Apple Music is now attacking Spotify where they don’t yet exist. The streaming giant has teamed up with mobile giant Etisalat to court millions of new subscribers in United Arab Emirates — and potentially the broader Middle East and North Africa.
After just three years, Apple Music has amassed roughly 45 million paying subscribers. Astoundingly, that’s approaching two-thirds the subscriber count at Spotify, especially after recent downward revisions.
Apple has been courting an established customer base in the hundreds of millions. But there’s another advantage that’s frequently overlooked in this battle. Apple Music is actually available in dozens of countries where Spotify isn’t, and that includes major markets like Saudi Arabia, UAE, and a long list of African countries.
These are markets currently tipping towards streaming, though Spotify isn’t there to capture these valuable customers.
Accordingly, Apple Music is finding a great place to twist the screws. Just this week, Apple and UAE-based Etisalat unveiled a monster promotion. The deal is simple: any new post-paid customer also gets 6 free months of Apple Music. That’s double the ongoing three-month trial phase that Apple offers the rest of the world.
Last month, SEC filings indicated that Spotify was planning to launch in UAE.
But so far, there’s been no announcement, and Apple Music’s boots are on the ground first. Apple’s deal with Etisalat, UAE’s leading mobile carrier, could make it extremely difficult for Spotify to catch up.
Spotify has been aggressively expanding in Asia, and recently opened a service in Israel. But for now, that’s really the only flag that Spotify has planted in the Middle East.
Separately, Etisalat has major branches across North Africa, including Morocco, making extended Apple Music deals possible. Across the entire African continent, Spotify has so far only launched in South Africa.
Adding further pressure is Apple’s competitive price point. After the promotional window, Etisalat subscribers will pay 19.99 UAE Dirham, which translates into about $5.45 American. That price is conveniently bundled into the broader monthly mobile bill, giving Apple an entrenched position.
Also worth noting: Etisalat is extremely competitive in nearby Saudi Arabia, where Apple Music also has a serious presence.