July 4, 2015

On music and playlists

Even with all its shortcomings1, Apple Music excels at the curation of the 30 million songs available to top streaming services today. My usage and attitude has shifted from finding music I like in Spotify, to being recommended music I love in Apple Music.

As everything Apple, you can play the fanboi card and point out that Apple is basically following many other services. I may very well be blinded by the reality distortion field, but I still believe Apple Music is approaching the subscription model differently.

At the heart of my argument is HBS prof Theodore Levit famous saying:

People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole!

It seems to me that Spotify’s all-you-can-eat music catalog and the benefits of streaming music were features of the drill — and the hole was good music.

Of course good music is a totally relative term.

The problem then is that a catalog with 30 million songs is as good as a couple of playlists with a few thousand songs you love. To get to those hundreds/thousands of songs we are all willing to put different levels of effort.

Hijacking the 1/9/90 rule we can apply the same logic to current streaming music service listeners: out of 100, 1 is a Discoverer, 9 Curators, and the rest Followers.

Spotify social features are better for discoverers and curators, plus the followers that like these as the source of their playlists.

Apple Music is for followers. It assumes full responsibility for discovery and curating, and makes Music For You the default tab were you hit play2.

Again, I could be enjoying a great dose of placebo effect. But over the past week I’ve reconnected with many songs I love, and discovered a few artist I want to hear more of. All these artist and songs are in Spotify, but I never put in the effort to organize it myself there.

Probably the big conclusion is that I’ve become a music follower. And I’m ok with that. I’m just happier follower with Apple Music.


  1. If they make play targets any smaller, I may not be able to start a song. And where Spotify is instant when hitting play, Apple Music takes its sweet time to start. Don’t get me started on iTunes on the desktop …

  2. Your playlists are actually two taps in!


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