Michael Simon, Macworld:
According to The Wall Street Journal, Apple is on track to overtake Spotify in U.S. paid subscribers, a sign that the three-year-old music service is making serious inroads in a highly competitive landscape. The report states that Apple Music has been gaining U.S. subscribers at a 3 percent higher clip than Spotify, a trend that would give Apple’s music service a higher subscriber rate by the summer, assuming it continues.
That’s terrific news for Apple Music, especially considering that it is only available as a paid service. I wouldn’t be surprised if many users are paying more for music now than they have for a long time. You might think — quite reasonably, I believe — that this indicates that Apple’s strategy is working well.
But not Simon:
With a free Apple Music tier, Apple would not only get music fans to flock to its service in droves, it could also use it as a way to advertise HomePod as the best way to listen to Apple Music at home and AirPods as the ultimate on-the-go solution. With quick ads between songs, it would be speaking directly to a captive audience who shares a love for music. Simply put, there’s no better way to advertise.
Without trying to predict the future, I don’t think this fits the existing Apple Music strategy. The HomePod’s integration is clearly best with Apple Music, but I’m not sure that’s a reason to provide a free tier; the free trial more aptly demonstrates the advantages of subscribing to Apple Music.
More than anything, I think Simon falls into the same trap many others do: Apple isn’t setting out to build the biggest user base, but a large paying user base. A free trial accomplishes that goal; a free tier does not.