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Apple Music: What’s in a Name? A Whole Damn Lot

When the iPhone originally launched, it didn’t come with Apple Music. It didn’t even come with a “Music” app. That was years later. Early adopters who can remember that far back will tell you that it came with an iPod app.

Which makes sense. When Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone in 2007, the anticipation building up to the event was that Apple put a phone into an iPod. When Jobs unveiled the iPhone, he described it as an iPod, a phone and an internet communicator.

The iPod was the 600-pound gorilla in the early 2000s — the iPhone and its music services had to be put into the context of the iPod. At the time, you’d be hard pressed to find someone who wasn’t excited at the prospect of an iPod that happened to make calls and access the internet.

As the iPod’s fortunes fell, the iPod app changed. If you owned the first iPhone or its followup, the 3G, you tapped on an app that looked like the familiar and iconic clickwheel device. By the iPhone 3GS, the writing was on the wall. The iPhone was a monster hit that was a phone and internet communicator that happened to also be an iPod…and the app was renamed Music.

Which brings us to the present day. Apple used to announce its iPod sales with the same fanfare they now do with iPhones, but now iPhones outsell iPods by about nine times. The iPod app begat the Music app which today begat Apple Music. The iPod is a fading memory. It’s not even a product you can access on the Apple home page.

In its time, the iPod represented a radical shift in consuming music. Rather than being limited by how many CDs or tapes you could carry, you were limited by how much storage capacity you had. While hard drives of the first iPods were minuscule compared to the 64GB to 128GB iPhones consumers use today, the fact that weeks of music could be carried in a package about the size of a deck of cards was mind blowing.

Over a decade later, Apple Music represents another radical shift — storage space doesn’t matter. Streaming does. Your mobile broadband connection — wifi, LTE — they’re your gateway to more music than you could ever listen to. Granted, Apple was late to this game and didn’t define the streaming market the way iTunes and the iPod defined the downloadable market. But when you consider that you have access to millions of tracks of music, in addition to your own collection of music that you’ve curated yourself and painstakingly ripped and uploaded, it takes the sting out of realizing that you’re now renting your music and not buying music.

You’re going to read a lot about Apple Music over the next few days. I think the access to almost everything I want to listen to (with the exception of bootlegs, small bands that never made it big but should have and my oddball collection of songs from anime movies and series that I’ve uploaded anyway) is astounding. Though I was skeptical of Beats 1, human curation of music through a knowledgeable DJ is a very good thing.

These guys are not the annoying fuckwads that make crank calls in some hick town’s “morning zoo”. The Beats 1 DJs are like the best kind of clerks at that music store you loved in the ’90s who turned you on to all kinds of music. If you’re too young to remember what a music store is, this is what consuming music was like before Clear Channel bought every radio station in America and enforced their “formats” to capture some market-driven demographic.

What Apple Music represents is the deeper philosophical change going on in Cupertino. Apple Music. Apple Watch. While those names seem like simple branding decisions, they’re really deeper, existential milestones in the history of Apple. When the iPod was introduced in 2001, the bad old days and the lean times of Apple weren’t far behind the company. Apple was sixty days away from bankruptcy when Steve Jobs returned as CEO in 1997. If it wasn’t for Bill Gates floating Apple a loan, it’s very likely there would be no Apple, at least not the company we know today.

Jobs launched the iMac — the device that he hoped consumers would gravitate toward because of its design and colors. The “i” was supposed to stand for internet, but it also stood for I, and in the individual. iMacs were not the uninspiring beige boxes PC clone manufacturers were pumping out. It was Jobs’ first hit during his second coming. Then there was the iPod and finally, the iPhone. All of them products that could only exist because of the internet, but they were also Apple’s statement that they were iconoclasts and independents that made products for individuals.

It was marketing of the highest order to appeal to the need to be unique, because Apple needed every advantage it could get at the time.

The turnaround of Apple is the stuff of legend. When Jobs passed, the company reached unknown heights and because the world’s most valuable company. Its base of users increasingly identified with the company — in contrast to the ’90s, when Apple needed to connect to its customers for its continued survival.

The mark of this newly confident Apples is its new products. Apple Watch. Apple Music. Its name alone carries the weight to carry a product with the most generic of names. It seems like a small thing, but Apple Music is a very big deal as to what Apple is in 2015, compared to iTunes in 2000.

(Also, let’s face it — the iPhone’s days as being named as such are probably numbered. Cook, Ive and the rest of the executive team are probably itching to rename it Apple Phone.)

Much was written about Steve Jobs and his involvement with Zen Buddhism. As such, he would have to embrace change.

Apple Music is representative of that change and things to come. Where does your music and the company’s library of tracks begin and end? Does it matter? Do you need iTunes for your iPhone? Yes. No. Either answer is correct. For now.

Acknowledging the internet is passé. The internet is as pervasive and ubiquitous as the wind. What Apple ultimately wants are phones and computers that communicate to each other wirelessly, accessing videos, music and photo through high speed wireless connections to its data centers. Apple wants to kill the sync cable and is inching us to that inevitable future.

But all the while, the “i” of things will still be there. Though the personal connection to your devices that an Apple Watch provides, through the human curators of Apple Music that introduce you to your next favorite band you’ve never heard before or that connection to other people that negates distances the current and future iPhone does so well.

Screenshot by the author.

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