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Apple Music mulls radio moves as it reaches 56m subscribers


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There’s a new milestone for Apple Music within a Financial Times article about the service’s radio ambitions. “The number of subscribers has grown to 56m, up from 50m in May,” claimed the FT, although the figure comes from music-industry executives rather than an official announcement by Apple.

That suggests Apple Music has been adding around one million new subscribers a month during that period. The obligatory comparison: Spotify, which added four million new subscribers in the third quarter of this year – so just over 1.3 million a month. The two services are thus continuing to grow apace, together, although the FT report repeats the recent claim that Apple Music now has more subscribers in the US than Spotify.

(Spotify ended Q3 with just under 27 million subscribers in North America – 31% of its global total – but that includes Canada as well as the US.)

But back to the Apple Music / radio speculation, which was fired up last month by reports that Apple might invest in US network iHeartMedia. The FT now says that Apple “has not given up on Beats 1” – its own radio station – but that it has “not taken off in the way that Apple hoped when it first launched three years ago”. A challenge that an iHeartMedia partnership could help with, by widening the distribution for Beats 1 in the US.

“According to people familiar with the negotiations, Apple has considered buying a stake in the radio group, as well as signing a marketing or promotional partnership,” reported the FT, before adding a fascinating alternative. “Another option under consideration is for Apple to acquire iHeartRadio’s streaming platform, which would be a relatively cheap way to reach the service’s 120m registered users.”

In September, Spotify CFO Barry McCarthy outlined his company’s determination to attract listeners away from radio. “The 20-year trend here is linear dies, everything on-demand wins. Instead of free / paid, it’s paid plus free, and free eats broadcast radio… Broadcast radio, SiriusXM are extremely threatened by the growth and evolution of streaming services,” he said then. Apple buying iHeartRadio (and potentially funnelling its audience towards Apple Music rather than other subscription streaming services) would be a big challenge to Spotify’s strategy – albeit only in North America.

Stuart Dredge

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