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.
Eddy Cue, Apple's senior vice president of internet software and services, told BuzzFeed News that the service now has more than 20 million paid subscribers, each of whom shells out either $9.99 per month for an individual plan ($4.99 for students) or $14.99 per month for a family plan. In January, the Financial Times pegged subscribers at just over 10 million.
Apple Music's growth rate has always looked good when compared to other streaming services' early years: It took Spotify a little less than seven years to get to 20 million; Napster (formerly known as 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. In an interview with BuzzFeed News in September, 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.
Cue said that 60% of Apple Music streaming subscribers haven't bought anything from the iTunes music store in the last 12 months. Apple holds this up as evidence that Apple Music was "tapping into a whole new audience that is willing to pay for music," but didn't go into details regarding how many subscribers bought music from iTunes prior to joining, nor how much music they were buying.
Cue also said that 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.