Apple Music hits a ‘triple’ with 6.5 million paying subscribers, analyst says
The race for streaming music dominance appears to have begun in earnest now that Apple has revealed how many customers are paying for its new service.
Apple Music has signed up 6.5 million paying subscribers less than four months after its launch, about a third of the number who pay for 7-year-old market leader Spotify, according to Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook. An additional 8.5 million people are using the free 90-day trial version of Apple Music, bringing its total current user count to 15 million.
Cook announced the new figures at an industry conference in Laguna Beach, the first time the tech giant has given user numbers since the first wave of introductory free trial subscriptions started to expire at the end of September. Apple Music launched June 30 in more than 100 countries.
The music business had been eagerly anticipating data from Apple Music, which many analysts hoped would be the game-changer that brought music subscriptions into the mainstream. But many early adopters voiced concerns about bugs in the app, the complexity of its user interface, and the lack of a discernible difference from rival services.
It’s unclear how many of the 6.5 million subscribers will stick with the service after Apple starts charging them, and analyst opinions were mixed on what kind of success the figures indicate. But several observers said the numbers met or exceeded their expectations.
FBR & Co. analyst Daniel Ives said Apple Music is off to a “solid start” and said he would “characterize this initial stage of the launch as a ‘triple’ in the streaming ballgame.” At this pace, he added, Apple could hit roughly 20 million subscribers in a matter of 12 months.
Not surprisingly, Apple’s Cook was upbeat about the early numbers. The Cupertino, Calif.-based tech giant last year paid $3 billion for Beats, the music service and headphone maker on which Apple Music is based.
“I’m really happy about it,” Cook said late Monday during remarks at the WSJDLive conference hosted by the Wall Street Journal.
Expectations were high for Apple Music. The app came installed on any iPhone that upgraded to iOS 8.4 and also is preinstalled on all newer iPhones sold in stores. In the first quarter of 2015, the company sold 74.5 million iPhones.
Before Apple Music debuted, some industry insiders expected Apple’s wide reach among consumers, marketing prowess and huge cash stockpile would propel the service past Spotify within months. But observers now say those projections set the bar unrealistically high.
A year from now, if Apple keeps going on this trajectory, Spotify’s going to be looking over their shoulder.
FBR & Co. analyst Daniel Ives
“If we weren’t talking about Apple, we’d be jumping for joy,” said Russ Crupnick, managing partner of research firm MusicWatch. “Getting people to understand the whole concept of paying a subscription is a marathon.”
Still, Crupnick acknowledged that fewer people had tried the service than he expected.
Spotify, for its part, is not standing idly by.
The Swedish company’s CEO, Daniel Ek, said at an industry event in Canada last month that Spotify was getting a boost from all the attention Apple was bringing to the online music space.
Spotify, valued at more than $8 billion, has built a huge audience with a so-called freemium model that attracts users with a limited ad-based version, and tries to convert them into paying users. It has added new perks, including weekly customized playlists and a feature for runners, and has experimented with promotional pricing to get people hooked.
Both Apple and Spotify charge individual users $9.99 a month for unlimited access to their vast song libraries.
Apple Music boasts access to 30 million tracks and a bevy of expert-created playlists. Its other features include a 24-hour radio station called Beats 1 and a social component that allows artists to share new videos and songs.
Los Angeles Times photographers document 2015 in music. Read the accompanying reviews by clicking links in captions.(Los Angeles Times)
Madonna performs at the Forum in Inglewood on Oct. 27, 2015. Read the review.(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)
Don Henley performs at the Forum in Inglewood on Oct. 9, 2015. Read the review.(Katie Falkenberg / Los Angeles Times)
Los Lobos perform at El Gallo Plaza in East Los Angeles on Sept. 29, 2015. Read the review.(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)
Silversun Pickups perform at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery Masonic Lodge on Sept. 28, 2015. Read the review.(Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times)
R. Kelly, cigar and mike in hand, performs at the Forum in Inglewood on Oct. 10. Read the Times review.(Axel Koester / For the Los Angeles Times)
Grace Jones in concert at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles on Sep. 27.(Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times)
Lauryn Hill performs at the Greek Theatre on Sept. 14, 2015. Read the review.(Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times)
Little Big Town band member Phillip Sweet performs at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles on Sept. 10.(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
Miguel performs at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery on Sept. 4, 2015. Read the review.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
D’Angelo and the Vanguard performs at FYF Fest at Exposition Park on Aug. 23, 2015. Read the review.(Christina House / For The Times)
Morrissey takes the stage at FYF Fest on Aug. 23, 2015. Read the review.(Christina House / For The Times)
Solange onstage at FYF Fest on Aug. 23, 2015.(Christina House / For The Times)
FKA Twigs performs at FYF Fest at Exposition Park on Aug. 23, 2015.(Christina House / For The Times)
Kanye West performs during FYF Fest on Aug. 22.(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)
Jehnny Beth performs with Savages at FYF Fest on Aug. 22, 2015.(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)
