Apple Music’s Big Bet: Sound Effects!

Just when you thought things were getting better, Apple comes clean with their hopes for the future of music. And it’s all about sound effects. Ugh.

According to Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of internet software and services, whose responsibilities include Apple Music, the future of music is not lossless streaming. The future is Dolby Atmos.

Here’s Eddy from yesterday’s interview with Billboard on the future of music (not Apple Music, mind you, music):

There’s no question it’s not going to be lossless. Because the reality of lossless is: if you take a 100 people and you take a stereo song in lossless and you take a song that’s been in Apple Music that’s compressed, I don’t know if it’s 99 or 98 can’t tell the difference.

But everyone can hear the difference Dolby Atmos brings to the table. Here’s Eddy:

…when you listen for the first time and you see what’s possible with Dolby Atmos with music, it’s a true game-changer. And so, when we listened to it for the first time, we realized this is a big, big deal. It makes you feel like you’re onstage, standing right next to the singer, it makes you feel like you might be to the left of the drummer, to the right of the guitarist. It creates this experience that, almost in some ways, you’ve never really had, unless you’re lucky enough to be really close to somebody playing music.

Maybe Apple is right. Maybe our times call for the need to make every single experience feel as if we’re center stage, part of the process. Not some bystander just listening. That’s so, like, yesterday. Music is so, like, boring.

Just think about how well 3D movies have done, how Sensurround really took off, and no theater experience is complete without Smell-O-Vision! And let’s not forget about surround sound! You can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a multichannel hifi in most homes.

As I said yesterday, I think Apple is trying to make listening to music an entirely Apple experience, part of the larger Apple plan to insinuate its products into every aspect of our waking hours. I’m not joking.

It’s obvious I think Apple’s music plans are rotten to the core. Music has been doing just fine, no thanks to Apple. This notion that lossless is something new is absurd and laughable, especially coming from a company that built its music chops on taking a step backward in terms of sound quality with lossy downloads and crappy headphones (yea, they’ve gotten better). Imagine the nerve it takes to degrade CD-quality, the existing digital standard, sell tons of lessor quality lossy downloads that can never be made whole again, and now claim lossless is nothing new! On this point, Apple is right! Lossless is old news.

But wait it gets better. Here’s Eddy:

This is not a simple “take-the-file that you have in stereo, processes through this software application and out comes Dolby Atmos.” This requires somebody who’s a sound engineer, and the artist to sit back and listen, and really make the right calls and what the right things to do are. It’s a process that takes time, but it’s worth it.

The Big Apple Music Pitch boils down to — Once you hear Spatial Audio on Apple Music, you’ll never want to listen to regular old stereo again. We just have to remaster every single record in Dolby Atmos, create a fake place that never existed so we can put you, the listener, in it, and you just have to buy new hardware.

And we’re not talking about the kind of improvement that can be measured or gauged in an objective way, we’re talking about a fad, a trick, a gimmick, an aural illusion. Look I’m on stage! Ugh.

For a minute, I was feeling optimistic about Apple Music. That minute has passed.