How Apple Music impressively scaled the music streaming charts

“It’s impossible to discuss the music streaming industry without mentioning Apple Music,” Shirley Pelts writes for Market Realist. Apple Music, which launched last year, has made an impressive debut in the music streaming industry, raking in around 10 million subscribers in the six months after its debut.””

“One of its competitors, Spotify, took six years to hit the 10 million mark,” Pelts writes. “Apple Music is also offering some tough competition to Internet radio players like Pandora Media.”

“Early this year, top Apple executives Eddy Cue and Craig Federighi stated that Apple Music has more than 11 million paying subscribers. It has recorded monthly growth of 10% over its 10 million subscribers at the end of December 2015,” Pelts writes. “Apple Music is far more likely to succeed in the music streaming market than its competitors.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Watch out, Spotify, here comes Apple Music!

22 Comments

  1. Steve was a big critic of the concept of music subscription. His position, which made complete sense at the time, was that people prefer to rent movies, but own their music. Logic was simple and clear: you watch a favourite movie a few times in your lifetime; you listen to your favourite album more than that many times in just one week.

    However, music subscription services of the time (Rhapsody, Napster and similar) were based on a clunky and cumbersome DRM. Streaming didn’t exist as a concept; music was mostly on people’s desktop computers, or copied from there to their portable music players. The player could only play back files that were authorised for playback, and had to be reconnected at least once a month in order to confirm subscription. Meanwhile, Apple sold DRM-free music that you could download and move around any which way you wished and it would play without restrictions.

    It wasn’t until mobile broadband became prevalent (in the developed world) that music streaming became a practical concept. And it gained entry through the free services, such as Pandora and Spotify.

    Today, subscription- and streaming-based services make a lot of sense. Especially when set up as Apple Music is, with the ability to download and play while offline. For people who enjoy music and like to have a wide variety, buying has become more expensive than renting. Math is rather simple. Based on the experience of the past century of recorded music, the sound carrier format changes roughly every 30 – 40 years (wax cylinder, 78rpm records, vinyl LPs, 8-tracks, audio cassette, CD, digital downloads). Those of us who are older can sympathise with the saying “Buying the White Album all over again” (having bought an LP in the 60s when it came out, then 8-track for the car, then cassette for the walkman, then the CD to replace that old vinyl LP, then digital download for the iPod…). The point is, renting that White Album from Apple Music (together with all other music I bought over the years, in any one of those specific formats) would cost me less, over the life span of that format, than what I paid for all that music (before having to replace it with the new technology).

    I still have some 60 LPs from the 70s. I’m sure there is a turntable somewhere in the basement (or attic). They collect dust, and have all been replaced with CDs during the late 80’s and 90’s. I now have a collection of some 300 CDs. I’m not buying them again anymore. I’m now paying $15 to Apple every month, and they give me access to all the CDs of the world. Over the past six months, I have most likely listened to over 300 different albums. The equivalent cost of the CDs would be over $3,000 (over 15 years of family subscription). A no-brainer.

      1. That’s actually incorrect. There are quite many situations where renting is less expensive than buying.

        And as I had explained above, for many people, especially those who listen to and enjoy a wide variety of music, renting is cheaper than owning.

        I know people who bought an apartment in 2005 and still can’t sell it for the money they paid for it. Meanwhile, they sank tens of thousands of dollars into interest payments on the mortgage, not to mention monthly maintenance and real estate taxes. Had they rented during the same time, ten years later, they would have saved close to $150K. The family is now bigger, but they’re stuck in that apartment, they can’t sell it and cover the outstanding mortgage.

        1. Yep, agreed.

          I use to be a big “it is better to own than to rent” advocate but times have changed and individual situations are different.

          Your example applies today more than it did in the past in some areas of the U.S. with regards to real estate. The caveat is in what areas and what is the economy like in those areas.

          Blanket statements or “rule-of-thumb” guidelines are useful but things are different for different people at different times. Requires people to think and analyze for themselves.

      2. My take is that for the cost of one CD a month, you have access to practically all the world’s recorded music. Now, no doubt, there’s a lot of music that is out of print, and therefore, you won’t find on Apple Music. Myself, I’m discovering so much new music that $9.99/month seems like a no-brainer.

        1. Exactly my sentiments also. Originally I didn’t care for the idea, but I finally dumped SiriusXM which was costing me over $30 per month, and am paying $10 for Apple Music. I load up my iPhone and stream to my car stereo, and have an Anker bluetooth speaker at work. I have over 900 cds which I never play, and have never ripped over half of them, plus I don’t know how many songs and albums I’ve bought and downloaded over the years. For a measly $120 a year I have it all, and I just wish this had always been available.

