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Apple Music surpasses 50 million subscribers, sort of

It helps when you count freeloaders.

Apple Music has been adding about 2 million paying members each month lately. 
James Martin/CNET

Apple Music has 50 million users, if you count those listening with free trials, Apple CEO Tim Cook said Tuesday on Bloomberg TV. 

It seems like a big jump from the 38 million subscribers Apple Music touted in March, but Apple typically didn't include people listening with three-month free trials in its previous tallies until Cook's interview Tuesday. 

Tuesday, Cook said that Apple's streaming-music service now has more than 50 million users if you combine paid subscriptions with free trials. Last month, the company passed 40 million subscribers, with 8 million free trials, he said. 

That's consistent with the roughly 2-million-a-month rate that Apple Music has been adding paying members to its service, based on the recent number counts that Apple has disclosed.

That's still smaller than Spotify, its chief rival, which has 75 million paying members and 170 million people using the service either by listening free with ads or by subscribing. 

Apple resisted the subscription streaming music model for years as its iTunes music app dominated sales of digitally downloaded music. But as streaming music grew to become the main way people listen and pay for music today, Apple Music ramped up with more subscribers than any other competitors -- except Spotify. 

Spotify enjoys an advantage with a free, ad-supported tier that rivals like Apple Music lack. To lure in members, Apple Music has leaned on heavy marketing and exclusives for hit albums, as well as the crucial benefit of the millions of iPhones in consumers' pockets. 

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