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Apple Music, tech giant's streaming service, goes live
[NEW YORK] Apple Music, the tech giant's new streaming service, went live Tuesday as the company behind iTunes looks to dominate the fast-growing sector.
The new service began with the launch of Beats 1, an international radio station that will feature shows by high-profile artist hosts, and offered streaming - for the first time - of Taylor Swift's blockbuster "1989" album.
The tech giant is offering Apple Music to users who upgrade for free to its new operating system, hoping to make the streaming service integral to the vast number of users of its iPhones and other products.
But in a tacit acknowledgement that the company that revolutionized digital music through iTunes is behind on streaming, Apple also eventually plans a version for users of rival Google's Android smartphones.
Apple Music went live at 1500 GMT, with its new radio station Beats 1 initially playing ambient music by Brian Eno as users downloaded the new system.
Beats 1 formally took to the air an hour later with host Zane Lowe, the prominent New Zealand-based DJ who was poached from BBC Radio 1.
In a signal of Apple's effort to nurture a cool factor, Lowe's first song was not a blockbuster hit but the song "City" by the Manchester indie pop-punk band Spring King.
Lowe, who earned a reputation as an indie rock tastemaker in Britain, said that Apple Music had debated for months about which song to play first but that Spring King seemed appropriate.
Spring King put out an EP "with little or no fanfare" but their growing following "is exactly the kind of story we need," Lowe said.
"It's not about fanfare. It's about quality and consistency. We're Beats 1, we're worldwide, and from now on, we're always on," he said.
Lowe followed up with the new track "Dreams" by Beck, the critically acclaimed Los Angeles alternative artist who won the Grammy for Album of the Year in February.
But Apple has also succeeded in wooing one of the most mainstream of artists - Taylor Swift - in a dramatic turnaround earlier in June.
Swift had initially threatened to boycott Apple Music, speaking up for artists who had complained that Apple would not pay for streams during the initial three-month trial.
Apple quickly reversed itself and Swift agreed to stream "1989" - one of the best-selling albums in recent years - for the first time on Apple Music.
Apple is going up against a crowded field led by Spotify, the Swedish streaming leader that says it has 75 million active users, of whom 20 million pay.
Other competitors include Deezer, Google Play, Rhapsody and Tidal, which was relaunched earlier this year with mixed success by rap mogul Jay Z.