Apple finally started singing a new tune.
The maker of iPhones and iPad tablets on Monday unveiled its first subscription-streaming service, dubbed, as its revamped way of presenting songs on its devices. Apple's $10 a month service builds upon the music subscription service that it acquired a year ago with its $3 billion deal for Beats.
Apple will also offer a plan for families of up to six people to share a subscription for $15 a month. When it launches June 30 in over 100 countries, Apple Music will be available with a three-month free trial. Some elements will be free without a subscription, such as a viewing artists' content and listening to radio with some limitations.
In addition to running on Apple devices -- including the iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Mac computers and Apple TV -- Apple Music service will also be available for devices that use Android, the mobile operation system from rival tech giant Google.
"It will change the way you experience music forever," Tim Cook, Apple's chief executive said during a keynote at the company's WWDC conference in San Francisco before a crowd of more than 5,000 developers.
Apple said the service would "bring together all the ways people love music." Recommendations will stretch across songs purchased in Apple's iTunes Store, ripped from CDs or chosen on-demand from an online catalog of more than 30 million titles. Apple Musicalso includes a 24/7 radio station called Beats 1, and a service called Connect, where artists can present themselves to fans and share a song directly to their iPhone -- a hint at possible exclusive tracks to come.
Last year, Apple bought headphones maker in its biggest acquisition ever. As part of the deal, Apple also acquired Beats Music, a fledgling subscription service that gives members all-you-can-eat access to songs for $10 a month. Since the acquisition closed in August, the service has been in its own image.
Apple had pointedly resisted the model of subscription streaming music for years. Founder and former CEO Steve Jobs was vocal in dismissing it -- in 2003, he called subscriptions "bankrupt," and in 2007 he declared that "people want to own their music."
While Apple sat on the sidelines, rivals including Spotify and Pandora have grown rapidly, while newcomers such as Jay Z's Tidal entered an already crowded market. In the last year, revenue from streamed music has overtaken physical sales of records and is closing in on digital downloads, all while that business of purchasing digital tunes -- Apple's forte via its iTunes Store -- has begun to decline.
Beats co-founder Jimmy Iovine told developers today that he had approached Cook and iTunes chief Eddy Cue a few years ago and asked, "Can we build a bigger and better ecosystem with the elegance and simplicity only Apple can do?"
"Apple comes late to the music streaming business, due in part to Steve Jobs' refusal to believe that music subscription services would ever work," Forrester Research analyst James McQuivey said of today's announcement. "But the writing is on the wall: digital downloads don't make sense for consumers that are connected wherever they go."
On Monday, Cue demonstrated the app's front page, My Music, which shows recently added albums and songs, all music purchased and playlists the user has created. A section called For You is personalized to individual tastes, drawing from data about past purchases and listening, as well as curation by humans. Apple's voice assistant software, Siri, will also pull up the songs from queries like "play me the best songs from 1994," "play the best FKA twigs song," or "what was the No. 1 song in February 2011?"
Unlike iTunes Radio, which was largely collections of playlists and Pandora-like digital stations, Beats 1 will be live radio that's broadcast to more 100 countries by influential DJs Zane Lowe in Los Angeles, Ebro Darden in New York and Julie Adenuga in London. The station will include exclusive interviews and guest hosts. Apple will continue to have more of a custom-created radio experience, now called Apple Music Radio, with stations in a range of genres programmed by music experts.
Beats 1 listening will be available to anyone with an Apple ID, not just people who pay $10 a month. Apple Music radio stations will also be available outside the paywall, but only subscribers get unlimited song skipping.
Connect will let artists share lyrics, backstage photos, songs and videos. Musicians and fans can interact -- listeners can comment and artists can respond, plus anything posted is shareable on Messages, Facebook, Twitter and email. People who choose not to subscribe can follow artists and view their feeds, but only paying members will be able to play and save Connect content.
Apple Music is available for iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, and Macs starting June 30. It will be offered on the Apple TV set-top box and Android devices in the fall.
Monday's annual confab for developers marks the fourth event hosted by Apple in the past year. In September, it introduced the iPhone 6, Apple Watch smart watch and Apple Pay mobile payments service. In October, it announced the iPad Air 2 and a Mac update. And in March, it held an event touting the Apple Watch.
Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference, or WWDC as it's known, this year takes place June 8 to 12 in San Francisco's Moscone Center.
WWDC is one of Apple's most important events of the year. The company uses the two-hour keynote at the start of the week to introduce its newest software, including updates to its mobile and computer operating systems. Apple is one of the few companies that makes its own hardware and software, something that has given it an advantage over rivals in the past. It's vital for Apple to keep updating its software and add new services that keep users in its ecosystem as competitors, such as Microsoft, take a page from Apple's playbook.
It was also important for Apple to join the race headed to where music listening is going: streaming.
A challenge of Apple Music will be convincing consumers to keep using a service that isn't doing anything that others haven't already offered before: Spotify has grown into the most popular all-you-can-eat streamer, Pandora still attracts nearly 80 million people to its custom stations monthly, Dash Radio replicates the live radio experience online without the surfeit of ads on the traditional dial, and artists and fans have direct connections with one another on Facebook, Twitter and other social platforms.
Apple's pitch is that it alone brings all these elements together and does it in a way that appeals to both music fans and artists.
"Technology and art can work together, at least at Apple," Iovine said.
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