While the 2015 launch of Apple Music was marred by a clunky UI and any number of usability issues, Apple’s music streaming service has improved considerably since then. In turn, the cumulative number of Apple Music subscribers has grown by leaps and bounds in a relatively short amount of time. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that Apple’s Music app enjoys the prime piece of real estate that is the iOS homescreen.
Earlier today, Steven Huon — who is said to be the head of French content for Apple TV and Apple Music — fired off a tweet indicating that Apple Music currently boasts 40 million subscribers. As a point of reference, Eddy Cue just about a month ago revealed that Apple Music has 38 million subscribers. And before that, Apple Music back in February enjoyed 36 million subscribers. Doing some quick math, Apple Music grew by more than 10% over the last two months alone.
Clearly, Apple Music is growing at an impressive rate, so much so that some industry insiders believe that the cumulative number of paid subscribers on Apple Music may surpass Spotify as early as this summer.
As The Wall Street Journal noted last month:
Apple’s Apple Music streaming service, which has been No. 2 in U.S. subscribers behind Spotify AB, is quickly gaining ground against its rival and may overtake it this summer.
Apple Inc.’s Apple Music is adding subscriber accounts in the U.S. at a higher rate than Spotify, and is on track to pass the No. 1 streaming service this summer, according to people in the record business familiar with figures reported by the two services.
Spotify, which just went public yesterday, currently boasts 71 million paid subscribers, though the company believes that figure may rise as high as 96 million before the end of the year.
Jimmy Iovine announces Apple Music during Apple WWDC in San Francisco, June 8, 2015.
Music streaming services are too similar and need to have more original content, Apple Music executive Jimmy Iovine told the BBC.
“The streaming services are all charging $9.99 and everyone has the same music,” he told the British broadcaster in an interview published Sunday.
“And it’s really nice. You get whatever song you want, you get your playlists — but there’s got to be more interaction between the artist and the audience … Sooner or later, something’s got to give,” he added.
He indicated that Apple Music wanted more original content and cited Netflix as an example, which spent roughly $6 billion on its own shows and movies in 2017.
Iovine also told the BBC it was inevitable that Apple would phase out the iTunes download store, as streaming services surpass the older digital format. Apple has previously denied rumors that the download service was ending next year. “If I’m honest, it’s when people stop buying,” Iovine said. “It’s very simple.”
During the first six months of 2017, one in five iOS users listened to Apple Music (21 percent), up from 13 percent in the first six months of 2016. Apple Music edged out Spotify Premium for the title of most used, although both saw significant listener gains in 2017. Both services are benefitting from the overall growth in paid music subscribers in the US.
Spotify Premium still dominates the chart for share of listening among iOS users. Spotify users on the iOS platform spend 40 percent more time listening to music. Apple Music comes in a respectable second.
More iOS users are listening to Apple Music, but engagement with Spotify Premium is stronger. Apple Music has an opportunity to improve usage those new listeners, and surely the new iPhone will help.
Apple Music has added CBS Sports Radio to its growing collection of streaming radio stations available to paid subscribers. CBS Sports Radio joins CBS Radio News, NBC Sports Radio, and a handful of other news and sports channels available for streaming.
“The appetite for compelling and hard-to-ignore sports analysis, commentary and fan debate continues to grow across all audio platforms,” said Chris Oliviero, Executive Vice President, Programming, CBS RADIO. “CBS Sports Radio delivers this to fans 24 hours a day, 7 days a week so it’s an ideal next step to launch a channel on Apple Music, one of the most popular streaming services today, as yet another way we continue to meet the evolving desires of this passionate audience anywhere and everywhere.”
In the United States, Apple Music now includes nine news and sports radio channels:
BBC World Service
CBS Radio News
CBS Sports Radio
ESPN News and Sports
NBC Sports Radio
NPR News and Culture
PRI News and Insights
These channels are available for streaming anywhere Apple Music is available including iTunes, iOS, Android, and Sonos. Apple moved streaming radio channels behind paid memberships last summer with Beats 1 remaining free for all users.
Apple Music is also expected to add to its growing catalog of entertainment with new video offerings including a version of the viral video series Carpool Karaoke.
The New York Times recently published an interview with Apple Music executives Jimmy Iovine and Larry Jackson. During the interview, the executives discussed where Apple Music’s position is in the current music landscape. “We have no interest in being a label,” says Apple Music executive Jimmy Iovine. “But we do have interest in making our platform the one that’s best to communicate with the audiences.”
Apple Music is known to the public for streaming tunes. But the whole platform is much bigger than that. By explaining to artists that Apple Music is also about marketing an artist, the service has been able to score exclusives on albums that eventually went on to top the charts. The part of the streaming service that the public doesn’t notice is the part that sponsored Drake’s 60-city tour this past summer, along with his promotional movie “Please Forgive Me.” The latter remains an exclusive for Apple.
While it is easy for the media to focus on how quickly Apple Music has added subscribers, the most impressive thing Apple has done is to cultivate a relationship with musicians who have capitalized on Apple’s marketing prowess and technological strengths. Whether Apple planned this in advance, or stumbled onto this template, is not so important. By pointing to the success Apple Music has had with albums from Travis Scott, Future and DJ Khaled (all three debuted as number one on Billboard as exclusives to Apple Music), Apple can tell up and coming artists that this could happen to them if they give Apple Music an exclusive and allow them to promote their work.
“We have real understanding of what these artists are trying to accomplish both aesthetically and commercially. We’re really getting there in merging these cultures — tech and the arts. And we’re trying to prove that we are the best place for an artist to fulfill their vision.”-Jimmy Iovine, executive, Apple Music
If Apple does eventually overtake rival streamer Spotify, offering exclusives and getting in tight with the talent is how it will have to be done. Spotify already has 95 million users with 55 million using its ad-based free tier. While Apple does offer a one-time three-month free trial, it does not have a free level of service. Apple Music has 17 million subscribers at last count, and may never catch up unless it can continue to provide users with early access to music that Spotify can’t play. For that to happen, Apple Music will have to continue focusing on its relationships with musicians and not pay attention to head count for another 24 months. At that point, it should take a breath to see how this strategy is working in relation to Spotify.