Apple Music attracts 20 million subscribers in 18 months

BBC | Published at 04:09pm on December 07, 2016

Apple Music has said it will continue to tie artists to exclusive deals, as its number of paid subscribers passes 20 million for the first time.

There has been criticism that putting albums behind a streaming paywall harms fans and, ultimately, artists.

‘I don’t think exclusives or promotions are anything new,’ Apple Music boss Eddy Cue said.

‘They were done in the record business, they were done on iTunes, now they’re being done on streaming.’

He continued: ‘The exclusives are relatively short term - it’s not something that stays on any one platform. But being able to do unique things with artists is a good thing and I think that’ll continue.’

Cue said Apple had hosted 70 exclusives over the last year, six of which topped the US Billboard charts, including Drake’s Views.

Apple also streamed Chance The Rapper’s Coloring Book, which made history on Tuesday by becoming the first album to be nominated for the Grammys without being available in shops or download stores.

However, Universal Music Group chief executive Lucian Grainge recently called for an end to exclusives.

And Kanye West has said streaming companies are engaged in a testosterone-fuelled battle that was ruining the music industry - despite releasing his own album as an exclusive on Jay Z’s Tidal service.

Cue told the BBC that exclusives were ‘not the answer to everything’ but they ‘served their purpose’.

One purpose is undoubtedly to attract new customers - and Apple has gained three million new subscribers in the last three months.

The tech company said 60 per cent of its users had not downloaded a song from the iTunes store over the last 12 months, suggesting they were a ‘whole new audience’.

Launched in June 2015, Apple Music has swiftly become the second biggest player in the market - behind Spotify, which now boasts 40 million subscribers.

Their popularity has helped reinvigorate the music industry, which recently saw its first big gain in revenue for 20 years.

The increase was largely due to a 45 per cent increase in streaming revenue, with sites like Apple, Deezer, Tidal and Spotify charging £10 per month for instant access to millions of songs.

Cue and Apple Music DJ Zane Lowe spoke to the BBC as the company revealed its most popular music and apps of 2016.