Almost a year ago, Apple purchased Beats (formerly by Dre), whether this makes you happy is neither here nor there, but objectively the quality of Beats products has seemingly increased since then. The purchase of Beats, by Apple however, did raise some questions about the fate of Beats Music, a rather young service at the time that existed on both Android and iOS (and the stragglers). Since then Beats Music has been pretty much stagnant, with minor updates along the way, but according to Billboard, Apple is planning on relaunching it as a premium music streaming service, probably at WWDC in June. With that date quickly approaching (June 8-12), word came along earlier this week that Apple wanted to neuter competing services like Spotify, by removing the free option from existence.
This is, of course, because Apple isn’t going to be offering a free option through Beats Music (although, I guess iTunes Radio is considered a phone feature) and they don’t want to have any reasonable competition to make them sway on that position. Perhaps they are doing this under the guise of “good guy Apple” helping out the artists who get virtually nothing from freemium services like Spotify, but they’re really coming across as being “typical Apple,” who like to help out their buddies in the music label business (or book publishing business).
DOJ Swoops In To Save Spotify (et al)
According to a report that didn’t come much later than the original, the Department of Justice, FTC, and EU are now investigating Apple for conspiring with music labels to kill off freemium music services. Apple really should have learned their lesson the first time when they conspired with book publishers to fix the prices of e-books, but that bottom line has always been so enticing to them (and who’s going to miss $450 million when they have a net worth of about 1500 times that). The real motivation is fairly obvious: if competing services drop their free options around the time that Beats Music relaunches, people are going to be looking for alternatives and Apple will pick up some of those customers.
The real bottom line is this: Apple is not in the content creation business and they need to stop trying to reach their hands into places where they don’t belong, lest they be chopped off. If music labels decide that the income from Spotify and other’s freemium offerings truly isn’t sustainable then they will probably consider ending that option themselves when their contracts with various content providers come around. Apple has no place in that decision and the fact that they’ve attracted the interest of regulating agencies by trying to sway other parts of the supply chain is no surprise. Apple only settled the price fixing case last year, though they are appealing the decision, how soon they forget…