Apple Music’s latest milestone should not be a surprise: the service’s growth rate has been such that it was on track to reach 30 million subscribers by the autumn.
In fact, we were surprised the announcement wasn’t made at Apple’s recent launch of new iPhones. In any case, 30 million is the new figure, up from 27 million in June, and 17 million a year ago in September 2016.
The service is thus adding at least a million subscribers a month, which is half the rate of Spotify (which added 10 million between the start of March and the end of July) but bear in mind the difference between the two services’ funnels: a free trial for Apple Music and a fully-fledged free tier for Spotify.
As ever, Music Ally’s view is that the combined growth of both is the important thing here: two different approaches and fierce competition driving the overall market upwards.
Billboard bagged an interview with Apple’s Jimmy Iovine, Larry Jackson and Zane Lowe to talk about the evolution of Apple Music, and amidst the obligatory self-trumpeting there are some interesting points. Not least Iovine’s burning ambition to drive still higher.
“I don’t believe that what exists right now is enough,” he said. “I believe we’re in the right place, we have the right people and the right attitude to not settle for what exists right now. Just because we’re adding millions of subscribers and the old catalog numbers are going up, that’s not the trick. That’s just not going to hold.”
What IS going to hold? Apple is clearly doubling down on original content. “We need to put context and stories around music. The song itself is obviously the primary passion point –it’s a key that opens the door. But what’s inside the room that is going to make a fan a superfan?” said Lowe.
Billboard cites an unnamed source as claiming that some of Apple Music’s artist-focused documentaries have been watched more than 500k times in their first week, in that context.
There’s also a strong sense of Apple putting pressure on the US chart-compilers to downgrade YouTube streams: “An artist will come into my office and say, “They have 500 million people on YouTube. I don’t want to have to give my music away, but I have to promote myself,” said Iovine, noting that a YouTube stream has the same weighting as an Apple Music or Spotify stream in the US chart.
“That’s disincentivising for the musician. Musicians still believe that their money isn’t in recorded music. That’s not good. Encourage them to say no and promote where music has value.”
His views on Spotify also highlight its challenge in competing with deep-pocketed big-tech companies, even if it goes public.
“The margins are too tight. The costs are extraordinary. It’s going to get bigger and bigger and bigger, and the costs are going to get higher, not lower. Going into new countries means localising everything. It’s going to cost a lot of money…”