Apple Music’s spatial audio strategy pays off with more listeners – Billboard

Apple Music Spatial Audio

Apple’s efforts to differentiate its music streaming service seem to be working.

Eight months after its release, the first results are in and Spatial Audio is growing rapidly on Apple Music. The majority of Apple Music subscribers have experienced Spatial Audio, and listeners have increased 50% since September, according to the company. Billboard. Spatial Audio track plays have also quadrupled since September, and the catalog has grown rapidly, sevenfold since Spatial Audio became available last summer.

Last June, Apple Music launched Spatial Audio, its take on Dolby Atmos Music, the immersive audio experience billed as the successor to stereo. And while Spatial Audio was available under various brands from Tidal and Amazon Music, Apple said growing Spatial Audio would be one of the streaming service’s primary goals, with Apple senior vp of services. Swirl tail story Billboard the feature would be “a real game changer” for the music industry.

Although it hasn’t changed the music industry yet, Spatial Audio’s growth is reflected in the Apple Music charts. Year-to-date, 37% of the top 10 songs from the global Apple Music Daily Top 100 Songs are available in Spatial Audio and 42% of the platform’s Top 100 songs in the US are available today in SpatialAudio. Additionally, 40% of the biggest new releases on Apple Music since September are available in Spatial Audio, according to the streaming service.

Apple Music’s Spatial Audio push helps the company differentiate itself in a commoditized market. With all major music streaming services maintaining the same catalog of songs, an improved and easily noticeable audio experience would help the company separate itself from rivals like Spotify. For labels, remastering catalog music in Spatial Audio can invigorate flows around an album or artist and provide new artists with an additional promotional tool in addition to an enhanced listening experience for fans. .

“It’s the highest priority in what we do because we believe in it, because we believe it’s better for the customer and it’s better for the creative industry,” says Olivier Schusser, Apple’s vice president for Apple Music and Beats. Schusser says Apple Music only had a few thousand songs available in Spatial Audio when the feature launched last year, and the company has been on a journey to sell artists and producers — as well as listeners — on the new immersive experience.

“We now have more than half of our Apple Music subscriber base globally listening in Spatial Audio and that number is actually growing very, very rapidly,” Schusser says. “We would like the numbers to be higher, but they definitely exceed our expectations.”

When Apple Music launched Spatial Audio, the service bet the feature would appeal to a wider audience than high-fidelity audio, which Spotify called the most requested feature when announcing its Hi-Fi service. last year, which still hasn’t happened. Although Apple Music supports high fidelity with its lossless streaming option, it has made it clear that it considers high fidelity audio a “professional feature” for audiophiles and will focus on spatial audio instead. as a service differentiator.

“Everyone in the industry was really focused on Lossless,” Schusser says. “We have every song in our catalog available in Lossless delivered to us by the industry, but the challenge is that they don’t play on any headphones in the world via Bluetooth or wireless, and that’s at a mile in the country the number one way people consume music these days.

Schusser says most people can’t tell the difference when Lossless music is playing and noted that while this is an important feature for a select niche, it’s not a mainstream product. . “And so,” he says, “we came out and said we’d like to have a mass-market feature that works on just about every device and where people notice a difference.”

“It’s a strategic imperative for us and it starts with the artists,” says Michael Nash, executive vice president of digital strategy for Universal Music Group. Nash notes that the meticulous process of converting an entire catalog to Spatial Audio for an artist can take “months,” but the rewards are well worth it. For its part, Apple emphasizes the importance of a quality mix here – compared to the early days of Dolby Atmos Music, when some mixes weren’t up to the quality of the original recordings. “We listen to every song that comes to us in Spatial Audio and try to engage with the people making the cut during the process,” Schusser says.

“There is a much larger audience for Spatial Audio compared to the early days of the Dolby Atmos Music rollout, when there was more experimentation with the format,” Schusser says. “Now it’s getting much more serious, and now we’re not the only ones making it part of the norm [streaming] plane,” says Schusser. “There’s a real audience now, so people are spending more time on it. There’s more knowledge and we just know from the engagement, the conversations that we’re in, that people within the creative community are talking a lot more about it.

The Beatles, The Weekend, Billie Eilish, Taylor Swift, J. Cole, Post Malone, Katy Perry and other superstar artists have reworked numerous songs to incorporate Spatial Audio, and according to Apple, this has led to increased streams – and more importantly an increase in the number of new listeners. Apple Music has also provided additional support for Spatial Audio tracks, highlighting songs that have been reworked into the new format on its homepage.

When The Weeknd reissues his 2016 album starboy in Spatial Audio on June 7, Apple says its early listeners grew 20% in the following eight weeks compared to the previous eight weeks. Eilish matched that growth in the same amount of time when she re-released When we all fall asleep where do we go in SpatialAudio. by Malone The Hollywood Bleed and Swift’s Lover saw even bigger gains, increasing new listeners by 40% and 50%, respectively, according to Apple Music.

Older catalog releases that have been re-released in Spatial Audio have had similar success. When The Beatles’ “Here Comes the Sun” was released in Spatial Audio, first-time listeners increased by 50% – and 40% of those listeners subsequently discovered more Beatles music. “We’re seeing a huge uplift in artists’ catalog based on them re-engaging their fans with a new way of listening to music,” says Rachel Newmann, global head of editorial and content for Apple Music. Streams of Spatial Audio tracks to Apple Music editorial playlists have increased 125% since the feature launched last summer, Newman notes. “Part of the key has been making sure it’s highly accessible for all kinds of artists at all levels,” she says. “And the number of studios is now exponential compared to our launch.”

Despite the global pandemic, Dolby now has more than 400 studios in more than 40 countries specifically designed for recording in Atmos, with another 200 expected to open in the near future. “There’s been over 50% growth in the last six months, and that’s really exciting and keeping a lot of people busy,” says Christine Thomas, senior director of music partnerships at Dolby, about the expansion of the company’s Atmos studio. Dolby has focused on expanding studio support as well as training artists and engineers on how to maximize Dolby Atmos Music. Apple also updated its Logic Pro recording software to support Dolby Atmos mixing late last year.

Spatial Audio listening is still not available everywhere. Cars, for example, still don’t have the capability, but Dolby and Apple both say Billboard they have spoken with automakers and see this as a target area. But with new vehicle development cycles that can span five years, it can take a while before commuting becomes an immersive experience. In time, however, Schusser is confident that Spatial Audio will reach every area where music is now broadcast. “Good technology will eventually get everywhere,” he says. “And I think that’s what it’s going to be.”