Apple’s vice president of Apple Music and Beats, Oliver Schusser, sat down with Billboard, to discuss the streaming platform, and shared listeners’ reactions to Spatial Audio and Lossless Audio on the streaming platform.
Apple Music added Spatial Audio and Lossless support back in June 2021 and has continued to add new songs to its catalog supporting both features. The entire catalog of the service is now available in Lossless.
Schusser said that while the entire catalog supports Lossless, playback of the higher-quality format continues to be limited to non-Bluetooth headphones, as Bluetooth connections, such as used by Apple’s AirPods lineup, cannot handle the format.
“Everyone in the industry was really focused on Lossless,” says Schusser. “We have every song in our catalog available in Lossless to us delivered by the industry, but the challenge is it doesn’t play on any headphone in the world over Bluetooth or any wireless connection, and that is by a country mile the number one way how people consume music these days.”
Apple Music subscribers can currently listen to Lossless on their iPhone, iPad, Mac, and HomePod using the device’s built-in speakers, which on the first three devices is a less-than-satisfying experience.
Schusser admits that most people can’t tell the difference between Lossless and non-Lossless music, making it a niche product. “And so,” he says, “we went out and said we would like to have a feature for the mass market that works on pretty much every device and where people notice a difference.”
That led to a discussion about Spatial Audio, which is designed to provide listeners with an immersive listening experience. Schusser says the feature has proven popular among listeners, as more than 50% of Apple Music subscribers are now listening in Spatial Audio.
“We now have more than half of our worldwide Apple Music subscriber base listening in spatial audio and that number is actually growing really, really fast,” says Schusser. “We would like the numbers to be higher, but they are definitely exceeding our expectations.”
While Apple continues to add new songs that support Spatial Audio in partnerships with studios, the company is still focusing on ensuring the quality of the mixing on those songs.
Spatial Audio is re-engaging fans with older songs, says Rachel Newman, Apple Music’s global head of editorial and content.
“We’re seeing huge uptick in artists’ back catalog off the basis of them re-engaging their fans with a new way of listening to the music,” says Rachel Newman, Apple Music’s global head of editorial and content. Streams of Spatial Audio tracks on Apple Music editorial playlists have grown by 125% since the feature launched last summer, Newman notes.
In a December interview, Apple’s vice president of acoustics, Gary Geaves discussed the limitations of Bluetooth and Lossless audio. Apple would like “more bandwidth” than what Bluetooth can provide, said Geaves.