Good news for Apple Music subscribers: listening to your favorite Drake albums on repeat may soon get a little bit cheaper. Digital Music News, citing two sources who “worked closely with the service since launch,” reports that the Cupertino, California-based company is “actively considering” discounting the price of its premium streaming tiers.
Apple Music’s individual and family plans, which start at $10 and $15, respectively, will reportedly drop 20 percent to $8 and $13. The price of student plans is expected to remain unchanged at $5 a month. The new rates will reportedly roll out by Christmas, potentially alongside a special “holiday promotional discount.”
The rumor, if true, represents a major victory for Apple in its fight with the record labels responsible its service’s content. In March, Billboard reported that Universal Music Group, Warner Music Group, and others pushed back against the company’s plans to launch a freemium service akin to Spotify’s ad-supported, subscription-free streaming tier. They vehemently opposed the iPhone maker’s efforts to lower the price of Beats Music, the streaming music platform it acquired as part of its $3 billion acquisition of Beats in August 2014, to $8 a month from $10.
The source of the information does not have a bulletproof track record, granted. Digital Music News claimed earlier in May that Apple would end iTunes downloads “within the next three to four years,” a report that was later discredited. But lending credence to the latest rumblings is the emergence of competition that threatens to slow Apple Music’s growth.
Amazon launched Music Unlimited in October, a music streaming service that delivers a catalog of tens of millions of songs, curated playlists, personalized radio stations to clients for Amazon’s Fire devices, iOS, Android, PC, Mac, and the web. It is $8 a month for members of the online retailer’s Prime subscription service ($10 a month for those without) and even cheaper — $4 a month — for owners of Amazon’s Echo speaker.
Pandora, the world’s largest online radio service by active users, announced plans to introduce a paid subscription service of its own by the end of 2016. It aims to convert 10 percent of its more than 78 million free listeners into paying customers by the end of this decade.
Streaming juggernaut Spotify, meanwhile, continues to gain subscribers at a breakneck clip. In September, the company announced that it surpassed 40 million subscribers — up 10 million since March. Apple Music, by comparison, had 17 million subscribers by the same month.
A breadth of unique content is likely buoying those numbers. Apple inked deals with Jay Z, Drake, Taylor Swift and other artists that see albums and songs stream exclusively on Apple Music for days, weeks, or even months on end — Frank Ocean’s award-winning Channel Orange, for instance, was released exclusively on Apple Music in 2016.
Those promotions drive substantial upticks. Streaming service Tidal, a launch partner for Beyonce’s Lemonade, attracted more than a million new subscribers in the first few hours of the new album’s availability. During Apple’s earnings call in October, CEO Tim Cook credited Apple Music for driving 24 percent revenue growth in the company’s Services division to $6.3 billion.
Apple Music’s potential price adjustments come as streaming music begins to achieve profitability in the U.S. According to a report by the Recording Industry Association of America, the domestic music business is on pace to expand for the second straight year for the first time since 1999, when CD sales peaked. Retail spending on music grew 8.1 percent to $3.4 billion in the first half of 2016, spurred largely by growth in streaming service revenue. Paid music plans like Apple Music, Google Play Music, and Tidal rose 57 percent growth in the first half of 2016 to $1.6 billion, while ad-supported, on-demand services like YouTube Music and Spotify’s free tier climbed 24 percent to $195 million.
But labels have yet to achieve the meteoric heights of the pre-streaming era. Annual sales have remained stagnant at $7 billion for the past six years, and music bosses remain skeptical of streaming service’s fairness. “Many services rake in billions of dollars for themselves on the backs of music’s popularity but pay only relative pennies for artists and labels,” RIAA Chairman Cary Sherman wrote in a blog post. “Pirate sites operate with seeming impunity.”
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