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"Apple has finally jumped into the music streaming race," said Ben Popper and Micah Singleton at The Verge. The tech giant this week unveiled Apple Music, its long-awaited streaming service, which offers users access to Apple's catalog of more than 30 million songs for $9.99 a month (or $14.99 for a family plan of up to six people). Subscribers can also download songs for offline listening, create their own playlists, access special content from artists, and tune in to celebrity-curated internet radio stations. If those features sound a lot like what you can already get with Spotify, Pandora, or Rdio, it's because they are, said Joshua Topolsky at Bloomberg. This is a vintage Apple move: "Take what the competition is doing" and make it your own. After all, the company didn't invent the MP3 player, but its iPod changed the music industry.
Apple's streaming rivals "should be very, very afraid," said Annie Lowrey at New York magazine. It doesn't matter that Apple Music is a "mish-mash of other, familiar services." Apple has $178 billion in cash on hand with which to plunder and destroy its competitors. The company can afford to undercut rivals on price, and to offer music labels exclusive contracts and a bigger cut of revenues. Meanwhile, chief rival Spotify ran $200 million in the red last year. Add in all the people who already own iPhones, iPads, and now Apple Watches — not to mention the 800 million credit cards Apple has on file with iTunes — and Tim Cook and Co. have "a frightening advantage."
Apple is forgetting something very important: "People prefer music that doesn't cost money," said Peter Kafka at Recode. The vast majority of Pandora's 79 million monthly listeners tune in for free. Of Spotify's 75 million global users, just 20 million pay the $10 monthly fee, and even that share gives Spotify a "huge lead" in the paid streaming market. With no free version, Apple Music "might be too expensive — and too late," said Julia Greenberg at Wired. It's estimated that of 135 million streaming music listeners in the U.S., just 18 million pay to listen or share a paid listening account. That $10 a month is simply "a hurdle most consumers don't seem willing to jump." And don't forget, when Apple debuted iTunes Radio in 2013, it barely dented Pandora's traffic. With so many established players in this space, Apple's dominance is far from guaranteed.
From what we've seen so far, Apple Music "is not a revolution," said Robinson Meyer at The Atlantic. But it doesn't need to be. Apple is primarily a hardware company, with only 10 percent of its revenue coming from iTunes. It doesn't depend on selling music, and its fortunes won't fall if it doesn't sell streaming subscriptions. This move is more about defending its existing stake in the music industry. That being said, hundreds of millions of people with Apple devices will probably give Apple Music a try. "It's the strategy of empires": Apple isn't getting into streaming music because it has "some brilliant insight" about streaming music, but because "it's so big it still might win."