Apple Music, the tech behemoth’s year-and-a-half old music streaming service featuring exclusive deals with Drake and Taylor Swift, will finish this year with about 10 million more customers than it had at the start of 2016. But it still hasn’t closed the gap against Spotify.
The service now has more than 20 million paid subscribers, each of whom pay $9.99 per month for an individual plan ($4.99 for students), and $14.99 for a family plan .
Apple Music’s growth rate has always looked good when compared to other streaming services’ early years: It took Spotify a little less than 7 years to get to 20 million; Napster (f.k.a. Rhapsody) is at 3.5 million after more than a decade.
But so far the company has struggled to make a dent in the huge lead held by Spotify, which has been growing just as fast or faster as demand for streaming music has surged across the board. In September, Spotify, which lures customers with a free, ad-supported version of its service (unlike Apple Music, which you have to pay for) announced it had 40 million paid subscribers, with half of those added in the preceding 15 months.
Recently, Apple executives have acknowledged that their service, which arrived late to music streaming isn’t likely to dominate the field the way iTunes dominated music sales in the digital download era. Apple Music head Jimmy Iovine suggested streaming wasn’t a zero sum business, and that he could accept sharing individual customers with Spotify — the same way some of Netflix’s customers are also customers of Hulu or Amazon.
More than 50% of Apple Music’s subscriber base is outside of the US. Music streaming is still a new phenomenon in much of the world, and Apple Music is hoping to fuel growth internationally with localized content in South Africa, Japan, India, Brazil, and beyond.