Is Spotify Lying About Its Numbers? New Research Raises Suspicions

Image: my long, fat nose in a mirror. Is Spotify being 'truthy' with its user numbers?
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Spotify says it has 50 million paying subscribers and over 100 million total users.  But a new research report suggests those numbers might be fabricated.

Back in the day, if Walmart claimed sales of a million CDs, the industry believed it.  And the reason was simple: not only did the industry have to ship those CDs, but they also got a third-party report on every CD scanned at the register.

Now, all of that has been thrown out the window.  Because when a streaming service says they have ‘x-million’ amount of subscribers, the industry basically has to believe them.  Even if it isn’t true.

Already, TIDAL has been caught fabricating their numbers.  But is Spotify doing the same?

Just yesterday, a research report from Verto Analytics found something pretty interesting.  It turns out that Apple Music had the most active users for the month.  By a mile.  Despite having one-half the number of paying subscribers as Spotify, the actual number of listeners on Apple Music was bigger.

More People Use Apple Music Than Spotify, Research Shows

Apple says it has 22-23 million paying subscribers.  Spotify not only claims 50 million paying subscribers, but well north of 100 million total users.

How could this be possible?  Maybe Spotify’s numbers aren’t as precise as we’d like them to be.

Here’s a look at Verto’s breakdown (click the graph to enlarge it).  The company found that Apple Music has 40.7 million monthly uniques, while Spotify has 30.4 million.

That’s a massive difference of more than 30%.

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Image by Verto Index.  Click to Enlarge.

The authors of the study pointed to heavy numbers coming from Apple Music’s free trial.  That would explain far lower stickiness level (basically, the amount of time people ‘stick around’ on a service).  In the end, people who are using Spotify are far more attached to the service.

But here’s where this gets tricky: what about all of those other tens of millions of Spotify users who aren’t so ‘sticky’?  How many of those 100 million+ ‘users’ simply aren’t using the app anymore?  Or, even exist?

It’s starting to look like Apple actually has a bigger free tier.  That is, if we’re counting actual people.  It’s just that Apple’s is limited to three months, requires a credit card, and is not ad-supported.

But it also looks like Spotify is exaggerating its amazing user totals.  This is just the first time they’re getting called out on it.

17 Responses

  1. Laker

    What are the best 2 streaming sites for the listener?
    What are the best 2 streaming sites for the artist?

  2. Anonymous

    The Verto numbers are the ones that are inaccurate. They are counting people that launch the iOS music app, not Apple Music users. This counts all those launching the app to access their iTunes music library.

    I can say from 1st hand experience of looking at sales reports daily that Spotify gets 10-15X the stream volume of Apple Music, which has remained flat while Spotify grows 20-30% a month. It’s growing insanely fast in real life.

  3. LAKER

    Somebody please answer my question above? Also, I need good info on how to start a radio station. Thank You

  4. Adam

    Verto – US users 18+/
    Spotify – global numbers. All ages.

    Apples & Oranges Paul.

    • Paul Resnikoff

      Um, last time I checked Apple Music was global, too. And the US was the biggest market (by far) on the globe.

      Your turn.

      • Anonymous

        Spotify is a foreign company with its roots in Europe and Apple is an American company with its roots here in America. If you weren’t aware of that you can compare flags. They’re very different. So comparing 18+ US numbers and accusing Spotify of potentially lying about its numbers is malicious. Based on your logic should we be concerned that’s Coors is inflating its numbers since Guinness is clearly outselling Coors Light in Ireland?

  5. bored

    you lot so are stupid

    Veto was quoting all users of the music APP on the iphone. that’s peeps using it to play music from their libraries, including, but not limited to, Apple Music subs

    Spotify state they have 50m paid subs – true. and in the region of 70m signed up free users – also true. they don’t claim all 70m are active. nor even that all 50m paid subs are active.

  6. Anonymous

    Although I don’t work there, I know Spotify’s numbers intimately and you and Verto are so wrong, it’s practically slander at this point. Keep it coming, Digital Music Fake News.

  7. Anonymous

    Wow so much hate for Spotify you’re willing to risk your own publications credibility by making up lies and putting the numbers that prove you wrong right in front of our faces to call you out? Bold. But stupid.

  8. roy

    nearly 10 years later and Paul still hasn’t admitted he was wrong about Spotify not lasting.. Comical.

    • Anonymous

      Trump Tweet: Heard DMN failing. FAKE NEWS. Bad hombres writing alternative facts. May not last year. Very SAD!!!

    • Someone Who Understands

      “10 years later and Paul still hasn’t admitted he was wrong about Spotify”

      Sooooooooo true!

      Everyone can be wrong, sometimes, but it is the hallmark of a truly unintelligent person to not be able to acknowledge their errors, and perhaps learn from that.

      • Paul Resnikoff

        Not sure this game is over. Hey, I actually love being proven wrong. But, being over-leveraged by multiple billions of dollars while Wall Street is actively slamming your IPO doesn’t exactly feel like a slam dunk. Sorry if that disagrees with the Spotify groupthink.

        • Anonymous

          Aw there you go again saying that Wall St is “slamming” the IPO yet you still haven’t presented a single source indicating that 🙁

          • Paul Resnikoff

            In addition to DMN direct sources, I’d tick off: Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Financial Times. Sorry, I’m not part of the fictional world that surmises that somehow, Wall Street is embracing this. If they were, Spotify would be public by now.

  9. Anonymous

    Yet all of those sources say that Spotify simply delayed its IPO. If you want to admit that all you’re doing is editorial and providing your own fatalistic perspective on facts then that’s fine. That’s what blogs do I guess.