Trent Reznor to be 'point man' for iTunes relaunch

Music industry sources say Apple has yet to convince labels that it should undercut streaming rivals on price

Here’s one hard fact about Apple’s plans to relaunch its Beats Music streaming service later this year: there will be an endless stream of rumours about those plans until it happens.

Why? Because if there’s one thing leakier than the hype cycle leading up to new Apple products, it’s the music industry when digital licences are being hammered out.

With that in mind, here’s more than one rumour about Apple’s plans forBeats Music, according to the New York Times and its music industry contacts.

First, the former Beats Music chief creative officer (and Nine Inch Nails frontman) Trent Reznor is “playing a major role in redesigning the music app”, with the report describing him as a “point man” for the project.

Second, the report claims that Apple has failed to persuade record labels to agree to a lower monthly subscription price than the $9.99charged by streaming music services such as Spotify.

This fits into a timeline of previous leaks on Apple’s pricing plans: a desire to go as low as $5 a month floated through Recode in October 2014, then $7.99 a month as uncovered by 9 to 5 Mac in February.

Third, the relaunched music service probably won’t be called Beats Music. However, it will keep the curated playlists and “more vivid visual appeal” while “conforming to Apple’s sleek and minimal design aesthetic”, according to the NYT.

Fourth, Apple’s plans do still include iTunes Radio, its free streaming music service that launched in June 2013 but has been relatively low-key ever since. The report suggests that former Radio 1 DJ Zane Lowe – not a man usually described as “low-key” – will be playing a pivotal role in that relaunch.

“Among the ideas that have been floated for iTunes Radio are a more geographically targeted approach that would bear some resemblance to a traditional radio station, with Mr Lowe as the voice,” claimed the New York Times.

An overall picture is emerging – one backed up by the Guardian’s music industry sources – of the efforts going on behind the scenes at Apple to make sure that the next iteration of Beats Music will be a success.

If undercutting Spotify’s price is not an option, Apple still has some big advantages: a pile of cash to secure exclusives from big artist - and the ability to preload its streaming service on every iOS device with a free trial.

But label executives say that Apple’s plans are about more than financial and distribution muscle, and point to the people involved – Reznor, Lowe, Beats co-founder Jimmy Iovine, and Beats Music boss Ian Rogers – as pulling out all the stops to make sure the actual service is definably different, and a step on, from the existing crop of streaming services.

The results are expected to be unveiled at Apple’s WWDC developer event in June, which leaves two more months of intense rumours and public negotiations shedding light on the company’s plans.

Contributor

Stuart Dredge

The GuardianTramp

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