Apple's upcoming music streaming service has been heavily rumored. Some reports suggest it will offer a free tier, while others claim the opposite. The end result might lie somewhere in between.
The latest reports, however, say Apple might be eyeing the use of free tracks as a way to attract potential customers.
According to some sources, Apple might be shifting its views, which were adamantly against offering free music, toward accepting that it might have to offer some free music as part of its music streaming business model.
It's important to note that it is highly unlikely that Apple will ever offer a free, ad-supported version of its music streaming service. The company could instead be looking at offering users a free trial running between one and three months. This is in stark contrast to the likes of Spotify, which currently offers a free ad-supported version of its service as well as a premium version for those who don't want to listen to the ads.
Apple, along with a number of other companies, have been very concerned with the "freemium" model that some services have adopted, arguing that the model does not generate enough money to support the entire music business. Not only that, but offering free music does not give users any incentive to pay for a subscription.
Others, however, suggest that while a freemium model might not support the industry as it is now, the music industry is always changing and will adapt to changes that a new business model might bring.
Apple's stance lines up with the opinion of the world's three largest record labels: Sony Music Entertainment, Universal Music Group and Warner Music Group. However, this opinion has triggered an investigation by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), with some arguing that Apple is using its dominance in the digital music industry to put services like Spotify at a disadvantage.
Offering a music streaming service is a big step for Apple. Under the late Steve Jobs' direction, the company largely ignored the existence of the music streaming market, instead focusing on digital downloads. Under the direction of Tim Cook, however, the company is taking a slightly different direction, with Apple having bought Beats Music in May last year for a whopping $3 billion. That acquisition gave Apple employees such as Jimmy Iovine, who co-founded Beats and is a veteran in the music industry.
It is largely expected that Apple will officially launch its streaming service in June at its Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC).