Michael Williamson in Campaign: 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?
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".
"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."
Michael Williamson, head of audiovisual planning, Carat
This article first appeared in Campaign on 23.07.15