One at a time to one hundred million

Published October 4, 2022

An illustration of a collection of musical instruments in shadow against a colourful background

Apple released a press release announcing they have hit 100 million songs on their Apple Music streaming service yesterday, which, by my calculations, is quite a lot. The release is your traditional back-patting piece but there are some interesting little nuggets in there that caught my attention. The first is about the history of music and how it’s possible we even have this many songs to play with in the first place.

Back in the 1960s, only 5,000 new albums were released each year. Today, anywhere in the world, in 167 countries on Apple Music, any artist of any description can write and record a song and release it globally. Every day, over 20,000 singers and songwriters are delivering new songs to Apple Music — songs that make our catalog even better than it was the day before. One hundred million songs is evidence of a more democratic space, where anyone, even a new artist making music out of their bedroom, can have the next big hit.

It’s fantastic, obviously, but it does make me wonder how much progress I’m going to make just listening to my 100 albums a year. It’s going to take me a little while to catch up a bit, I think.

The other element of this press release that caught my eye is Apple’s continuing acknowledgement that finding music - either discovering new gems or remembering old favourites - is the hardest part of the experience. Part of that is down to the usability of the app, always improving but still not fantastic, but the other part is curation. Apple Music has their radio stations with some great shows and fantastic hosts, lots of playlists to peruse, and handy info about new releases scattered about the app.

A new show to tie in with this celebration of many, many, many songs is called Apple Music Today which puts a laser focus on one specific song, gives you a couple of minutes of intro with facts and background and then lets you enjoy the song in full. I listened to the two episodes that have been released so far (hosted by the lovely Jenn), and both have told me things I didn’t already know, so very useful.

We also know that it’s more important than ever that we are elevating artists’ voices and providing opportunities for them to tell their own stories and contextualize their music. It is no longer enough to just connect artists and fans, it’s about making those connections deeper and more meaningful.

It really is about that. I’ve said before that when I’ve watched a documentary about an album (Taylor, Bruce, Pink), the songs are so much more ingrained than otherwise. And sometimes reading those editorial notes at the top of albums, where the artists reveals some of the thoughts and inner workings behind particular songs can also add to the experience.

It continues to be a really interesting time for music, and even though I tend to return to the classics that I know and love more than anything else, I’m still loving watching the streaming journey unfold.

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