    1. I agree with much of what you wrote, but this part I have some issues with:
      “However, music subscription services of the time (Rhapsody, Napster and similar) were based on a clunky and cumbersome DRM. Streaming didn’t exist as a concept; music was mostly on people’s desktop computers, or copied from there to their portable music players. The player could only play back files that were authorised for playback, and had to be reconnected at least once a month in order to confirm subscription. Meanwhile, Apple sold DRM-free music that you could download and move around any which way you wished and it would play without restrictions.”

      When the iTunes Music Store launched, pretty much everyone was based on DRM, including Apple. Apple didn’t completely remove DRM from the iTMS until 2009.

      Subscription services simply don’t work without DRM, which is why Apple Music contains the same conceptual DRM that every other online music subscription service has from the beginning.

      DRM was really just as bad, if not worse for the purchase model as it was for the rental model. With the rental model, when the service closed, you just lost your playlist information. With the purchase model, when stores closed, people lost music they purchased.

      As far as reconnecting once a month, that really wasn’t much of an issue. Most computers in this demographic had always on broadband and were used at least once a day let alone once a month. PMPs themselves didn’t have to connect, unless syncing, in which case the computer was most likely connected.

      What was far more influential in the shift was what you mentioned about mobile broadband. Spotify and Pandora launched before the iPhone, but didn’t really take off until after 3rd party apps were allowed on the iPhone along with the rise of Android and 3G/4G/LTE.

      I agree that the rental model makes a lot more sense for a lot of people now than it did before. While I subscribe to Apple Music, I’m still purchasing music mostly because I want DRM free music, I listen to a lot of indie music not available in Apple Music, and for music I really care about I don’t want to be beholding to any legal/contract issues that may result in the music not being available in the future. Also, I have lots of money so I can afford to be a bit irrational here.

      1. I agree with you on most of this. I’m still not sure the effect of DRM on purchased music was worse than on rented music. With FairPlay (Apple’s original DRM), once you buy your track and put it on your iPod (or an early iPhone), it would remain playable forever, long after Apple went bankrupt (hypothetically). Same on the desktop computer, within iTunes, except there you could de-authorise the computer and lose those DRM tracks. With subscription, the file would be playable for maximum of one month after the disappearance of the store that rented it to you. DRM would lock it up if it never again was synced back to the original store to refresh the subscription.

        The re-introduction of DRM with Apple Music brought this issue back, and while most Apple users likely aren’t aware, it is there. Perhaps it is a small price to pay (on top of those $10 per month) for the massive music library we can now access, with no limits.

        1. DRM is worse on purchased music than rented music when you look at it like this:

          Supposed two people do the math to determine either to be a purchaser or renter. If they rent music for $10 a month at the end of the year, they’ve spent $120, enough for 120 songs. Person A rents, while person B purchases. For both, it their song acquisition rate is 120 a year or more (more works out even worse for DRM in terms of purchasing).

          Then right as they start the next year, the music service goes out of business. Person A, who rented, simply signs up with another service. It’s a pain, only in terms of having to find those 120 (or more songs) and regenerating playlists. However, besides many services having import functionality, Person A is still paying just $10 a month. They finish the second year at $240 total.

          Person B has to switch to a new service and deal with the exact same pain of finding the songs and regenerating playlists. However, they have to repurchase those same 120 songs. That means, year 1 they spent $120 and year 2 they spend $120 on the same songs, plus $120 on year 2 songs. A total of $360.

          But this scales horribly for the purchaser compared to the renter both in volume and chronologically. The above example was just 120 songs a year. Imagine buying a few thousand songs, and ooops, the service is no longer available.

          However bad it would be for a renter to lose their service, a purchase has the exact same pain, plus the loss of the investment in the purchases.

          With FairPlay (Apple’s original DRM), once you buy your track and put it on your iPod (or an early iPhone), it would remain playable forever, long after Apple went bankrupt (hypothetically).

          For MP3 players, most worked exactly the same for subscriptions in that they would play forever… unless of course you ever wiped (same was true with an iPod).

          Same on the desktop computer, within iTunes, except there you could de-authorise the computer and lose those DRM tracks.

          Right, every subscription service I did use (btw: I helped developed one of the first ones) did require a monthly check in) but so did some of the purchase stores (although not iTunes). However, considering re-authorization with iTunes may happen for a variety of reasons out of control by the user, the music wouldn’t have really been “forever”.

          So I guess you could say with a purchase it maybe wouldn’t be lost depending on service, but even then not lost only in the sense that it was locked to a specific computer that couldn’t ever be restored or have other issues requiring a re-authorization.

