Apple Music is now in the passing lane on Spotify, with a wider lead in U.S. subscribers expected by the end of the year.
Last week, sources to Digital Music News reported that Apple Music had surpassed Spotify in US-based paying subscribers. That was based on leaked subscriber data, though the report sparked some quibbling over the exact numbers in this horse race.
According to a report in the Financial Times, Apple Music’s US-based subscriber total will outnumber Spotify’s by late July. In its report, the Times provides slightly different numbers, claiming that Apple Music has 21 to 21.5 million subscribers in the U.S., compared to 22 to 22.5 million for Spotify.
That is slightly different data, though the bigger takeaway is that Apple is clearly establishing a lead in the US — in this month and beyond.
But how big of a lead?
In the same Financial Times report, music industry insiders who are privy to the data said that they expect Apple to have 3 million more paying users than Spotify by the end of the year.
Regardless of whether Apple is slightly ahead or slightly behind at present, the change from this time last year is startling. At that time, Apple was down by about 4 million U.S. subscribers.
Spotify has ridden high on an early tide of young, tech-savvy streamers since its inception. However, Apple has gently led its iPhone and Mac users through the process of becoming familiar with technology by making actions such as video chatting, cloud storage, and now streaming music, as simple as tapping an icon.
As a result of this patient process, Apple now has an enormous pool of trusting users to tap into for streaming services. The fact that the company already has the credit card information for those potential streaming customers on file only makes the sale that much easier to close.
Other analysts are pointing to Apple’s strategy of courting more serious music fans.
And one way to gauge seriousness is to implement a stiffer price tag. In the case of Apple Music, that means $9.99 a month (or $14.99 for a family plan) with no free tier, and a limited trial period. It also means tighter trial periods and fewer discounts.
That ‘quality filter’ became starkly apparent last week with Drake. Despite far fewer active users, Apple handily surpassed Spotify’s first-day totals on Drake’s splashy album, Scorpion. That suggests a far more engaged user base, particularly around rap and hip-hop.
That turns out to be an extremely critical genre. According to just-released data from Nielsen Music, one out of every three music streams in the U.S. comes from rap, hip-hop, or R&B. Now, Apple Music better engaging people around the platform’s most critical genre.