On Tuesday, Apple Music, Apple’s music streaming service, launched in over 100 countries including India. The timing of the move is significant. In 2003, the company launched the world most successful digital music download service when it launched the iTunes Store. But very few people actually buy music today — the global trend is streaming, which generated over $1 billion in revenues worldwide in 2013. Leading the pack is Spotify with 40 million active listeners.
Apple Music aims to make up for this lost ground with a one-two punch. It seamlessly combines your existing music collection with over 30 million songs in Apple’s own iTunes catalog, giving you access to a seemingly endless trove of music for just Rs 120 a month after a free 3-month trial. It also throws in Beats 1, a free global internet radio station that is manned by real DJs around the world, and is not just an algorithmically generated playlist.
Apple Music’s biggest challenge in India is to get people to pay up. Compared to the United States, which had $4.5 billion in music sales in 2013, India generated just $113 million in wholesale music revenue according to a New York Times report. And Indians are the world’s second largest consumers of pirated content, says marketing consultant Tru Optik Data.
Apple Music also faces stiff competition from existing players in the country. Gaana, launched in 2011 and owned by Times Internet, was one of the first players in the Indian market. In January 2015, San Francisco-based Rdio launched in India with over 32 million songs. Just a month later Saavn announced that it had 11 million subscribers. And in September Airtel launched its own streaming service called Wynk, which provides unlimited music downloads for Rs 60 a month.
Apple Music might be late to the streaming game but the company’s biggest strengths — the world’s largest catalog of music and its emphasis on human curation and not just algorithms to help users find music suited to their tastes — set it well apart from the competition. And while Apple Music is only available on Apple devices — iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch and Apple Watch — and iTunes for now, hold on till September, when it will also be available on Android phones. That is when the streaming wars will truly begin.