Spotify Tops 50 Million Subscribers In the US — Though Apple Music Is Winning In the Most Important Subscriber Category

Apple Music vs. Spotify
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Apple Music vs. Spotify
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Is Spotify as dominant as we think? (Photo by Qimono, modified by DMN)

According to recent data verified by Digital Music News, Spotify now has more than 50 million paying subscribers in the US. But Apple Music is bigger in the most lucrative subscriber category.

In seemingly every music industry discussion, Spotify is regarded as the dominant giant in the streaming music space. But just how dominant is Spotify when compared to rivals like Apple Music, Amazon Music, and YouTube Music, particularly in the US?

According to a tranche of royalty data shared by a major publisher and verified by Digital Music News, this game is more competitive than we previously thought.

Per the data — specifically for February of this year — Spotify has more paying subscribers overall than Apple Music when all plan packages (individual, family, student, and others) are considered and weighted. But when it comes to the most valuable package — the individual subscriber plan — Apple Music is beating Spotify in the United States.

The revelation could be critical given the contentious battle that has now emerged between Spotify and the music publishing industry. Let’s break these numbers down.

At a top level, Spotify’s overall subscriber total in the United States is more than 50 million, which easily beats Apple Music’s tally of nearly 42 million*. That is a lead of more than 20%, though Spotify is getting edged out by Apple in the lucrative ‘Individual Subscriber’ category.

(Update: in our original post, we mistakenly tallied Apple Music’s approximate US-based subscriber total at 34 million; the actual weighted figure is 41.7 million).

In this important category, Spotify counts a less impressive 20.2 million subscribers compared to Apple Music’s 20.8 million.

Of Apple Music’s total, 19.1 million are conventional individual subscriptions, with approximately 1.73 million coming from packaged Apple One subscriptions that include Apple Music, Apple TV, Apple Arcade, and iCloud for a discounted price.

Spotify’s 50+ million total is buoyed by Family, Duo, and Student plans, which carry certain multipliers or discounts for royalty-calculation purposes as determined by the MLC and publishers for royalty calculation purposes (for example, family plans receive a 1.75x multiplier applied by certain publishers, while Student plans have a 0.5x multiplier applied).

Just recently, National Music Publishers’ Association (NMPA) president David Israelite pointed to Spotify’s ‘nearly 50 million subscribers,’ while data supplied to DMN — with appropriate multipliers — put Spotify’s subscription total at slightly greater than 50 million.

Importantly, the royalty multipliers shared with DMN differ from the methodology applied by Spotify itself. According to Spotify’s financial disclosures, subscribers are predictably counted as ‘1’ on individual subscriber and student plans. For Family and Duo plans, the number is determined by the actual number of family members or friends that join the account (for example, if only two additional family members join a plan that accommodates 6, then the total number of subscribers reported by Spotify is 3).

So, what does this mean for Spotify’s market share?

That’s a critically important question in the context of a heated legal battle erupting between Spotify and the music publishing industry. In its recent lawsuit against Spotify, the MLC pegged total damages from Spotify’s bundled music plans—and the royalty discounts that come with them—at approximately $150 million annually. However, that figure may assume a more dominant market share position.

Last year, the NMPA tallied 44.4 million Spotify subscribers in the US, compared to 32.6 million for Apple Music. The figures pegged Spotify with an approximate US-based market share of 38% amongst rival DSPs, at least using the competitive platforms presented in the member meeting.

On that note, we’re still collecting more detailed 2024 data on subscriber counts for other streaming platforms like Amazon Music. So stay tuned for more updated market share estimates.

Overall, Spotify counts 239 million paying subscribers worldwide, across all tiers, per the company’s most recent quarterly earnings call.

This isn’t the first time that Apple Music has seriously challenged Spotify in the US.

In 2018, Digital Music News first reported that Apple Music had surpassed Spotify’s total subscribers in the United States. That followed an earlier report in the Wall Street Journal that pointed to a faster rate of subscriber growth at Apple Music. Since that point, the platforms have remained extremely competitive, with Spotify also battling Apple on antitrust grounds in the US and Europe.

Apple doesn’t release music-specific subscriber data, and Spotify doesn’t break down US-specific (or any country-specific) subscriber information. Neither company agreed to share US-specific subscriber data for this article.

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