This story has been amended to clarify that the note was published by Edison Investment Research, not Edison Research, which is a different company.
Research firm Edison Investment Research has put out a surprisingly-sharp note on Apple Music’s prospects of competing with Spotify, sparked by the latter’s announcement that it now has more than 60 million subscribers.
“Apple Music still making no dent,” claimed Edison, noting that Spotify is adding around two million subscribers a month in 2017. “Spotify remains fundamentally a better service… it uses the data that it collects from all of its users in order to make its service better. Apple also does this but Spotify’s AI in music continues to meaningfully outperform Apple’s.”
Ouch. But Edison also thinks that Spotify’s free tier is giving it an advantage over Apple, now that the prospects of rightsholders clamping down hard on that tier have receded beyond windowing the odd album release.
“This meaningfully offsets the disadvantage that Spotify has compared to Apple when it comes to marketing,” said Edison about the free tier. “These free users generate data which Spotify can use to train its algorithms which can in turn be used to make the service better. Apple also has a lot of data but has not been nearly as good at turning raw data into actionable intelligence with which it can improve its service.”
Apple will doubtless have opinions on the fairness of this criticism. Music Ally’s view still focuses on the bigger picture: what’s encouraging in 2017 is that Spotify, Apple Music and Amazon are all growing their paid subscribers at a decent clip. And this is just among the global services: if you look at what’s happening in China with Tencent now up to 15 million subscribers; and with activity in markets from Latin America, India and Russia to Africa, it’s a very positive time.
That’s why viewing the music-streaming market through a narrow lens of ‘Spotify vs Apple’ doesn’t quite capture the industry dynamics. Even in that context, Apple growing while not hurting Spotify’s growth is actually good for the industry – and the more services that can join them in that upwards trend, the better too.