Apple Music Inches Up on Spotify in the U.S.

Posted on July 9, 2018 by Paul Thurrott in Music + Videos with 13 Comments

Apple Music and Spotify can now both claim “20 million plus” subscribers in the United States, putting them essentially in a tie. This is an astonishing example of Apple’s popularity in its home market, given that Spotify is outperforming Apple Music handily in all other markets.

Neither Apple nor Spotify has commented publicly on this development. But Digital Music News cites a major music distributor in the United States in a report that claims that Apple Music has surpassed the Spotify subscriber base by “a hair.” And the more credible Financial Times reports that the Apple Music subscriber base, at 21 to 21.5 million, is still slightly behind Spotify’s, at 22 to 22.5 million.

But let’s not quibble over the details: It seems certain that Apple Music and Spotify are basically neck-and-neck at the moment, from a subscriber count in the U.S. And that Apple will surpass Spotify soon, if it hasn’t already. The Financial Times says that Apple will end the year with 27 million U.S. subscribers, while Spotify will land at about 24 million.

This is impressive on a number of levels.

A year ago, Spotify boasted 17 million U.S. subscribers, compared to 13 million for Apple music. So both services have grown impressively since that time. But Apple’s service has grown faster.

Looked at more broadly, however, Apple serves what should be a fairly narrow market of iPhone owners, where Spotify is popular on both Android and iPhone. But that’s the thing: While iPhone trails Android by a wide margin worldwide, it is just as popular as Android here in the U.S. So that narrow market isn’t really all that narrow. (Yes, Apple Music is available on Android too. But I can’t imagine it has a strong Android user base.)

And sure enough, the worldwide figures for Spotify and Apple Music show a spread that is more in line with what one would expect. Spotify claimed 75 million paying customers at the end of March, whereas Apple claimed 50 million, a number that is skewed upward because many of those were on free trials. I suspect that Spotify has roughly twice as many paying subscribers as Apple does, overall. (Digital Music News guesses that Apple has 45 million paying subscribers globally.) And Spotify says it expects to have 100 million paying subscribers worldwide by the end of 2018.

 

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Comments (15)

15 responses to “Apple Music Inches Up on Spotify in the U.S.”

  1. mattbg

    Apple has been pushing Music really heavily. It's an impressive integrated marketing effort. I use Spotify, but I buy music that I like and discover on Spotify via iTunes. Whenever I redeem an iTunes gift card, I'm essentially asked if I want to waste it on a buying music or instead invest it in a term of Apple music when I can listen to anything. iTunes itself cues you toward the Music service without being intrusive. They have cues in all the right places to convert you.


    I can't see switching away from Spotify, though. Apple Music is too closed-off. I want to use Chromecast. I want web access. I want to be able to have a good experience on any device, including the PC, and I can't see that happening with Apple music. Plus, I really like how discovery works through Spotify. And, I don't like iTunes. For me, it is just a way of buying music and copying purchased/owned music to my iPod.


    Kudos to Apple for getting iTunes into the Microsoft Store, though - it is a much cleaner installation/maintenance experience.

  2. Eric Rasmussen

    I wonder if the iPhone is more popular in the US because of the easy access to financing the carriers offer? If there was no such thing as financing a phone, I'm willing to bet its market share in the US would mirror that of the rest of the world.


    I've got friends who get a new iPhone every year. None of them buy it outright, it's just included in their contract price. Personally, I always buy an unlocked phone from Amazon, usually one of the Huawei Mate phones, and use a prepaid service. 5 people in my family all have unlimited talk, text, and data through Cricket for $100 per month total. Some of my friends are paying more than that for a single line. It's crazy.

  3. RM

    Taking a step back from this, I realize with over a billion smartphones out there, not a lot of people are using streaming music (only 125 million on the top two streaming services). This music rental business that requires screaming and can eat up data plans can be very costly.

  4. jwpear

    I've been trying to avoid jumping in on Apple Music, but the ability to sync manually created playlists across devices, including songs not in their streaming catalog, has finally pulled me in. We're still within the 90 day trial in my family.


    I prefer Spotify for its cross platform support (including my old Windows Phones), but hate that I can't upload my private collection of music, which isn't in their catalog, for use on all devices. It just occurred to me that another thing we'll need to look at is whether we can play Apple Music through Alexa as we can with Spotify.


    My teen daughter is 100 percent on board with Apple Music. From her perspective, its perfect.


    We'll make the final decision on which service to stick with once the trial is up.

  5. Michael

    Isn't Apple better with access to lyrics? Not sure, I use Spotify.

  6. valisystem

    The most amazing statistic I've read recently is that more than 80% of teens in the US have an iPhone (and an even larger percentage want their next phone to be an iPhone). Eighty percent! Apple Music is benefiting mightily from its position as the default music app on iPhones.


    Being the default on a mobile device is crucial for success right now. It's why MS will not succeed with its new effort to create an ecosystem around Edge/Cortana/Outlook/OneDrive - normal non-technical users will never switch from device defaults in any significant numbers. There is only one place where non-technical people rouse themselves to change a default: the browser on a new PC, where Chrome proves to have the same mindshare for its browser that Apple has for phones.

    • ponsaelius

      In reply to valisystem:

      Absolutely. When the PC was dominant Microsoft relied on people using Internet Explorer because it came with Windows. The default "good enough" worked and it took some time for Chrome, with a little help from Microsoft inertia, to Google dominating browsers.


      Apple and Google now dominate the mobile ecosystem by default. You use what comes pre-installed unless you know about alternative offerings.


      Just another part of the Windowsphone problem.

  7. Robert Wade

    Hmmm, well, there's no universe where I become a paid subscriber to Apple's stuff. The only reason I EVER go to iTunes for music is the rare occasion when the artist of concern ONLY has their product available there. Even so, I feel like I have to take an acid bath to get the stench off of me after doing so.

  8. cayo

    There is a single thing where Apple Music is better. With Spotify, the app cannot start to show my library. I am paying for this service, so how about understanding that I do not want to see any recommendations, and especially I hate to see 'Hot Hits', 'Hip Hop Central' and similar links? Can I be free to get to my music and my playlists faster, please?

  9. rameshthanikodi

    Terrible. Apple Music doesn't even have a decent desktop app (iTunes doesn't qualify). I guess this makes sense when you consider than America lately has been a batshit insane place. Spotify will remain the market leader in the rest of the world.

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