          TL;DR: You’re comparing the “loss” of something never owned and available for rent elsewhere to the actually loss of something that was purchased. It’s like saying your local Hollywood video store has closed down, but has been replaced with Blockbuster versus saying all of those videos you bought at Target won’t play anymore and they won’t give you a refund.

          1. You made an effort to explain and respond and I appreciate that.

            I see where you’re going and the argument holds water; you don’t really lose anything if a subscription service disappears, since you never owned anything in the first place.

            And for the other example, at this point, it is moot (and has been for the past eight years), since there is no DRM on purchases on any of the major digital stores today.

            About the only remaining argument today is that purchases are DRM-free, so the fate of the store that sold them is not really relevant. Meanwhile, subscription downloads are still wrapped in DRM, and their fate, going forward, is still tied to the store that rents them.

            Within the context of our prior discussion, what factored into the lack of popularity of subscription services in the early days was several things, not the least of which was lack of widespread mobile broadband.

            1. I totally agree with everything you wrote here (and also appreciate the conversation).

              “About the only remaining argument today is that purchases are DRM-free, so the fate of the store that sold them is not really relevant. Meanwhile, subscription downloads are still wrapped in DRM, and their fate, going forward, is still tied to the store that rents them. “

              Yep, and that’s one of the reasons why I still purchase despite also subscribing to Apple Music… although this may change someday. My collection is pretty huge so it’s a hard transition for me to make (emotionally). For me, as irrational as it may be, any song I really like needs to be in my collection DRM free.

  2. We should distinguish here between popular (short-lived) music and classical and other long-lived music. If you want to listen to the second movement of Beethoven’s 5th piano concerto with Vladimir Ashkenazy at the keyboard then nothing else will do.

    I have several hundred CDs all ripped to iTunes. I have two local classical radio stations and a marantz networked player with access to the world’s digital radio stations.

    I bought my CDs over many years and now I don’t pay anything further for music.

    Apple has some classical “channels” but there is no classical expertise at Apple (always a cultural desert) so the music that is served up is of very poor quality.

    The great music must be purchased.

    1. Definitely agree with you regarding Classical music.
      And that desire to have a particular artist or orchestra’s version of a piece of music (maybe even a recording from a certain date), keeps me very content with my CD collection.

      Apple seems comfortable with Rock and other genres, but they really don’t seem to “get” Classical.

      1. I disagree. I have a strong collection of classical. I had always championed buying vs. renting. Until Apple Music. The three trial months opened my eyes.

        Say, you are looking for Bruch’s violin concerto. Apple Music will let you listen to one of about 150 different recordings. And it is so for all classical works of similar popularity. There are at least 50 recordings of Brahms symphonies made in the 90s alone (plus stuff going back to the 40s). Comparative listening was never this easy.

        I’m discovering new things in works I’d been listening to for decades. There has always been this consensus about the definitive recordings for certain works (Mravinsky / Leningrad for Tchaikovsky 4 – 6, for example, or Karajan for Beethoven cycle, the first one from the 60s, etc). Then you take those popular pieces and listen to 20 different recordings from different times and different corners of the planet, and you discover new things in those scores.

        Most extreme example is Mozart Requiem. Karl Böhm and Vienna Phil takes 65 minutes to play through it; Jordi Savall and his ensemble is done in 47 minutes. Not to mention the massive sound coming from the Vienna Phil, vs. the baroque voices and instruments of Savall. I would have never discovered these if I had only listened to the single versions of all these works in my own CD library.

      2. I do have to say, iTunes, and Apple Music, are both engineered for popular contemporary music. I am profoundly annoyed when the Academic Festival Overture, or a 3rd movement of Mahler’s 2nd symphony, is called a “song”.

        Apple: not everything set to music can be called ‘song’!

  3. I am confused. Artist make less money per song with it is listen to when the service is free with commercials than when a song is listen to paid with no commercials like free pandora vs paid pandora (or free Spotify vs paid Spotify.

    Or am I wrong?

    But if I am right, then artist should be against free with advertising services and like the Apple Music system.

  4. As Predrag pointed out, the vast choice available for subscription has really made it a lot more appealing. Plus the ability to listen offline.
    The family subscription really pays off especially with a daughter who will listen to a larger number of songs a month.

  5. The coolest thing about Apple Music is the ability to play Apple Music sourced songs and songs in my purchased collection without having to switch apps. It is all in one place and seamless, especially when using the “Play Next” option.

    My playlist creation also has significantly increased since I’ve been using Apple Music, which is a great thing. Here is a playlist I created a week or so ago. It consists of recently released indie, alternative, funk, blues, rock, electronic, punk and singer song writer songs. Enjoy.

    https://itunes.apple.com/us/playlist/spring-steak/idpl.b683c6f31ef74bcf9de463d22e792974

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