Apple Music marks first anniversary with 15 million paid subscribers


Apple is famous for arriving late at the party but being its best guest.

Portable MP3 players were already a ‘thing' long before the iPod. The market was overflowing with touchscreen phones and PDAs before the first iPhone, and the same is true of streaming.

Pandora and Spotify have been around for years. Yet, as Apple Music marks its first anniversary, it does so with no free tier, 15 million paid subscribers, a host of big-name exclusives, and at a moment in time where the music industry has officially moved from physical to digital.

According to the latest report, out in April, from the IFPI, the body representing the global music industry's worldwide interests, digital revenues now account for 45 percent of all monies earned from music -- a cool $6.7 billion (39 percent for physical sales), a 10 percent jump on the previous year's figures for digital and an increase caused primarily by the growing popularity of streaming.

The exploding number of streaming services -- over the past 18 months, Amazon Prime Music, YouTube Red, and a re-branded Tidal have also launched alongside Apple Music -- are helping push the idea of streaming mainstream.

However, the biggest driver is growing global smartphone ubiquity, and it's these two factors that have given the music industry its first genuine revenue increase in almost 20 years. It also means that in 19 global markets, digital is the primary source of music revenue for artists and labels.

New research from Global Web Index (GWI), published this week, shows the majority of adult web users – 63 percent -- around the world are now music streamers.

Yet, just one in 10 web users are paying to do so. In terms of subscriptions, Spotify is still the leader with 30 million people paying for an ad-free service, but this number was six years in the making. Apple is already halfway there after just 12 months.

GWI's data also shows that the younger the music fan, the more likely they are to pay for streaming -- the biggest concentration being in the 16-24 age group. Older web users are more likely to search out paid digital downloads (they still account for 20 percent of global music revenues). This means Apple's in a win-win situation thanks to iTunes.

And although it's clear the industry is on the cusp of another huge music consumption revolution, the idea of streaming and sharing music is in no way new.

This weekend also marks the 37th anniversary of the Sony Walkman. When it went on sale on July 1, 1979, it wasn't marketed as a personal stereo system, but as a music-sharing device.

The first Walkmans came with twin headphone jacks so that its owner and a friend could listen together, plus a mute button and an integrated microphone so that they could talk to each other about what they were listening to.


Updates from around the world