In the recently concluded WWDC 2015, Apple introduced a brand new subscription based music service across many countries. Apple Music started on the 30th of June and has already received rave reviews from many quarters.
Compared to the likes of Pandora, Spotify and others, Apple was a late entrant in streaming music. Even the fact that Apple decided to enter subscription based music is surprising, considering that Steve Jobs was totally against such a model. Instead, Apple offered downloadable music through the iTunes platform, and later started iTunes radio. But as times changed, and with the spread of broadband networks across the world, people were more receptive to subscribing to media databases online than to buy them à la carte. Spotify and Netflix are just two examples of this changing trend.
Apple has traditionally resisted following popular trends. In the era of Steve Jobs, Apple was definitely a bit close-ended in terms of adopting feedback from outside. But over the years, Apple has become much more flexible. And that is a very good thing. This New Apple, as I would refer to it, has brought in many good changes which can give it a wider appeal, especially in developing countries.
In terms of features, Apple Music is similar to other subscription music streaming services. No ads, downloadable music, curated playlists. I have still not had a chance to review the app and its interface. But what I want to talk about here is something unique in terms of the subscription pricing itself.
Apple has done is to keep difference subscription prices worldwide. In the US, the individual subscription plan comes at a price of $9.99 per month, whereas in other countries, it is much cheaper. In India, the corresponding plan comes at Rs120 per month (which is effectively around $2). This is a dirt cheap option for most people, even without the lack of good alternatives for English music. Of course, varied pricing across countries is common. A part of it is due to fluctuating currency rates as well. But this is something much more than that. This is an aggressive move by Apple to push itself into countries where pricing is a delicate subject.
And this is where the new Apple shines. The old Apple would have probably kept the same (or similar) pricing for various countries, regardless of the market saturation and purchasing power. Even in India, only recently has Apple accepted the fact that price is one of the most important factors for us to consider one product over another. And that applies just as much to a pair of shoes as it does to a Mercedes Benz. Apple has reduced the prices of their smartphones in order to make them more palatable to the
nitpicking value-conscious Indian consumer. Sadly, this insight was ignored by Blackberry worldwide, and look at where it stands now.
Now I’m not particularly an Apple fanboy. I thrive on the Android ecosystem, and still maintain that Android provides a more flexible platform for power users. But what Apple has done with its music streaming (and to a certain extent, with its reduced phone prices) is to open up themselves to the Indian consumer. And by that I don’t mean just the rich or the privileged, but the burgeoning middle class who will dictate the spending trends of the country in the next decade. And by understanding the psyche of the crowds, Apple can find itself court-side seats in the whole game.
Apple is also planning to introduce its music service even to Android, an exciting step that would probably have been blasphemous during Steve Job’s tenure as the captain.
What is even more exciting is that both these events have the potential to set the trend for other streaming media subscription based services. Netflix is already planning to open shop in India. It will only be a matter of time before Spotify, Google Music and others do the same. And if the price points are something similar to what Apple has set, there are going to be definitely some “Achhe Din” for the connected Indians.
Update: Apple has also introduced lower priced app tiers for people in countries like India. Just an example, the premium version of Camscanner is priced at Rs 10. This is brilliant and can definitely increase appstore purchases by consumers in India.