Headline skewing: Apple Music gets graded on a curve


There are four possible things one could say about Apple Music, ranging from it being a total success to a partial success to a partial failure and finally, well, the thing that ends up in the headline.

Writing for Slate, Jordan Weissmann asks “Is Apple Music a Total Failure?” (Tip o’ the antlers to Tay Bass.)

Indeed! Such are the quintessential questions of our times. “Is [insert whatever product Apple recently shipped] a Total Failure?”

Maybe it's because I spent part of my morning locked in a losing battle of wills with [Apple Music’s] malfunctioning interface…

…but I killed a bunny out of nothing but pure rage earlier.

OK, the Macalope’s not going to say his Apple Music experience has been perfect, either, but it hasn’t been Dalrymple-esque. Still, the horny one has found enough he likes about it — Siri integration, discovery, syncing playlists through the cloud — that he’s remained a subscriber.

…but the news that Apple's new streaming service, Apple Music, has only acquired 6.5 million paying subscribers since its summer launch strikes me as a pretty inauspicious start for a product with all the marketing muscle of the world's most famous tech company behind it.

Let’s put it this way, if any other company in the world announced those numbers, the resulting sound of screen-ruining spit takes would be heard on Neptune. Which, yeah, is impossible, right? Because sound doesn’t travel through the vacuum of space. But it would.

In Apple’s case, though, we must ask ourselves if it’s “a total failure”.

How to put these numbers in context?

Well, specifically a context that makes it look as bad as possible for Apple.

Well, to start, Americans alone owned an estimated 94 million iPhones as of March.

How many of them either don’t care about streaming music or are already invested in a competing service? Whatever, doesn’t matter because Apple didn’t get all 94 million.

Apple Music appears to be converting about 60 percent of the people…

“Appears to be.” What do numbers even mean, really? Are you gonna let the man tell you how to divide two integers?!

…who try it into paying customers—which has some analysts upbeat about the results. But there's a strong chance a lot of those new paying members accidentally allowed their subscription to auto-renew…

How many? 70, 80 percent? 100, 150, three hundred thousand percent? We don’t know. But it’s huge, you can count on that.

Also, no other subscription service in the world has people who forgot to turn off auto-renew. So, their subscriber numbers should be taken at face value and Apple’s should not.

When Apple first started hatching its plans for Apple Music, word had it that the company was aiming to eventually sign up 100 million subscribers…

And they didn’t get there in the first three months. To the rumored long-term goal.

You probably should have gone with “Total Epic Failure, Extreme 3D.”

As of June, Spotify … had picked up about 75 million active users, 20 million of whom are paying. And while the company has had a nice head start — it was founded in 2006…

[The Macalope turns to the camera, stares into it so hard the lens breaks.]

…it purportedly added 10 million of those new paid subscribers just in the past year.

Alas, as it is impossible to divide 10 by 4, we’ll never be able to compare their current growth rates. We are left only to compare the overall numbers of subscribers added and, well, 10 is clearly greater than 6.5 so advantage Spotify.

Seriously, what even is that supposed to be? It’s not analysis. Is it some sort of cheese by-product? It’s very confusing.

So, is Apple Music a total failure or just a slight disappointment? For the time being, I'd lean toward the latter.

If you ask analysts, it’s a success. Weissmann’s conclusion is that it’s a “slight disappointment”. Neither of those make the headline, of course.

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