When we look at streaming subscriber numbers, it always looks as if Spotify is in a commanding lead with over 70 million paid users as compared to Apple Music’s 36 million. But as we’ve seen so many times before, statistics can be deceiving. According to an article in the Wall Street Journal (subscription required to read), Apple Music is about to overtake Spotify in subscribers in the United States.
Reportedly Apple Music is growing at about a 5% rate while Spotify is only growing at 2% in the US. As a result, the service is estimated to pass Spotify sometime during the summer.
The information comes directly from the major record labels, which demand accuracy about streaming users in their licensing agreements with all streaming services. In order to prevent the numbers from being fudged, the streamers must report the number of accounts they have, not users. This strips away things like family accounts, which tend to inflate user numbers, and bundle deals with a cell phone carrier, as many of those don’t use the service in the first place.
Technically Apple Music has already passed Spotify in users, as it’s been reported to have three to four times the number of trial users as Spotify, mostly because it doesn’t offer a free tier and offers a free three month trial period instead.
This is generally good news for artists, since the price of a subscription in the US is still $9.99, which is much higher than in other countries. If an artist receives a lot of US streams, then the royalty should be higher than if the streams came from countries with a lower monthly subscription rate.
That rate is important because it appears that the average Spotify subscriber is paying around $5 per month, according to Music Business Worldwide. This is due to a variety of discounts offered to lure people into the service like student or family rates. That applies to Apple Music as well, but not to the same degree.
The point is that subscriber numbers don’t tell the entire story, so best to not get too hung up on them.