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How Beats 1 can take on SiriusXM

Michael Simon | July 14, 2015
Apple Music has exploded out of the gate. Thanks to a generous three-month trial period, music lovers all around the world rushed to take the newest streaming service for a spin, and there isn't much not to like. Tens of millions of songs, hand-picked playlists, offline listening, and easy integration with your existing music library put it at least on par with its big-name rivals, if not slightly ahead.

Apple describes Beats 1 as a "24/7 radio station broadcast worldwide from Los Angeles, New York, and London," but in actuality it only offers 12 hours of live programming. From noon to midnight eastern time you'll hear live shows and original first-run programs, and then it replays the whole day's schedule again.

So, if you're listening outside of the United States, there's a good chance you're not hearing a live show. That's not an issue with satellite radio---with so many channels there's always something live---but over time a true 24-hour radio station would make Beats a much more viable satellite radio competitor.

And while there's a certain appeal to the we're-all-listening-together model, sometimes I just want to listen on my own terms. It's one of the best feature of SiriusXM's Internet streaming package, and while Apple does offer complete playlists of the songs that were played during shows, it's just not the same experience without the DJ banter. It would be great to be able to stream or download Beats 1 shows on demand, and as the service picks up more listeners, I assume Apple will collect its shows for on-demand listening.

Booey bomb

But above all, Apple Music needs a face. Zane Lowe, Ebro Darden, and Julie Adenuga are all excellent at their jobs, but radio is about personalities, people like Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, and Gregg "Opie" Hughes who create content, not just play great music. And the brightest one in the radio galaxy just so happens to be in a contract year.

Howard Stern has grown from a shock jock to the self-proclaimed king of all media to one of the best interviewers of all time. When he left terrestrial radio for the FCC freedom of satellite radio, it wasn't just an excuse to get raunchier; over the decade that he's been at SiriusXM, Stern has transformed his radio show from a romper room of strippers into a delectable stew of social commentary, celebrity conversations, unique in-studio performances and, of course, world-class comedy. It's not just the greatest radio show, it's one of the best things you can listen to on any platform.

He might have to tone down the language a bit for Apple's self-imposed censors, but Howard has proven that he can be just as funny and interesting without all the cuss words. He's already announced that he's leaving America's Got Talent after this season to focus more on his radio show, but he's been characteristically coy about where that show will be aired.

And if there's one thing Howard loves more than his iPhone and MacBook Air, it's being a pioneer. His SiriusXM show attracts more than 10 million listeners and would be an instant draw for Beats' credibility. Moving to a relatively unestablished medium would be a challenge, but he's done it before, nearly single-handedly building Sirius's subscriber base from 600,000 to nearly 30 million. Detractors might scoff at the idea, but Howard Stern is the kind of personality that give Apple Music the kind of visibility Apple needs, marketing it not just to streamers but to radio fans everywhere. And taking SiriusXM's biggest draw wouldn't be so bad either.


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