Apple chief executive Tim Cook says that 6.5m people are now paying for Apple Music after reaching the end of the streaming service’s three-month free trial, while more than 8.5m people are still in the free period.

It’s the first official figures on the early conversion rate for the service, which launched on 30 June and saw its earliest adopters decide whether to start paying or cancel their membership on 30 September.

“I’m finding personally that I’m discovering a whole lot of music that I wasn’t listening to before,” Cook told a technology conference in California this morning. “I think it’s fabulous, and to have over 15 million on there, and 6.5 million in the paid category, I’m really happy about it. And I think the runway here is really good.”

The news follows colleague Eddy Cue’s announcement in early August that 11m people had signed up to the free trial in its first month.

6.5m subscribers makes Apple Music a comfortable second in the standalone music-subscription market, still some way behind Spotify’s 20m paying customers, but ahead of Pandora’s 3.9m subscribers and Deezer’s 3.8m “revenue-generating” subscribers as revealed in the latter company’s IPO documents.

(Amazon Prime Music may well have more listeners than Apple Music, but that service is bundled into the wider Amazon Prime membership.)

The caveat to Cook’s announcement is that we are still within the first month after Apple Music trialists had to start paying: it is unknown how many intended to continue subscribing, rather than forgot to cancel the automatic subscription payment.

In August, Midia Research’s Mark Mulligan predicted that around half of the people billed for October would cancel after that first payment was taken.

“The clever bit for Apple is that the total number of reportable subscribers, the ‘ever subscriber’ number, will be around 6 million because of those extra 3 million that accidentally paid for 1 month,” he wrote.

His ‘ever subscriber’ forecast was pretty close, so we’ll need to wait and see now whether Mulligan’s prediction that “we’ll never even see the impact of that 3 million being wiped off the subscriber count, with them quickly replaced by new additions” over the coming months as Apple’s marketing campaign hits its stride.

The most important question, as ever, is how many of Apple Music’s paying members are new to the music subscriptions market, versus simply churning over from rival services. We await more insight into that from research firms and, in time, figures from the various music industry bodies.

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