Apple Bets Big That You'll Start Paying To Stream Music : All Tech Considered Millions listen to services like Spotify and Pandora, but relatively few of them subscribe. Why should they when there are so many free options? The new Apple Music will be free for only 3 months.
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Apple Bets Big That You'll Start Paying To Stream Music

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Apple Bets Big That You'll Start Paying To Stream Music

Apple Bets Big That You'll Start Paying To Stream Music

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Now it's time for All Tech Considered. After a lot of buildup and hype, Apple, the world's largest music retailer, is about to launch its own streaming music service. It joins a growing field of contenders trying to get people to buy subscriptions for streaming, but as NPR's Laura Sydell reports, most Americans still aren't sure why they should pay.

LAURA SYDELL, BYLINE: There are so many options to stream music already. When Apple Music launches tomorrow, its joins Spotify, Google Play, Amazon Prime, Rdio, Rhapsody, SoundCloud, Pandora - and the list goes on. Thirty-one-year-old Colin Barrett has tried a few of these services.

COLIN BARRETT: But I don't use any of those anymore. There's always sorts of glitches, or they don't have the music that I'm looking for.

SYDELL: Barrett's studying to be a pastor, so he's not inclined to steal music, but he's got a perfectly honest way to get free music on YouTube.

BARRETT: You know, I type in, for instance, man of steel OST. So I get the original soundtrack of the "Man Of Steel" movie and it plays every song and it just keeps going.

SYDELL: What would convince Barrett to pay for a streaming music service?

BARRETT: It's kind of hard to answer that question - more so, yeah, like - oh, let's see.

SYDELL: After all that hemming and hawing, Barrett says he just isn't going to pay, and that puts him in the majority of music fans. Most Americans have actually tried streaming music services, but only 5 percent pay the $10 a month or so that most of these services charge. Another 10 percent say they might be willing to pay if they had a reason. Dave Bakula is with Nielsen.

DAVE BAKULA: There are some people that say they have a willingness to pay. There are some people who say they would pay for particular features or functions or access.

SYDELL: And Apple Music has a leg up on Spotify.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SHAKE IT OFF")

TAYLOR SWIFT: (Singing) I stay out too late, got nothing in my brain - that's what people say.

SYDELL: And that's Taylor Swift. Apple's got her hit album "1989" and Spotify doesn't. Apple's got another advantage as it enters the streaming market - it has sold nearly half a billion iPhones. Monica Gonzales has a lot of friends who are musicians, so she wants them to get paid, so she became a Spotify subscriber, but she might switch to Apple.

MONICA GONZALES: If Apple's is as good or better than Spotify, I would probably be more likely to go with them just because it would be easier to move from a streaming service that's already in Apple to then buying an album that I like 'cause then you can just do it all in one place.

SYDELL: That is if you're a person who lives in the Apple universe. Jay Frank, the CEO of music marketing firm DigMark, thinks there's room for more than one streaming service and consumer choice may be about which phone you own.

JAY FRANK: One of the things that I predict that will get very interesting maybe that the dominant service may vary by country and that variation may actually be somewhat predicated on how deep iPhone penetration is against Android penetration.

SYDELL: Though, ultimately, it still boils down to getting people to pay for something they can largely get for free. Mallory Cloutier, a 28-year-old San Franciscan, is paying for Spotify after trying it's free ad-based service.

MALLORY CLOUTIER: And the ads really sneak up on you quickly. And I actually bought in on a special in which the monthly streaming rate was greatly reduced so I could really experience what it would be like to pay. And it was worth every moment of it.

SYDELL: Still, most Spotify users don't appear to be bothered by the ads. Though it has 20 million paying subscribers, it has an additional 55 million users who stream with the free ad-supported service. Apple's only offering three free months before you pay, and that may not be enough. Laura Sydell, NPR News.

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