Taylor Swift performs at Staples Center in August.(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)
Aretha Franklin at the Microsoft Theatre in Los Angeles on Aug. 2.(Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times)
The Weeknd performs during Hard Summer at the Fairplex in Pomona on Aug. 1, 2015. Read the review.(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
Mötley Crüe celebrates the end of another concert, at the Matthew Knight Arena in Eugene, Ore., on July 22.(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)
John Famiglietti, left, front man Jake Duzsik, and Jupiter Keyes of the L.A. experimental band Health performing at the Echo in Los Angeles on July 22, 2015.(Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times)
Ben Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie performing at the Hollywood Bowl on July 12.(Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times)
Kendrick Lamar performing at the BET Experience at Staples Center on June 27.(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
Underworld performs at the Hollywood Bowl on June 21. Read the review.(Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times)
Brian Wilson at the Greek Theater on Saturday, June 20. It was also his 73rd birthday.(Michael Robinson Chávez / Los Angeles Times)
D’Angelo performs at Club Nokia on June 8, 2015. Read the review.(Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times)
(Michael Robinson Chavez / Los Angeles Times)
Sufjan Stevens and his band on the first night of a two-night run in Los Angeles on Wednesday, June 3, 2015.(Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times)
Ciara performs at Club Nokia on May 30, 2015.(Michael Robinson Chávez / Los Angeles Times)
(Michael Robinson Chavez / Los Angeles Times)
Neil Diamond performs at the Hollywood Bowl on Saturday, May 23, 2015.(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
Steve Aoki, EDM DJ, producer and recording artist, performs on Broadway between 4th and 6th streets in downtown Los Angeles, May 16, 2015.(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)
Rapper Big Sean performs at
Sia performs during the Wango Tango concert at the StubHub Center on May 9, 2105, in Carson.(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)
Justin Bieber performs during the Wango Tango concert at the StubHub Center on May 9, 2105, in Carson.(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)
Kanye West performs in shadowy lights during the Wango Tango concert at the StubHub Center on May 9, 2105, in Carson.(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)
Ne-Yo performs in front of a full house during the Wango Tango concert at the StubHub Center on May 9, 2105, in Carson.(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)
Nick Jonas performs during the Wango Tango concert at the StubHub Center on May 9, 2105 in Carson.(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)
James Hatfield fronts Metallica at the Rock in Rio Festival in Las Vegas on May 9.(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
Chester Bennington and Linkin Park play the Rock in Rio fest in Las Vegas on May 9.(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
Tim McIlrath, lead singer for the Chicago-based, melodic hardcore band Rise Against, wades into the crowd at Rock in Rio on May 9.(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
Gwen Stefani fronts No Doubt at Rock in Rio in Las Vegas on May 8.(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
Ariana Grande performs at the Forum in Inglewood, April 8, 2015.(Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times)
Rivers Cuomo of Weezer performs with his band at Burgerama on March 28. Weezer was one of the headliners for the two-day festival at Santa Ana’s Observatory.(Katie Falkenberg / Los Angeles Times)
Lead singer Zac Carper of FIDLAR performs with his band at Burgerama, the two-day Santa Ana festival thrown by OC DIY impresarios Burger Records.(Katie Falkenberg / Los Angeles Times)
Experimental artist Lustmord makes his Los Angeles debut on March 21 at the Masonic Lodge at Hollywood Forever.(Katie Falkenberg / Los Angeles Times)
R&B singer Chris Brown performs at the Forum in Inglewood. The March 8 show was a stop on his tour with Trey Songz and Tyga.(Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times)
Kendrick Lamar performs at the Air + Style concert and snowboarding event at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena on Feb. 21.(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)
Some streaming music rivals don’t release user statistics, but Spotify is thought to have a considerable lead on the competition with 20 million subscribers and 55 million who regularly use the free version that makes money from advertising. French service Deezer, which is not widely available in the United States, has 6 million subscribers worldwide. Other significant players include Google Play Music, Amazon’s Prime Music and Rdio.
Even Jay Z’s Tidal, which stumbled soon after its launch this year, may be getting some traction. The rapper and mogul announced the milestone in a tweet last month, saying that “Tidal is platinum.”
That fledgling service has suffered a number of public relations mishaps since it debuted in March. During a recent court appearance, Jay Z reportedly had to be reminded that the service was among his many businesses, despite the fact that he paid $56 million for it.
Analysts have been looking to Apple to ramp up its marketing efforts. During the Emmys telecast in September, the company debuted a star-studded ad in which Kerry Washington of “Scandal,” music legend Mary J. Blige and Taraji P. Henson of “Empire” dance to an Apple Music playlist.
Other Apple Music marketing efforts, such as the conspicuous billboard campaign, have emphasized the Apple Music brand without telling consumers much about what they’re getting from the service. Mark Mulligan, a music industry analyst at research firm Midia, said Apple needs more advertising that calls consumers to action.
“More people need to be persuaded that this is something they want to do,” Mulligan said.
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