NEW YORK - Apple's streaming service says it has reached 20 million subscribers, showing quick growth as the tech titan tries to close in on sector leader Spotify.
Apple Music launched in June 2015 as Apple, which revolutionized digital music with iTunes 15 years ago, saw the future in streaming -- a service that allows online listeners to play unlimited music on demand.
Senior Apple official Eddy Cue, revealing the figures in an interview with Billboard published late Tuesday, predicted further rapid gains entering 2017.
"There are billions of people listening to music and we haven't even hit 100 million subscribers. There's a lot of growth opportunity," Cue told the music-industry magazine.
He said that more than 60 percent of Apple Music subscribers have not bought from iTunes for the past year -- a sign of streaming's steady rise over pay-per-track downloads.
Apple Music still trails Spotify, which announced in September that it had 40 million paying subscribers.
The Swedish company also has a free, advertising-backed tier -- controversial among some artists -- which brings Spotify's total listeners to 100 million.
Spotify and Apple Music have plenty of smaller competitors including established streaming players Deezer and Rhapsody and rap mogul Jay Z's upstart Tidal.
Online retail giant Amazon in October entered the streaming war, offering a discount rate to subscribers who use the company's speakers.
Apple, like Tidal, has sought to erode Spotify's base by offering exclusives. Apple Music had early windows in which it alone offered the latest albums by leading hip-hop artists Drake, Chance the Rapper and Frank Ocean.
Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the figures.
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