Over 80% of Apple Music subscribers listened to Spatial Audio in 2022

2022 was the first full year that Apple Music offered its Spatial Audio feature that provided a surround-sound experience to listeners.

In just over a year since its launch, more than 80% of the platform’s worldwide subscribers enjoyed the feature.

“With Spatial Audio, Apple Music set a new quality bar for music streaming, giving fans a deeper and more immersive experience than ever before,” Apple said in a release on Tuesday (January 10) as it disclosed that monthly plays in Spatial Audio have skyrocketed by over 1,000% in 2022.

Apple Music rolled out Spatial Audio with support for Dolby Atmos in June 2021, free for all subscribers. 

Spatial Audio lets users listen to three-dimensional audio, making music more multidimensional versus traditional stereo.

Apple has made live performances immediately available on demand in immersive Spatial Audio following each broadcast. Subscribers can listen to live performances by artists like Harry Styles, Lil Durk, Mary J. Blige, Billie Eilish, Luke Combs, Wizkid, and Alicia Keys on Spatial Audio.

Back in 2021 when Apple launched Spatial Audio with Dolby Atmos, Vice President of Apple Music and Beats Oliver Schusser, said: “Apple Music is making its biggest advancement ever in sound quality.”

“Listening to a song in Dolby Atmos is like magic. The music comes from all around you and sounds incredible.”

Dolby developed Dolby Atmos Music with Universal Music Group in 2019 to bring immersive music experience to artists and fans globally. It allowed artists and producers to create three-dimensional soundscapes in an object-based mixing envionment.

And in October 2022, Spatial Audio with Dolby Atmos became available in cars for the first time via a partnership with automotive giant Mercedes-Benz.

Sir Lucian Grainge, Chairman and CEO of UMG, at the time said the alliance marks, “the culmination of years of working together with our partners at Dolby to develop the Dolby Atmos Music format so we can provide our artists with an even wider palette for their creative expression”.

Grainge told staff in a New Year note this week that developing immersive or spatial audio is part of UMG’s mission “to promote a healthy, sustainable and exciting music ecosystem.”

“Seven years ago, we embarked on a journey to evolve the music listening experience. We approached Dolby with a proposal: if our two companies worked together, we could develop a new format that envelops the listener into a 360-degree immersive environment that provides artists with a broader creative palette on which to express themselves,” Grainge said in an internal letter.

The UMG boss stressed that spatial audio could be one of the most important developments in the recorded music listening experience in decades.

Grainge noted that nearly half of UMG’s streaming consumption and 80% the label’s top-50 streaming artists’ music are available in immersive (or Atmos) versions to date.

“Many platforms—including Apple Music, Tidal and Amazon Music—are offering this far superior experience to the other beneficiaries of immersive audio: music fans. Millions and millions of them around the world. And they simply can’t get enough,” Grainge continued.

Apple did not disclose the actual number of subscribers that listened to Spatial Audio in 2022, nor did it mention the number of subscribers in 2022.

But while Apple Music in late 2022 raised its subscription price in the US and UK from $9.99 / £9.99 to $10.99 or £10.99, the platform still doesn’t charge subscribers an extra fee for Spatial Audio or Lossless Audio.

In contrast, Amazon Music is also offering songs in HD and Ultra HD via a higher subscription tier called Amazon Music Unlimited at $8.99 per month from Prime members and $9.99 per month for non-Prime customers.

Meanwhile, Spotify still has yet to roll out its long-promised Premium tier called Spotify HiFi, which has been in the works for nearly two years now.

Spotify said in February 2021 that the new tier will deliver music in CD-quality. The company still has yet to follow up on that announcement. But in October 2022, 9to5 Mac reported that Spotify is reading a Platinum plan at $19.99 a month, which will include lossless audio quality, among other features.

A Premium subscription only costs $9.99 a month in the US.

The rollout of high-quality music services on major streaming platforms like Apple Music, Amazon Music and Spotify could make digital streaming more appealing to listeners and artists alike as some — like singer/songwriter Neil Young — have criticized streaming services for not offering the best sound quality for playing music.

Young in 2015 pulled his music from streaming services not because of the income from streaming, but because of what he describes as “the worst quality in the history of broadcasting.”

“I don’t need my music to be devalued by the worst quality in the history of broadcasting or any other form of distribution. I don’t feel right allowing this to be sold to my fans. It’s bad for my music,” Young said in a Facebook post at the time.

“When the quality is back, I’ll give it another look. Never say never.”

Music Business Worldwide