When Apple Music launched many assumed it was now inevitable that the tech giant woul dominate the streaming music space in short order, and it's easy to see why. Many of you are are reading this on a Mac or an iPhone, Apple is literally the world's most valueable brand, they changed digital music once with iTunes, how could they possibly lose?
But while Apple initially said its goal was 100 million subscribers, and CEO Tim Cook said in August that he felt "thrilled" with the 11 million subscirbers Apple claimed to have, new estimates say that the service will emerge with closer to 3.5 million paid subscribers by the time its free trial period ends. According to a MusicWatch survey, 60% of those who signed up for Apple Music's free trial have already deactivated the auto-renew option, and it's fair to say that even more will opt to leave once they see their first charge.
Three million paid subscribers is certainly nothing to laugh at - imagine the concert Jay Z would be throwing for TIDAL if it had three million subscribers? - but for a company as large as Apple that has put this much effort and money into launching Apple Music, those numbers would have to be considered dissapointing. By contrast, Spotify hasn't seemed to be affected by the launch of Apple Music or TIDAL in the slightest - the streaming service's numbers are booming, with more than 20 million paid subscribers and an 100 million free users by year's end.
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Apple suceeded with iTunes because unlike the larger music industry, it was more focused on innovation and customer service than protection. But the success of iTunes turned Apple into the establishment, and it waited so long to get into the streaming music game because it was loath to give up its profitable download business, even if it was clear that streaming was the future and downloading was the past.
And so now Apple finds itself in the ironic position of playing catch up to early innovators like Spotify, and it looks like even high profile DJs and exclusive releases like Compton and What a Time to be Alive (which, by the way, is also available on Spotify) might not be enough to close the gap. Apple's pockets are so deep and its reach is so massive it'd be a mistake to write off Apple Music yet, but it's becoming increasingly clear that victory is far from assured. The trial period is over, the people have spoken, and what I hear them saying is, "Yeah...I'm not paying for this."
[By Nathan S, the managing editor of DJBooth and a hip-hop writer. His beard is awesome. This is his Twitter.]