[Updated with Apple statement refuting figures]
Market research firm MusicSearch has issued a new report on Apple Music use in the US
that has both good news and bad news for the company. The good news is that most people who are still using the free trial indicated in their responses that they like it and will continue with it when it switches to a paid service following a three-month free trial. More concerning is that despite a high awareness of Apple Music among the US public, nearly half of those who tried it have stopped using it.
Still, MusicWatch estimates that one in every 10 active iOS users in the US is still on the service, six weeks after it debuted
-- which may correspond with Apple's own recent count of 11 million users a couple of weeks ago. Further, 64 percent of those users are "extremely likely" to continue with the service beyond the free trial, at rates of $10 per month (or $15 for a "family" subscription, which offers up to six individual accounts).
In a statement, Apple has responded to the MusicWatch survey and refuted some of the figures. An Apple spokesperson has sent out a release saying that only 21 percent of people who started using the trial have since left it, down from MusicWatch's claim of 48 percent of all users. The company specifically cited a figure of 79 percent of all users who have tried the free trial are still actively using it.
Apple has been quiet about the success of the service, but did previously reveal that 11 million users had signed up in the first five weeks of availability. While the MusicWatch survey drew its conclusions from a statistically solid sample of 5,000 US users, Apple's figures are likely drawn from either all US users, or possibly from all users worldwide to give a more complete picture. Apple Music is said to be available in some 110 countries
at present, though the US and English-speaking countries are likely to be the largest market for the service.
Most iOS users (77 percent) are aware of the Apple Music service, according to the MusicWatch report, but only 11 percent are using it. This number does, however, correspond with the percentage who say they buy music from iTunes or use iTunes to manage their music collections. There was no clear reason given for the fact that 48 percent of users who have tried the subscription service are now not still on it, despite still being within the free trial period.
One possible factor that has turned some early testers off are the widespread reports of issues
with the integration of Apple Music's "My Music" downloads on the stability of an iTunes Library. Past or present users of iTunes Match have also reported problems with the service, causing some misidentification and in some cases removal of mis-labelled song files that belong to the user but are incorrectly tagged as being Apple Music files, meaning they are removed when users turn off the iCloud Music Library Apple Music relies on to store downloaded songs from the paid service. A series of patches from Apple since the release of iTunes 12.2 has failed to fully resolve the issue.
Interestingly, users of other streaming music services appear to be taking advantage of the Apple Music free trial to audition it as a possible replacement: 28 percent of Spotify paid subscribers are also presently using Apple Music, though only 11 percent of the free-tier Spotify users and six percent of Pandora users are giving Apple Music a spin. One MacNN
staffer is trying out Apple Music with a view to possibly replacing the paid Rdio service, and fully half of MacNN
writers in a quick, informal survey were entirely new to paid streaming music services.
Like the MusicWatch survey (which used a sample of 5,000 users aged 13 or older), our staff survey indicated that nearly everyone still using the Apple Music trial now like the service enough to start paying for it when their free trial ends. Reasons ranged from a strong enjoyment of the recommended "For You" selections to a simple desire to stop buying and ripping CDs. Though the paid service offers downloads and offline listening of some 40 million songs, access to that music is dependent on the continuing subscription. Still, for music lovers, $120 or less per account per year is generally a fraction of the cost of building a music collection either through CD purchase or buying songs online.
"In terms of benchmarking Apple Music, 40 percent of iOS users are buying digital downloads from iTunes," said Russ Crupnick, a managing partner of MusicWatch. Compared to 11 percent now on Apple Music, he noted that this suggested that penetration of Apple Music subscribers could grow. "That's the disadvantage of not being the first mover in a market where very good services currently exist," he added.
Still, Apple Music is off to a strong start to unseat Spotify as the leading subscription music service worldwide. With around seven million US users saying they're likely to pay after the free trial, that would put Apple's US streaming share at approximately double that of Spotify's American paid base, and approaching Pandora's total paid US users. Other statistics noted in the report were that 30 percent of Apple Music users are listening (at least at times) to Beats 1, while 27 percent of users are leveraging the Connect social service.
Still, an indication that most users will likely pay for the service going forward is somewhat undermined by the revelation that 61 percent of users have turned off the auto-renewal option to be billed for the service when their trial ends, a figure that Apple's rebuttal did not specifically address or refute. The statistic suggests that many users, despite their level of enthusiasm for Apple Music, are still in the decision-making process rather than firmly committed.