Streaming platforms have been involved in something of an arms race over the last year. The introduction of both TIDAL and Apple Music complicated a playing field that until then, Spotify pretty much held a monopoly on. Fewer and fewer people are buying and downloading music, and now the music industry is officially caught up. When Apple Music first launched, it did so with a three-month free trial that it hoped would be enough to woo entrenched Spotify customers away. What happened instead though was quite the opposite.
As the clock hit the 3-month mark following the Apple Music launch, the streaming service paid witness to a nothing less than a mass exodus of its free trial users. According to Music Business Worldwide, that exodus amounted to a whopping 4.5 million (or 40%) of the Apple Music’s free trial users. With no free subscription option available, that’s left the service with 6.5 million users. Compare that to Spotify’s 20 million paying customers, and it’s clear that the streaming war has swung decidedly in its favor.
Why did Apple Music’s free trial users sprint toward the exit? It certainly wasn’t the more-than-affordable $10/month pricetag. Or the 30 million total songs its streaming library features. More than that, it was its inability to separate themselves from Spotify. While Apple Music has been working to get on its feet, Spotify has been churning out amazing feature after amazing feature, beginning with its Discover Weekly playlist. The playlist is one tailored once a week to each individual user, using a complex algorithm to find new music based on past listens. Think Pandora, if it chose a radio station for you every week based on everything you’ve ever listened to on its service.
Past Discover Weekly, Spotify has continued to give people plenty of reasons to abandon ship on Apple Music. Just this last week, it unveiled its concert recommendation platform, a service that tells you about shows in your area based on your listening habits. Other notable advantages the streaming service has over Apple: Full integration on iOS and Android devices (Apple is only just now pushing out its Android app), a free ad-supported option, and an exercise feature that gives you an unlimited playlist of workout music that matches your pace beat for beat.
The simple fact of the matter is that Apple Music banked on users flooding to its corner for the same reason people buy an expensive iPhone instead of a cheaper, functionally identical Android model: the Apple brand. What it didn’t account for though was the loyalty of streaming customers to a service they’ve been a part of for years now. Apple’s most successful products are the ones where they’ve been first to the table. In the world of streaming though, it arrived to a table that’s already been set, with the meal cooked, and everyone already halfway through the main course.
Apple probably knows it has a steep hill to climb to overcome a Spotify model that’s only been improving on a daily basis. In order to keep up though, it needs to prove it can offer something its counterpart can’t. What that is isn’t immediately clear, but so far all it’s shown is that Spotify has won the streaming war at least for the time being. It puts Apple in a rare position of having to adapt to someone else rather than lead charge, so this could very well be a good test for its future in the realm of music.
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