Entertainment Music Apple signs superstars for global radio station
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Apple signs superstars for global radio station

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In its bid to become a power in music streaming, Apple is devoting its vast resources to create what it hopes will be a first truly global radio station.

The $US750 billion ($A969.5 billion) company, whose iTunes revolutionised how disparate parts of the world buy music, launches Apple Music on Tuesday as it sees consumer trends shift to streaming, which allows on-demand unlimited content online.

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At the heart of the strategy is Beats 1, which bills itself as a first global radio station and will be available in more than 100 countries.

Beats 1 will be free even without a subscription to Apple Music, whose streaming platform costs $9.99 a month after a trial period -a key distinction from streaming leader Spotify, which offers a free tier for on-demand music despite criticism from some artists.

FRANCE-BRITAIN-MUSIC-ELTON JOHN
Elton John: understood to be in Apple’s line-up.

Apple Music has sought to make a splash through big names on Beats 1, poaching the influential New Zealand-born DJ Zane Lowe from BBC Radio 1.

The company has not named a full list of presenters, but Lowe in a profile by The New York Times said that pop icon Elton John, Happy singer and producer Pharrell Williams, rap mogul Dr Dre and prominent indie rocker St Vincent had all been enlisted to host shows.

Williams will debut a song for the launch of Apple Music, which enjoyed a dramatic boost when superstar Taylor Swift said she would stream her blockbuster album 1989 only on Apple Music.

Swift made the announcement days after threatening to boycott Apple Music for not paying royalties for streams during the free trial period, quickly leading the company to reverse itself.

Even if Apple is a major power in music, music is a small part of the company’s bottom line.

The iTunes store and other services made up less than nine per cent of Apple’s revenue in the quarter through March 28.

To many analysts, the concerted – and without doubt pricey – push into streaming and radio is aimed less at dominating the music industry than at promoting Apple’s key earner: iPhones.

Beats 1 “reinforces the cultural relevance of Apple as a fashion brand. Music is central to pop culture, and music is all about musicians and artists,” said Mark Ramsey, a media strategist and author of two books on the radio industry.

He said that Beats 1 will offer Apple Music a public face – an asset sorely lacking for Spotify, whose most identifiable figure is Daniel Ek, its young Swedish chief whose style is more investor than rock star.

But Ramsey said that Apple Music could ultimately benefit Spotify and other rivals, especially those with free tiers, by introducing streaming to the uninitiated.

“If Apple Music boosts the market for streaming radio, it’s going to float all the boats,” he said.