Tim Cook harks back to ‘human curation’ in music streaming

Apple CEO Tim Cook

Tim Cook has called for more "human curation" in music streaming services, laying out a vision for Apple Music at odds with the growth of data-driven curation amongst competitors.

In a conversation with Fast Company, the Apple CEO stressed his credentials as a lover of music, calling it “better than any medicine” – but hit out at the rise of algorithmic playlists amongst music streaming services.

“We worry about the humanity being drained out of music, about it becoming a bits-and-bytes kind of world instead of the art and craft.”

Cook is a longstanding critic of the data-centered playlists curated by its major rival, the popular music streaming app Spotify, which was valued at $26bn on floating on the Stock Exchange and has been steadily growing in value ever since.

But with over 70 million users worldwide, there certainly seems to be an appetite for Spotify’s way of doing things, which involves a mix of human-curated and algorithm-generated playlists based on likely listening habits and similar music styles.

By using the metadata of different tracks and artists, streaming services are able to collate types of music that fans of one genre or artist are likely to enjoy, and has already connected countless listeners with songs they might otherwise never have come across.

Spot the difference

There’s no doubt Spotify kicked off the music streaming trend as we know it today. It was years ahead of Apple, who in classic fashion bode their time, waiting until it had seen two years of decline in its music sales before starting to establish its own streaming service.

Now though, Apple Music is a sizeable force in music streaming, due in no small part to Apple’s preexisting user base and deep cash reserves. The service is able to operate without worrying too much about making a profit, so when Tim Cook says “we’re not in it for the money”, he has the luxury of meaning it.

Henry St Leger

Henry is a freelance technology journalist, and former News & Features Editor for TechRadar, where he specialized in home entertainment gadgets such as TVs, projectors, soundbars, and smart speakers. Other bylines include Edge, T3, iMore, GamesRadar, NBC News, Healthline, and The Times.