Apple Music has 20 million subscribers, Apple says.
The subscription music service launched in June 2015, and it has grown steadily since then. Apple has aggressively courted deals with artists and labels to carry exclusive music on its platform — a move that has proved succesful, but controversial.
Some in the industry have spoken out against the practice: Kanye West previously described it as a “d–k swinging contest” between rival streaming sites that is “f–king up the music game.” (Yes, Kanye West has previously released music exclusively on Tidal, a streaming site owned by Jay Z.)
The argument is that while it can drive growth, it’s not good for users, who are forced to choose between multiple platforms and risk missing out on music from their favourite artists.
Back in September, Spotify (which reports have alleged has “punished” artists who cut exclusive deals with Apple Music) announced it had passed the 40 million paid user mark. It’s still twice the size of Apple Music — but it has also been around far longer, since 2008.
Also note that it has 40 million paid users. Unlike Apple Music, Spotify also has an free, advert-supported tier — making the total number of users even higher.
Talking to the BBC, Apple exec Eddy Cue defended the company’s use of exclusives. “I don’t think exclusives or promotions are anything new. They were done in the record business, they were done in the cassette business, they were done on iTunes and now they’re being done on streaming,” he said. “The exclusives are relatively short term – it’s not something that stays on any one platform. But being able to do unique things with artists is a good thing and I think that will continue.”
Cue also told Billboard that he still thinks there’s room for Apple Music to grow. “Of course we want more and we want it to go faster — we’re hungry!” he said. “We can’t forget that, as an industry, we still have very few music subscribers. There are billions of people listening to music and we haven’t even hit 100 million subscribers. There’s a lot of growth opportunity.”
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