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Apple Music has a stickiness problem

Gregg Keizer | Aug. 21, 2015
Fewer than half of the U.S. iOS device owners who've tried the streaming service still use it; Apple disputes the low number.

apple music iphone

About one in 10 U.S. owners of an iPhone or other iOS device are currently using Apple Music, the Cupertino, Calif. company's streaming service, according to a survey conducted by MusicWatch.

But nearly half of those who have tried Apple Music -- which offers a free three-month trial -- have stopped using it, said MusicWatch, a research firm based in Huntington, N.Y. that specializes in the music industry.

Apple disputed MusicWatch's numbers. According to a company spokesman Thursday, 79% of the those worldwide who have signed up for Apple Music's trial continue to use the service.

Earlier this week, MusicWatch, citing the results of a survey it conducted this month of 5,000 U.S. consumers, contended that just 11% of all domestic iOS users were now using Apple Music.

"Actually, I was surprised, given all the run-up to Apple Music," said Russ Crupnick, a managing partner at MusicWatch, in an interview. "I thought the [11%] would be higher."

So did Jan Dawson, chief analyst at Jackdaw Research, who last week parsed Apple's Aug. 3 claim that globally it had signed up 11 million customers to Apple Music since the June 30 debut. "Eleven million is only about 2% of [the 500 million iPhone users worldwide], which makes for a tiny conversion rate," Dawson wrote in a piece published on Tech.pinions (subscription required).

Both Crupnick and Dawson were nonplussed by the low number, whether the 11% using Apple Music in the U.S. (Crupnick) or the 11 million Apple touted worldwide (Dawson). After all, the service doesn't cost users a dime until their three-month free ride ends. "It's a free, low-risk endeavor," said Dawson in an interview today. "Yet they have this very, very small number who have bothered to try it out."

Crupnick and Dawson each cast for reasons why fewer iOS owners -- the prime audience, although Apple Music can also be accessed by Mac and Windows users -- than expected had taken to the service. One possibility, both said, is that interest in music streaming had been grossly overestimated.

"This whole concept is relatively new to most people [in the U.S.], and is still getting traction," said Crupnick.

"Is this an indication that the market for streaming is very, very small, that it's not much bigger than Spotify has signed up?" asked Dawson, who pegged Spotify's global paid subscription base at 20 million.

Or is it because of the way that Apple presented the service?

That was Dawson's impression. In his analysis on Tech.pinions, Dawson criticized the Apple Music sign-up process, which he argued featured "a whole series of screens users had to work their way through, many of them emphasizing the payment and subscription elements," then required customers to click a "Buy" button even though they wouldn't pay for three months.


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