Apple has “a bit of homework to be done” to improve its Apple Music streaming service, the company’s international iTunes boss has said.
Apple Music launched in June as a rival to Spotify and while it has been praised for its curated playlists it has been criticised over its user interface and bugs affecting people’s existing iTunes libraries.
“There’s a lot of work going into making the product better. Our focus is on editorial and playlists, and obviously we have teams all around the world working on that, but we’re also adding features and cleaning up certain things,” Oliver Schusser, vice president, iTunes International, told the Guardian.
“Apple Music Connect is growing big-time with more and more artists connecting to their fans, but we still have a bit of homework to be done for the rest of the year.”
Asked about criticisms of Apple Music’s usability – which has seen users complaining of corrupted libraries and unintuitive interfaces – Schusser said: “The product is always our priority, and we are getting a lot of feedback. Remember, this was a very big launch in 110 markets instantly, so we get a ton of feedback. We’re obviously trying to make it better every day.” he said.
Schusser confirmed that Apple Music will launch for Android devices and Sonos-connected hi-fis “in the fall”, adding that “we still have some work to do there, but that’s coming”.
Apple said, in early August, that it had signed up 11 million people for Apple Music’s three-month free trial, which started on 30 June. At the end of September, the earliest adopters will be deciding whether to start paying at least $9.99 a month for the service.
Apple is launching a new advertising campaign to promote Apple Music and attract more trial members, with the company’s annual September music festival in London – renamed the Apple Music Festival – also playing a key role.
Ten gigs with headliners including One Direction, Pharrell Williams and the Chemical Brothers will be broadcast live on Beats 1, Apple Music’s radio station, as well as having video streamed to iOS devices, iTunes and Apple TV.
Schusser hopes the festival and ads will attract people who are new to streaming music. “Streaming still needs a lot of education in the market,” he said.
“We have more of a worldwide view: the UK is a little more educated than other markets, but nothing like the places where streaming is already the number one way to consume music.”
Industry observers have been picking over the 11m figure, with the claim by one analyst that 48% of those people had already stopped using Apple Musiccontradicted by Apple, which said the true figure was only 21%. Schusser declined to speculate on the progress so far.
“Our focus is more on the product than anything else: we spend most of our energy on that,” he said. “That’s more our priority than checking every hour the amount of people who have signed up. We have more of a long-term perspective on this.”
Music labels and artists, too, are trying to gauge what Apple Music and streaming more generally means for their income.
Apple employee Dr Dre’s recent Compton: A Soundtrack album has become a focus in that debate, having been streamed 25m times in its first week, but also selling nearly 500k iTunes downloads in that time.
“If you follow the industry and look at the numbers, the download business has been really, really healthy. iTunes is a big part of our business, still, and will continue to be, so we focus just as much time and energy on maintaining that, editorially and working on features,” said Schusser.
“That [Compton] is a really good example of how streaming and downloads can be successful side-by-side. What we’ve proven is that when there’s great content, customers will buy as well as listen.”
A a growing battleground between Apple, Spotify, Google Play and other streaming services – and one Apple Music has won plaudits for – is playlists compiled to help listeners discover new music.
Independent research from music industry site Record of the Day in March revealed that 51% of tracks on Spotify’s most prominent playlists came from indie labels, as opposed to just 6% of the most-played tracks on Radio 1 in 2014.
However, indie labels fear that as playlists grow in prominence, their major rivals will put pressure on the streaming services to tilt the balance back towards their artists. Schusser said Apple is determined to ensure indies get a fair crack of the whip on Apple Music, however.
“We like independent artists as well as major-label artists. Small as well as big artists,” he said. “If you listen to Beats 1 and do the maths in terms of major-label artists versus independent artists, it’s the place you discover new music from anylabel.”