More Than 100 Million People Now Pay for Streaming Music Services

There are now more than 100 million people paying for streaming music services, with Spotify is easily leading the pack.  When will the industry hit 500 million?

Streaming music services collectively crossed the 100 million-mark this month, with Spotify, Sirius XM Radio, and Apple Music driving more than 85% of the total.  Just recently, Spotify executive Troy Carter revealed that Spotify had crossed 39 million paying subscribers, a figure that more than doubles Apple Music’s estimated 17 million.

Officially, Apple last disclosed 15 million paying subscribers, though at a rate of 1 million new subscribers per month, their current estimate lands at 17 million (and probably, more).

Sirius XM Radio, meanwhile, has been steadily racking up streaming radio subscribers.  Amidst improving financials, the satellite radio giant disclosed 30.6 million paying subscribers during a recently quarterly announcement.

Others, like Tidal, Deezer, and Napster, are all contributing low-millions, with Tidal reportedly pushing past the 5 million-mark (though its most recent disclosure was 3 million, with 1.5 million paying for hi-fidelity premium plans).  SoundCloud Go and YouTube Red have yet to share any subscription totals, and it’s unclear whether either service is managing to convert substantial paying subscribers.

In total, there are approximately 103.1 million people paying, worldwide, though we’re guessing there are some smaller groups we may have missed.  That raises the distinct possibility that streaming music services could reach the 200 million threshold as soon as 2017, with bigger numbers like 500 million attainable by 2020.

Already, the industry is starting to consider shutting down free streaming, though 100 million could be a premature threshold to flip the switch.  “If we have 100 million or 200 million paying subscribers, then you can probably afford to move away from ad-supported,” Emmanuel Zunz, CEO of digital music distributor oneRPM recently told Digital Music News.  “At a certain point you can afford to shut it off, you can afford to say, ‘okay, no more free streaming’.”

“There’s a point, where is that point exactly? If you reach that inflection point, maybe it’s 200 million, then things start to move exponentially towards 500 million.”

Zunz is strongly bullish on streaming’s long-term potential, though others have discussed the ‘shut off point’ as well.  That includes Sony Entertainment chief Michael Lynton, who recently confirmed that free has a sunset.   “I think it stops probably when you get over a — I don’t want to say the number, but… many, many-fold bigger than what we have in the current paying subscription world,” Lynton told Re/Code earlier this year.




14 Responses

  1. Anonymous

    I’m proud to say I no longer pay for streaming music. I’ve purchased over 400 CDs this year and countless downloads. Knowing that I will have access to my favorite songs for as long as I live on whatever devices I want in (typically) better sound quality is worth way more to me than having access to a whole bunch of music I will never listen to for $10 per month.

    I’ll still use Pandora though as long as they stay in business.

    • danwriter

      If you purchased 400 previously owned CDs at, let’s say, $5, and let’s call “countless” downloads 200 @ $1 each, music cost you $2,200 this year, so far. If any of those CDs are new, the total goes up substantially (and much of it actually goes into the music industry as profit, versus used sales). Well done.

  2. Remove Sirius XM

    To get a fair view of the field you need to remove Non-Interactive Services like Pandora and also Satellite Radio like Sirius XM. The only numbers that really matter are the PAID SUBS on Interactive Streaming Services – Spotify, Tidal, Apple Music, etc.

    Everything else is pretty much a side show.

    • Paul Resnikoff

      Those are paid platforms, too. Even Pandora has a paid tier, though it’s a small minority of users.

      What’s really the difference?

  3. Str3amG0d

    I don’t get why artists complain over streaming rates , they need to get with the times or just make Cds and physically sell them

    • VintageNewscast

      Almost no one buys CDs anymore. Don’t think that would work either. The bottom line is, if you have real talent, your money isn’t all going to come from streaming sales. That’s the bottom line 🙂

  4. Stu

    This is interesting! It might be worth digging around in some of the Asian markets too: MelOn has a few million subscribers in South Korea, for example. Not sure how Line Music and others are doing there too.

    Would you count Amazon Prime Music users in this too? I know they’re paying for the overall Prime membership rather than just the music bit, so it might be a stretch, but there were several million users of that in the US alone last May.

  5. Remi Swierczek

    Even at 500M there will be no cash for musicians and music industry.
    Pandora and XM pays very small portion of revenues to music business.
    All others at 500M will have to be in Kazakhstan and Morocco so average global sub will be at $3.50 which will give us $21B YouTube style ads will add $4B and we will finish UMG originated SUICIDE at $25B in 2025

  6. Anonymous

    I stopped buying CDs and DVDs about 10 years ago. No more plastic waste and storage issues (had more than 500 CDs). Besides, one has to know that burnt data on CD format is not eternal and you’d better do several back-ups, even on original CDs (worst being of course x8 or x16 copied tracks on CD-Roms where data gradually fades away over years).
    For me as a consumer, it is a clear gain, not only financial but experientially and environmentally.
    So far audio streaming still generates polemics about artist retribution. Strange thing is that mainstream actors still do not reach profit (Tidal, Deezer, Qobuz quite in trouble) and even Spotify leader is barely at break-even (no clear official public data). Sure, that model will mature over time to see added value more evenly shared for every stakeholder.

  7. VintageNewscast

    I really do hate it, when blogger glop on-demand streaming services with radio streaming. Pandora is NOT the same as Napster; neither is Apple the same as Sirius. These are not even the same category. It’s like trying to compare Pizza, with a bowl of fruit salad, they have absolutely nothing to do with each other. What are you guys thinking???

    • Cleveland Carter

      How about coloring the bars different colors for radio and inter-active? Use footnotes to describe. Mention the subtotals and everyone should be happy with the way you answered ‘Number of subscribers for internet music services’. The Sirius stat is interesting and should be included. We know what Sirius is, but telling us should also help.