Apple's Streaming Service Will Likely Be Premium-Only (Like Beats Music Was)

Ben Stiller
Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

Ben Stiller in "Zoolander."

The hints Universal Music Group CEO Lucian Grainge dropped in his end-of-year memo to employees and in comments last month -- expecting more from the streaming marketplace, and having the clout to do so -- seem to be taking shape in the form of the wider industry's discussions with Apple.

According to a report from Re/code, Apple is planning to bring the entire streaming business behind a pay wall, ending the current halcyon "freemium" standard that the mainstream record industry initially embraced. The volume of users needed to make streaming profitable has been slow to arrive, and major labels seem to be getting antsy.

When first launched, Beats Music was also a premium-only service, offering users a free trial period but requiring payment after that period ended.

It's now suspected that Apple will offer its premium subscription at a lower price point than every other "all-you-can-eat" service (typically $9.99), planning to charge $7.99. The company's hiring of popular radio host Zane Lowe away from the BBC, as well as its search for a "culture editor" for iTunes, signal its plans to lure customers in with editorial as well as a cheaper service.

The Beats Music relaunch is expected sometime in late Spring or early Summer.