Apple’s $3B acquisition of Beats Music is its biggest ever and a break from its prior strategy of generally avoiding huge M&A transactions. One of the reasons posited for Apple’s motivation in acquiring Beats would be the rise of streaming music services and apps for music consumption. Of course, others point to Beats “cool” factor as another reason and even the possibility of a biometric headphone sensor.
But if you believe the streaming music hypothesis, how does Beats stack up versus competitors?
Besides Beats, which launched its service in January, five other notable companies offer streaming music apps including Pandora, Deezer, Spotify, Rdio, Slacker and Songza. Of Beats’ venture-backed competitors, Spotify is by far the most well-funded having taken over $540M from investors including Horizons Ventures, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and Technology Crossover Ventures. Spotify, one of the company’s that is part of the Tech IPO Pipeline and probably Beats’ closest comp (at least on the streaming side), sports a valuation of $4 billion in the private markets.
The chart below highlights how the six streaming music apps have fared in the iTunes App Store over the past several months. Interestingly, Beats saw a big jump toward the end of April and now ranks near the top of the ‘Music’ category but still behind Spotify and Pandora.
Given Apple’s acquisition, companies that might be more worried by the news are Slacker, Songza and Rdio, which have trended in the top 50 but have not been able to see any notable momentum recently. Rdio just recently received a minority investment from radio operator Cumulus Media and will this summer launch a free ad-supported streaming music service a la Spotify. While Access Industries-backed Deezer has ranked lowest among the cohort in the U.S. App Store, the France-based streaming service is not actually available in the U.S and has maintained its rank solely by worldwide users downloading the app from the U.S. App Store.
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