Apple Music snags 11 million trial users, but how many will pay to stay?

Yes, 11 million sounds like an impressive number, but Apple faces challenges in trying to achieve its reported goal of more than 100 million subscribers.

Apple Music has already grabbed 11 million trial users a little more than a month after its debut.

Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of Internet software and services, revealed the 11 million figure in an interview with USA Today published Thursday, adding that “we’re thrilled with the numbers so far.”

Released on June 30 with the iOS 8.4 update to Apple’s software for mobile devices, Apple Music is the company’s response and rival to other music-streaming services, such as Spotify, Pandora and Rdio. Apple Music offers streaming music with playlists curated by “music experts,” a 24/7 radio station called Beats 1 and a social feature called Connect that puts together musicians and their fans. Available as a free trial for the first three months, the service costs $9.99 per month for an individual plan and $14.99 for a shared family plan for up to six people.

Cue didn’t shed any numbers on the individual plans but said that 2 million people have already subscribed to the more expensive family plan.

Apple Music is important to the company as a way of competing with Spotify and other services for a chunk of the increasingly popular music-streaming business. But it’s also a way to bring more users into the Apple ecosystem. By offering its own music-streaming service for iOS devices, Apple hopes to sell more iPhones and iPads. Selling more iOS devices means more users who will buy items from iTunes and potentially other Apple products and services. And Apple already has around 800 million iTunes subscribers, all of whom are part of that huge ecosystem.

But among the 11 million people in the trial stage, how many will actually stick with Apple Music once they have to shell out a monthly fee? That depends in part on the music on hand, but also on the usability of the service. Still in its early stages, Apple Music has received some criticism from users, with complaints centering on matters such as misidentified songs and duplicate playlists.

Cue acknowledged the initial glitches, saying that “we’re aware that some users have experienced some issues, and we hate letting them down, but we’re releasing updates as fast as we can to address those issues.”

Even assuming all 11 million people shelled out for a subscription, Apple Music’s paid membership would be just over half of the 20 million people who pay for a Spotify account. And Spotify’s ranks have been growing at a fast clip. In May 2014, Spotify had 10 million paid subscribers and 40 million active users. Those numbers jumped to 15 million paid and 60 million active by the end of last year. In addition to the 20 million paid subscribers, Spotify now has 75 million active users.

Beyond fixing the glitches in Apple Music and convincing trial users to subscribe, Apple needs to spread the word about its new service among the general public. The company is planning a wide marketing initiative using billboards, TV spots and radio ads to tout the service’s ability to connect listeners with both established artists and up-and-comers, USA Today said. And to capture more than just iOS users, Apple is cooking up an Apple Music for Android service.

Apple reportedly has set a goal of winning over 100 million subscribers for Apple Music, a lofty one as that would be more than double the number of subscribers of all current music services combined, USA Today noted. Offering streaming music, a radio station and the Connect social feature all in one place, Apple Music can be confusing to navigate and use at first. But promoting and explaining the service is only one of the challenges Apple faces.

“For many people outside of the US (Apple Music launched in 100 countries), you still have to explain what it is and how it works,” record producer and now Apple executive Jimmy Iovine told USA Today. “Beyond that, there’s still the issue of winning over millennials, who never pay for music, by showing them you’re offering something that will improve their lives. And finally, there are people out there who I think understand its value, but we still have to go out and get them.”

Russ Crupnick, managing partner of research firm MusicWatch, said that the significance of the 11 million trial subscribers is a matter of perspective since the service is still in a free period. Apple Music is available in North and South America and Europe, as well as Russia and India, so the 11 million trial members seems relatively low. And it leaves Apple far short of its purported goal of 100 million members.

“But Spotify and Pandora didn’t get there overnight either,” Crupnick added.

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