A question I often ponder—certainly more than any normal person should—is how many people actually pay for Spotify. An obsessive follower of streaming news will know Nordic countries, like Sweden where Spotify was founded, hold a higher density of people who pay for music streaming
. Yet how does that shake out in other countries where Spotify doesn’t hold home field advantage? I ask because it might start to help give a sense of just how much Spotify might grow in the many markets it can’t yet be found.
Earlier this year, a source mention to me that in June Spotify’s United States non-paying user base hovered around 30 million users and that the total user base was around 52 million. Those numbers according to them put the United States around 31% of Spotify’s total user base, which for perspective at the time Sweden was a little over 2% and Brazil was just above 8%.
That little bit of information helped put together a thread that run through a number of reports
from earlier this year on just how much more engaged Apple Music’s audience is compared to Spotify’s. Digital Music News in early July reported that Apple Music
eclipsed Spotify in terms of premium users, specifically saying:
Both Apple Music and Spotify have more than 20 million subscribers in America, with Apple now a hair ahead. The source requested that we withhold exact subscriber numbers beyond mentioning ’20 million plus,’ to protect confidentiality.
Now let’s apply some of these numbers to some recent streaming record numbers. In April, the North Carolina rapper J. Cole released his most recent album KOD
and it arrived to 64.5 million streams on Apple Music and 36.7 million stream on Spotify within its opening 24 hours
. According to sources in April the Spotify’s overall user base stood just shy of 50 million and judging by Music Business Worldwide’s own number crunching
Apple Music user base in April was heading north of 20 million.
A bit of back of the napkin math shows for KOD the average number of streams per platform by ever United States listener would’ve been: 3.2 plays per Apple Music user and 0.73 plays per Spotify user. Apple Music might be less than half the size of Spotify in the United States, but for J. Cole not only did he outperform but that occurred on the platform where he gets paid even more per stream. The rapper might hold million of monthly listeners on Spotify but at least for that single week it was Apple Music that was really paying out.
This is even repeated worldwide where Travis Scott’s most recent album Astroworld
in its first 24 hours globally was streamed 80 million times on Apple Music compared to 64.5 million times on Spotify. The same held up for Drake and his most recent album Scorpion
which was streamed 170 million times in its first 24 hours
on Apple Music and only 132 million times on Spotify. Earlier this year I wrote about how rappers love to post on Instagram
the Apple Music charts but never Spotify—a note in Latin trap often promote their Spotify numbers—it just made more sense that Apple over the last few years was catering to the market most ready to stream music. That Apple is the clear winner on A tier rap releases shows perhaps their targeted marketing got the job done even with a smaller user base.