Here’s why Apple is already dominating music streaming

Love it or hate it, Apple’s Music service is off to a great start. It has started dominating within its first 6 months, which is something many did not expect considering its chequered launch back in June 2015. A report by the Financial Times claims that Apple has already managed to acquire over 10 million paying customers for its Music streaming service, which works across an array of devices including its own product line and Windows PCs and Android smartphones. Importantly, this is a number that should not be taken lightly because Spotify, which is a poster child for the music streaming phenomena, took 6 years to reach the same number of paying customers. Spotify, as of now has more than 20 million paying customers, but that has been built on a bedrock of a lot of hard-work and pushback from musicians and labels. Apple Music’s ascend to 10 million paying customers has been rather smooth and rapid to say the least. Indeed, there are some interesting reasons at play, which have ensured that Apple Music is off to a flying start.

1. Apple: First and foremost, one can’t ignore the dominant PR machine Apple is. Apple has the Midas touch. Most things with the iconic Apple logo sell….very well. Apple Music isn’t different and despite the fact, that Apple Music botched up iTunes libraries of many people (including me), people have been patient with it and have allowed Apple the breathing room to improve it. No other service would’ve survived such a botched launch, leave alone be in a position to dominate the market. Let’s admit it, it was the Apple logo that allowed it to wing it.

2. Pricing is right: At Rs 120/ month for a single user subscription and Rs 190/ month for a family subscription that works with 6 users, Apple Music is seemingly a steal, when you consider the wealth of music that’s available on tap. In India, it is wildly cheaper than the US. It’s a telling fact and shows that Apple is adapting and adopting a ‘different strokes for different folks’ kind of strategy.”

3. Content story done right: Apple claims it has more than 30 million songs and recently it even added the Beatles to the service. For even people in a country like India, there’s a wealth of local content that’s available. From local Bollywood numbers from movies like Dilwale to some really obscure indie stuff from Indian underground DJs like Blot, Apple Music has it all. If you’re looking for a complete package in terms of content that it is able to offer it. No other service plays this game as well as Apple Music. For me, Apple Music has all but replaced YouTube as a primary source for streaming music, and in a mobile environment, it works out well because streaming high-quality audio is still less data intensive than a poor quality video.

4. Available everywhere: Apple is known for its obsessiveness with end-to-end control. Often, its services are only available for its devices. In order to make Apple Music truly successful, better sense prevailed back at Cupertino and Apple released an app for both Android and added support for it inside iTunes on Windows PCs. So most devices in the world can access Apple’s service, for a price of course. But ubiquity isn’t restricted to the type of devices that are able to tap into Apple Music, but also where all it is accessible. Apple Music is available in more than 100 countries including India. Its main rival Spotify is available in only 56 countries and yes, it is still not available in India. That fact is telling.

5. Unique features: Apple Music from the very start was billed as ‘jack of all’ music streaming services. It also combined the best of a traditional radio station with its Beats One service with things like interviews and human curation combined with its algorithmic curation of music. While other services like Spotify, Rdio and Google Play music provide this element in spades, Apple’s is the only one that does all of the above.

6. Good relations with labels: The moment Apple decided to not have a free tier in Apple Music, it had won the loyalty of many music labels and even musicians. That’s a big deal, because in the long run that will help Apple cultivate exclusive deals, which will work in its favour. Even right now, if you’ll see labels talk favourably about Apple Music, more so than say Spotify. Even Taylor Swift’s 1989 world tour film is exclusive to Apple Music. We can expect more of the same from Apple.

Music is quickly becoming very important for Apple. Apple is flexing its muscles and its experience as a curator of content something it has excelled at since the inception of the iTunes store. Apple is also rumoured to launch an iPhone with radically different audio port and a new set of earphones, so it is logical that it doubles down on its music streaming service. And when Apple doubles down on things, few companies can beat it, leave alone a start-up which is valued at roughly $ 8 billion, which is struggling to make a lot of money for musicians and is considered to be an anathema for music labels like Universal and Sony.