worthy, Pharrell Williams or Apple CEO Tim Cook? Drake or Kondrk? You’ll likely get them all on June 8, along with Nine Inch Nails frontman and Beats chief creative officer Trent Reznor, and Beats co-founder Dr. Dre. But fame in the tech world has morphed. Executives are seen as forward thinkers, while artists by nature tend to clash rather than look to a unified front. Says one label chief: “Does it really matter who you’re friends with? When it comes to tech and showbiz, showbiz is not necessarily the best route.”
7. Non-demand radio will probably factor heavily in the new service. The company lured radio superstar Zane Lowe away from his comfortable position at the BBC (along with some of Lowe's long-time producers), and early rumors have indicated that Apple is reworking the Radio feature of its Music app. Other rumors also hinted at "celebrity DJs" being a part of the rollout. It all adds up to a safe bet on a significant, and content-rich, one-button listening offering.
Apple would not comment on any plans for the June 8 event or beyond.