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.