James Cridland’s International Radio Trends: Apple getting serious about online radio?

James Cridland, radio futurologist, is a conference speaker, writer and consultant. He runs the media information website media.info and helps organise the yearly Next Radio conference. He also publishes podnews.net, a daily briefing on podcasting and on-demand, and writes a weekly international radio trends newsletter, at james.crid.land.

Thought Apple wasn’t very keen on online radio? Yeah, me too. Apple Beats 1, the company’s radio station is five years old: it launched June 30, 2015. It was a difficult, eclectic, listen – and I suspected it was more of a tool for Apple to promote its relationships with music artists, rather than a thing normal people would actually listen to.

Now, Apple are getting serious – it’s now called Apple Music 1 (though the logo, correctly, calls it Apple Music 1 Radio). And they’ve added two more stations – Apple Music Hits, and Apple Music Country.

I’ve spent some time listening to Apple Music Hits, which is a much, much more accessible service. It seems to broken into short, one-hour, shows. I listened to Alanis Radio, presented by Alanis Morissette. This is a slickly edited piece of output – she introduces Kate Bush’s Wuthering Heights explaining how the Brontë Sisters worked, and in the background, the short two-bar intro for the song was repeated as a music bed, allowing her to finish her story and then hit the vocals. There are no “ums”, no “ers”, no clutter – it’s been excellently polished and produced. But annoyingly, many of the tracks aren’t played in full for some reason – Wuthering Heights makes it to the instrumental break, and then Alanis Morissette jumps in to tell us a story about Paul Simon. The entire hour is unbranded as being on a radio station – instead, it’s “Alanis Radio”, and one suspects its built as a podcast-like on-demand service. (Of note: the word ‘f*cked’ was also bleeped. Isn’t that ironic? Don’cha’think?).

Now-playing information works properly, with artwork switching as soon as new tracks start playing – rather different from the original incarnation of Beats 1, and something I wasn’t too impressed by.

These three stations are free for anyone with an Apple device – you’ll find them in the Apple Music app under the “radio” tab. As an alternative to mindless algorithm radio, they’re quite good.

What I’m up to

Ah, remember travel? I’m a writer, consultant, and an amazingly brilliant keynote speaker for your radio conference, setting an innovative and optimistic feel for your event by sharing how radio is changing round the world – in terms of consumption, production and promotion. If I can help you, or your business, please do get in touch, by simply hitting ‘reply’.


Brad Hill