“What’s that song again?”

“What’s that song again?”

Last week Apple announced the launch of its new music streaming service – Apple Music Voice – a cheaper take on Apple Music with an interesting twist: it must be activated via voice control. The new service is only compatible with Siri-enabled devices, such as iPhones, AirPods and HomePods, and, despite being an Apple service, it cannot be accessed via the Apple Music app. This means users will need to summon Apple’s smart voice assistant, Siri, to play their songs of choice.


Too problematic to prosper?

Streaming music via voice activation is hardly revolutionary. Both Amazon and Google Home devices do exactly this via apps such as Spotify and Amazon Music, but in such cases users are not limited by voice activation and can browse through the music app to stream. It appears that Apple Music Voice would therefore only suit a particular niche: casual music listeners – those who prefer listening to the radio or only stream while they are cooking or working out.

Users will also most likely stream in their homes rather than in public, otherwise it would be hard to keep their music preferences private. I am not sure how comfortable I would feel saying “Hey Siri, play Careless Whisper by George Michael” in a public space…


The disadvantages of voice activation

Streaming services are great for finding songs easily. Users can search for keywords, scroll through artists and albums, and locate playlists without much difficulty. This is useful when you have those mind-blank moments: “What’s that song again? You know, the one by The Weeknd?”. However, unless Siri is now built with the capability to piece together pitchy mumbles of intros and choruses, Apple Music Voice may not be equipped to help us find all the songs we are looking for.

Also, consider how many songs we have access to nowadays – there are more than 70 million songs on Spotify and more than 90 million on Apple Music – which is excellent for exploring new genres and artists but how would this work with voice activation? If users cannot access the Apple Music app, does this mean they will be required to memorise the song names and artists they want to hear. I am not convinced people always register the name and artists of the songs they like.

My next question is: what will users do when a song name is hard to pronounce or a mouthful to utter? This could be problematic for classical music with all the sonatas, concertos and requiems, and then there is the added issue with foreign song names and artists.


For the few, not the many

Apple Music Voice sounds great for certain situations: cooking dinner, doing an at-home work out or for office listening, but it is otherwise very restricted. Users cannot make playlists or enjoy privacy when streaming, plus they may only be limited to the songs they can remember or pronounce. I think the overarching message here is that not everything can be made better with voice activation.

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