Apple Music Connect is Too Good to Waste on Artists
As soon as iOS 8.4 came out last week I downloaded it and signed up for my free trial of Apple Music. Yes, there are some problems, but overall Apple Music is everything I ever wanted in a streaming service. The near-perfect mix of streaming library mixed with music that clearly belongs to me.
I’d like to focus on one of the more maligned features of Apple Music: Connect. Here’s a small sampling of the reactions to Connect out there, starting with Dr. Drang:
This is, to me, the least interesting part of Apple Music because I’m far too jaded to believe that anything put here is straight from the artists themselves.
Walt Mossberg tried to explain it:
[Connect] is a sort of social network for artists to reach their fans; the artists post photos, videos and more, and can receive comments from fans.
Jim Dalrymple wasn’t sure about it, but invoked the name of one of Apple’s biggest black eyes, Ping:
I’m not really sure what to think about Connect, Apple’s service that allows us to follow bands and musicians. To me, it seems a lot like Ping, but we’ll have to see how it works.
And Brian X. Chen at the New York Times devoted an entire article to skewering it:
The weakness of Apple Music is Connect, the social network for musicians, which allows artists to upload media, like postings about their concert dates or album releases. Fans can follow artists and “love” or comment on these posts.
But the artists I followed, like Kings of Leon, Belle and Sebastian and Sonic Youth, used Connect as a portal to upload seemingly arbitrary photos and link to places where people could buy their iTunes albums. And they didn’t appear to be socializing with fans. That’s not a social network; it’s a broadcasting platform.
I actually agree with all of the above. Artists postings thus far have been less than stellar. I think Apple has made a massive mistake billing Connect as a place to follow musicians. Connect is actually a wonderful service being squandered by Apple. The things that Apple is expecting artists to post just aren’t that interesting. Links to their own music and original photos or videos are relatively weak sauce, and the posts have been few and far between for most artists.
However, Connect is great for sharing exactly what I came to the Music app for: music. The trouble is most artists aren’t posting music; they’re promoting themselves in a fairly bland manner. I’ve found the best people to follow are DJs and performers with shows on Beats 1, as well as Apple’s in-house “curators.”1
I follow not only Zane Lowe and Julie Adenuga, but the accounts for “The Pharmacy with Dr. Dre” and “St. Vincent’s Mixtape Delivery Service.” For good measure I started following Apple Music Jazz and Pitchfork.2 These and other accounts have made my Connect tab go from a wasteland to a vibrant, always updated landscape.
The Beats 1 show accounts are great because you can get playlists for a show you missed (or listened to and wanted to revisit). The other curator accounts surface other kinds of music and move that into my Connect feed, where I may end up finding my new favorite song.
Right now anyone can share playlists through Apple Music. However, not anyone can get an account that can be followed. When that happens, I think Connect will be, unabashedly, the best music social network on the planet. The trouble right now is that Apple wants it to be a “a place where musicians give their fans a closer look at their work, their inspirations, and their world.” That’s not an interesting enough proposition.
Connect is dying to be a killer destination on my phone. I hope Apple sets it free soon. When they do, you can bet it will for would-be DJs what Instagram has done for photographers. The next Zane Lowe will be found in Connect, not on the airwaves.
Where to Find Non-Artist Accounts in Apple Music
There are two main places to look.
To find Beats 1 show accounts, go to the Radio tab and tap Beats 1. Scroll down past the “Upcoming Shows” schedule until you hit “Featured Shows.” There you’ll see album art for the current main rotation on Beats 1. Tap on a show and then tap “Follow.”
To find Apple’s genre and curator accounts, go to the New Tab and scroll down just a bit. Apple Editors Playlists will show you the accounts for every genre. Curators Playlists will show you accounts for Apple’s launch partner playlist makers. These include Complex, The Fader and other magazines. I hope these accounts will open up to anyone soon. There is so much music within Apple Music to unearth.