While this is often a stated goal when a team begins to develop a new product, the reality is that delight is both an abstract concept and an elusive goal.
Certainly, we consumers are increasingly jaded and more demanding. Our standards are high, and our expectations can be, shall we say, just a tad unreasonable.
But whether a product delights its customers is squarely on the shoulders of the company that develops the product. The customer is always right, as they say. Which brings us to Apple Music.
Apple released the music streaming service last June, but as many as 12 to 18 months prior, Apple Music was already widely rumored.
So as the release date approached, there was huge anticipation, wide-ranging published opinion and analysis, and just general Sturm und Drang.
When Apple Music finally appeared, there was a lot to like about it, but there were also critics who panned the service, and customers who encountered unfortunate bugs.
One usually very positive Apple advocate in the tech press, Jim Dalrymple, wrote a scathing article entitled Apple Music is a nightmare and I’m done with it. I won’t go into detail about his issues. You can read the article yourself.
Suffice to say Apple met with him, noted the bugs he found, and helped him work around his problems. Dalrymple wrote a follow-up article, which mostly forgave Apple its original sins.
Getting better all the time
Since then, things seem to have settled down. Apple announced that it had over 11 million paying subscribers, and, frankly, I haven’t heard or read much of anything negative in the last few months.
I’ve been using Apple Music since its release, first with the free three-month trial, and now into my fourth month as a paying subscriber. I’ve written previously about Apple Music, and my rationale for keeping the subscription basically boiled down to “for the cost of one CD a month, I have access to almost all of the world’s music.” That seemed, and still seems, like a good deal.
In addition, Apple was reported to be paying the highest royalties per stream to copyright holders and musicians. This seemed like a good thing to support, as well.
But getting back to the concept of delight: Does Apple Music delight me? The answer is, mostly, yes. My delight has grown gradually in small ways over these seven months.
However, the capability that has crystallized my appreciation, and which I use most often, is the Radio feature.
Spirit of the radio
In the Apple Music world, Radio is, for one thing, the Beats One 24/7 streaming station, with real DJs, musical guests, and the playlists they choose. Although I’ve listened to Beats One on occasion, I’m not a regular by any means.
The Radio I’m talking about is my growing collection of Recently Played “stations” that are built off a single song that I happen to want to listen to in a particular moment.
For example, I was at home doing something…I don’t remember what…and an old Animals song (We Gotta Get Out of This Place) popped into my head. I know I’m dating myself, as this song was popular in the late 1960s. But I digress…
Anyway, I immediately pulled out the iPhone and searched for the song on Apple Music. Sure enough, it was there, the “US Single Version,” and I gave it a listen. Which solved the immediate itch, but also made me think that I might like to listen to other songs of the era.
No problem. As the song played, I selected the little Radio icon:
Apple Music immediately creates a playlist based on the currently playing song, and off you go.
When “We Gotta Get Out of This Place” finished, another song from the era started playing, the Traffic song Rainmaker. Nice. I was a big Traffic fan back in the day. What was next?
You Really Got Me (The Kinks)
Sympathy for the Devil (The Rolling Stones)
The Letter (The Boxtops)
Somebody to Love (Jefferson Airplane)
Over Under Sideways Down (The Yardbirds)
A Beautiful Morning (The Rascals)
Piece of My Heart (Janis Joplin)
Born to Be Wild (Steppenwolf)
House of the Rising Sun (Animals)
And so on.
Now, there were a few duds in the mix (I never really liked Herman’s Hermits, for example), but it’s very easy to skip a song, even to tell Apple Music to never play that song again. Based on your input, Apple Music continually refines the music it plays for you.
So there you have it. Radio: a delightful, mood enhancing treat that can bring back nice memories, and even reinforce certain biases (like “the Sixties produced the best f-ing music in Rock & Roll history”).