Apple Music is bent on building its music streaming empire with… television

Camera ready.
Camera ready.
Image: Reuters/Mike Blake
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Seeking a documentary on hyperlocal music culture? You’d think the last place you find it would be on Apple Music, Apple’s corporate music streaming gamble.

Yet there it is. This week, Apple Music debuted The Score, a six-part video series produced by Vice that highlights local music scenes around the globe. Episode one, available on the streaming service as of yesterday (March 22), focuses on Native American hip-hop in Minnesota; further segments will feature similarly obscure subcultures in foreign countries.

Why Apple Music is stepping into original video programming can be explained by industry trends. Music streaming companies are scrambling to differentiate themselves with innovative new features and exclusive content as competition in the field intensifies. Video is one way to stand out. Apple Music gave the format a trial run when it released an exclusive documentary of Taylor Swift’s 1989 world tour last year, and it’s since launched a weekly music show with DJ Khaled and pledged the production of an original TV show with Dr. Dre.

Apple apparently is happy with these ventures. The service will drop a new episode of the Vice music series every week, along with Apple Music playlists that spotlight the artists featured in the show. Vice creative director Kelly Fulton told the Hollywood Reporter that the series is “giving these musicians a platform that they otherwise wouldn’t have had.”

It also gives Apple Music subscribers an exclusive, bonus way to appreciate music, which comes after the service’s acquisition of remixes and DJ mixes last week. (While Spotify recently dipped its toes into video content too, it offers clips from existing shows rather than original content.)

Taken together, these signs point to Apple trying to peel itself away from the tangle of music streaming services with the same tactics Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime used to set themselves apart from cable TV.