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Apple Music: Should Apple have bought Pandora instead of Beats?

Commentary: Can Apple Music catch up and surpass the streaming music leaders anytime soon?

Apple Music has so far scored 11 million free subscribers, so they probably won't reach their rumored goal of 100 million subscribers anytime soon. Even with the company's considerable marketing muscle and free trial subscriptions, 11 mil seems pretty paltry. It's starting to look like Apple bought the wrong company -- Beats -- it should have bought Pandora. It'd be a whole lot closer to its goal.

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Apple Music

After Apple Music's free trial period ends, the monthly charge will be $9.99/£9.99/AU$11.99, and there will be no free option. When the trials run out, how many of the 11 million users will pay? You have to assume most will drop out (I'm guessing way more than half); and Apple will be chasing Pandora, Spotify and Deezer for a long time. Apple's Beats deal looks more and more like a bust.

Oh, and Apple Music free users gave their credit card info to get the trial subscription, so it's going to get interesting when those $9.99/£9.99/AU$11.99 charges automatically start kicking in, unless the customer actively opts out.

Making a profit, emphasis on profit, in a highly competitive free market has so far proved difficult, even to the leaders in the music subscription business. Pandora reportedly has 81.5 million active users and has never posted a profit; Spotify has 20 million paying subscribers, plus 55 million free users. Maybe it's just that Apple's coming too late to the party and doesn't offer enough special mojo to tempt subscribers of Pandora, Spotify and other services to switch. Why would they?

Whichever subscription plan is easiest, cheapest, or is in front of your face wins. When something comes along that's even cheaper, easier, or whatever, consumers abandon the old for the new. Even the almighty Apple can't change that.

As for sound quality, I'll stick with Tidal's lossless streaming service. When I've tried the others they never held my interest. It's not that they sounded bad, but my attention wandered. With Tidal I can focus on the music.