In the past year I've given up on trying to coral my out of control digital music collection and started using a combination of Spotify and Google Music for my on-the-go music needs. Overall I've been happy with both services, but my biggest complaint with both is how difficult discovering new music that appeals to my taste can be. The "radio" stations on Spotify never extend more than a couple of handful of bands that the service deems compatible with the band the station is based on. It's no so much a source of discovery as an attempt to placate my already hardened tastes.
Enter Apple Music and their trojan horse into my heart, Beats 1 Radio. It's been years since I've listened to music over terrestrial radio. Given my location, the only music that comes over my air waves tends to be country, pop country, modern pop, classic rock, and alternative rock. None of these stations are exactly a hot bed for exciting new music. When I was in junior high there was a hip-hop station out of a college town about 90 miles away that I could get if I attached the stub of my boom boxes antenna to the giant antenna that was on my old CRT TV. It was a comical setup, but if I got things just right I could catch the hot five at nine. I remember the station playing 50 Cent before 50 Cent was "In Da Club" 50 Cent. They would also play deep cuts from acts like The Wu Tang Clan and Outkast, which would instantly send me running down to my old Dell computer to fire up my 56K internet to find more music. It was a pure radio experience, curation which leads to discovery.
These days it's easier than ever to find new music, and there is more music at our fingertips than we could listen to in ten lifetimes, but finding music that appeals to our interest and also broadens our taste is an exhausting exercise. This is where Beats 1 excels as a discovery platform, Apple has done a great job of brining trusted tasted making DJs in to curate it's playlists and bring in artists that will want to premiere their music on Apple Music. On day one of Apple Music I was listening to Jamie XX, Beck, Ibeyi, Miguel, Vince Staples and Taylor Swift - all on the same station! What's more is that I get excited when Zane Lowe premieres a song from a band that I've never heard of before, because Lowe has been a champion for people like James Blake, Jamie XX, and a dozen other artists who I've come to love.
To see so many people talking about a radio station in 2015 is proof that Beats 1 is on to something. There's something exciting about knowing I'm nodding my head in unison with a million other people while listening to the new Disclosure. I'm not naive, I know a lot of the excitement around Apple Music is the novelty of its newness. Who's to say how I will feel about the service a month from now. As an Android user I can't even listen to Beats 1 on the go until this fall, and who knows if I'll still be tuning in then. Is this music always right up my alley? No. But that's OK. I'd much rather a station take risks in what it plays then stick to a safe playlist of hits that it repeats on an hourly basis.
I'm enjoying waking up in the morning, getting my coffee, and putting on Beats 1 in hopes that I will be turned on to a great new band, or at the very least have something to nod my head to as I brace myself for the day. You can say what you want about Apple and it's products, but they are in the unique position to throw a ton of money at a service and entrust it to creatives like Lowe, Josh (Queens of the Stone Age) Homme, and Anne (St Vincent) Clarke. For all of the bells and whistles that come with Apple Music, it's their inclusion of a radio station that sets it apart. It's the obvious seeming move that no one else thought of. It all seems almost too good to be true. You've done good Apple, now just don't screw it up.