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Apple Music helps redefine music industry, but Spotify still king

The music industry has changed a great deal over the last fifteen years. First, the introduction of the iTunes Music Store (and, of course, the iPod) helped popularize the ownership of digital music as mp3 purchases gradually caught up to CD sales over the following decade. Now, according to a new report, Apple is once again a key player in another big change for the music industry.

Digital downloads finally overtook physical music sales in 2012, but since then have been under attack from a third form of music consumption: streaming. Spotify and similar services started the charge years ago, but although Apple was late to the game it looks as though its own streaming service is helping to reshape the music industry yet again. Apple Music is introducing the concept of music subscriptions to the masses. Why pay for individual tracks when you can access a buffet of 40 million songs for the price of an album a month?

Data shows that since the launch of Apple Music early last year, the company has amassed around 17 million paid users – most of them entirely new to music streaming. Spotify, meanwhile, has continued to grow and now has around 40 million paid subscribers. The streaming industry as a whole is growing, and Apple’s presence in the game doesn’t seem to be negatively affecting its competitors.

A blog post from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) claims that, thanks to streaming services, the music industry on the whole is showing healthy growth “for the first time in over a decade.” In the first half of 2016, streaming services accounted for “almost half” of all music revenue, and there are now twice the amount of streaming subscribers across all services as the same time in 2015. That’s fast growth.

Apple, for its part, has recently redesigned its Music app in iOS 10 after criticism of its interface. Just the fact that such a huge company has jumped on board with a service tied so closely to the iPhone will help encourage those unfamiliar with streaming to give it a whirl. And those slightly awkward TV ads where James Corden pitches ideas to the Apple Music board could help reach a wider audience.

Either way, it looks like the music streaming business is here to stay. And its growing fast enough to support both Apple Music and Spotify. (Maybe not Tidal, though.)