Apple is promoting its highly anticipated streaming music service, and it's doing it characteristically grandiose style.
The tech company is out with three new ads to accompany Monday's rollout of the product (available to users at the end of June). And the commercials heavily feature the brand's familiar obsessions with globe-spanning innovation.
There's the anthem ad, set to Pharell's "Freedom," which basically reminds you that no matter who you are, how you're feeling, what you're doing or where you're doing it, music will make it better. Are you withdrawing from a chaotic school bus into your Beats (now by Apple) headphones? Are you dancing at a party? Crying alone in a hallway? Riding on a boat on a river somewhere? Doing motorcycle tricks? Hanging off a helicopter? In Apple's world of foregone conclusions, where it's already the dominant force in streaming, the brand says "You're welcome." (In fact, the ad is similar in spirit to—if perhaps slightly broader in reach than—the iPhone ad from last year that featured all of mankind participating in a cover of the Pixies' "Gigantic").
There's also a "History of Sound" ad, set to "There's No Light" by Wildbirds & Peacedrums, that stakes a similarly sweeping claim on Apple's place in the context of all recorded music—from radio and vinyl to jukeboxes to 8-tracks to the company's rightful status as pioneer, with the iPod, as well as its more niche role as an influential music production tool, and its ambitious—yet unproven—argument that Apple Music is the next big thing.
In the montage, there's even a nod to ripping music and burning CDs—a message that's somewhere between Apple patting itself on the back for coming up with a digital sales model that actually worked, for a time, and serving up a not-so-subtle reminder to the music industry that it still needs help.
The third video, voiced by Nine Inch Nails frontman-cum-Beats/Apple-spokesman Trent Reznor and DJ Julie Adenuga, explains the new service's features, which include on-demand streaming (like Spotify), a special 24/7 Internet radio station featuring tastemaker DJs (including Adenuga), and a social network aimed at connecting artists with fans. Reznor, in a somewhat wooden performance (screaming suits him better), delivers a set of now-familiar diagnoses about the current landscape—the abundance of music, its devaluation as an art form and the importance of directly connecting artists and fans.
Everyone and their mother is already spilling a ton of ink over how inventive the product might be (at first blush, not particularly) and whether it will succeed (given Apple's crushing resources in terms of cash and reach, the odds seem decent in its favor, regardless of competitors' head-starts in the streaming space). And there's also always the question of the degree to which the high-brow explanations, and exaltations to music as a craft, are just lip service—part of the sales pitch.
It's not particularly encouraging, for example, that the second ad itself doesn't include a credit for the artist whose work is key to setting the tone—something Beats by Dre's notoriously powerful ads, for which Jimmy Iovine famously picked the music, tended to do. (The first video is absent a credit, too, though Pharrell does get a shout-out in the voiceover.)
In other words, the new work mostly tells us what we already know—Apple wants to own the future of the music business, and its execs know it's the big kid on the playground—so it's swaggering out with all the bravado and slickness you'd expect from the company.
But no matter how the land grab nets out in the end, it's safe to say the play is more about the benjamins than anything else.