In June 2015, a week before the official launch of Apple Music, I was given an in-depth pre-release demonstration of the new streaming service. I was accompanied on this tour by a writer from another music publication, and our walk-through was guided by two high-level Apple Music representatives; all four of us were arranged on a couple of springy couches, huddled around a single iPhone in a sunlit suite in Soho’s Crosby Street Hotel. We spent an hour discussing the service’s functionality, methodology, and big-picture goals, and when our time was up, the other writer and I sat on a bench outside the hotel and compared notes.
We agreed that the presentation had been impressive, but also noted that beyond the window dressing, the basics of Apple Music differed little from those of any other streaming service — namely Spotify. There would be bugs, sure, but those would be fixed. There would be features, too, but if those features interfered with the experience of actually listening to music, they would be user-unfriendly distractions. Our conversation quickly shifted from a discussion of the product we’d just been pitched to one of philosophy, ethics, economics. All things being essentially equal, which service — Spotify or Apple Music — seemed more palatable?