Apple Music hits 20 million subscribers by focusing on Hip-Hop

In an interview with Billboard today, Apple’s Eddy Cue revealed that Apple Music has surpassed 20 million paid subscribers. There are a few other tidbits of info in the article as well.

And despite a mandate from Universal Music Group chairman Lucian Grainge, exclusives will continue in the near future “where appropriate,” adds Cue. “They work really well for everybody concerned — they’re great for the label, they work for the artist and for us.”

Exclusives drive numbers and a subscription service is all about churning people, hopefully adding more in the top than those falling out the bottom. Apple is perfecting it.

“We’ve always thought that hip-hop was underrepresented both in iTunes and in the streaming chart. And more people listen to hip-hop now than ever before so we’ve done a lot of work in that area.”

I’ve said this since the launch of Apple Music, but it seems very clear now. “Music” is no longer in Apple’s DNA—hip-hop is what’s important to Apple. Again, it’s a numbers game. More people are listening to that genre than ever before, so Apple can leave the Rock/Blues/Metal acts to another service and still add subscribers using hip-hop exclusives. It’s actually refreshing to see Apple finally admit it.

People like me with an existing music library that rely on the often non-working iTunes Match are no longer Apple’s market. I even opened up a second Apple Music account to see if iTunes Match would work—it didn’t.

In a lot of ways it makes perfect sense that Apple is building a music service that doesn’t require a music library—there’s less hassle and they don’t have to rely on services like iTunes Match to please those customers. Apple is catering to those customers very well. However, it’s a shame they don’t care about the rest of us any more.

What Apple will recognize is that the people they attract with exclusives will go to the next music service that has an exclusive without blinking an eye or without any loyalty to Apple. By that time, the base of users that they’ve relied on for years will also be gone.

And the churn continues.


I feel compelled to write an update because there seems to be some confusion over what I wrote last night.

I’m not saying that Hip-Hop is not music or isn’t an important genre of music—it is. In fact, it’s probably the largest music genre in the business today. What I’m saying is that Apple is focusing its entire service on that one genre.

If I go to the “Browse” section of Apple Music on any given day, the majority of what I see is only Hip-Hop. That’s not Apple having music in its DNA, that’s focusing on the churn of music subscribers—that’s a totally different thing than loving all types of music.

More importantly, pieces of Apple Music still don’t work like Apple said they would. One of the great promises of Apple Music was being able to bring your existing music library to the service and it would know what songs you have. When I look at an album on Apple Music that I already own, it often says that I don’t have it—how can that happen if iTunes Match is working the way it should?

How is it that I can play a radio station, rate a song that’s it’s playing from my library and the rating disappears immediately?

How can I tap play on an Apple Music song and it plays a completely different version of the song?

Why doesn’t my iCloud Music Library on my Mac update every day with the songs I played in the last 24 hours when it’s supposed to?

When the iCloud Music Library does update, why doesn’t it include songs from radio stations that I played, even though those songs are in my library?

How can I dislike songs and albums and they continue to show up in my For You section?

My issue is not that Apple is focused on Hip-Hop, it’s that they are only focused on Hip-Hop to the detriment of the other issues. They need to fix the service and focus on their love of all music, not how many subscribers they have.

Apple was always about building the best product and people would come. Apple Music doesn’t seem like that to me.