Apple Music now has 36 million subscribers. That’s the latest update from the streaming service as reported by The Wall Street Journal (paywall). It’s strong growth for Apple since the 30 million milestone it reached last fall. Much of Apple’s subscriber increase is reportedly happening in the U.S. Unnamed sources told WSJ that Apple is posting 5% monthly subscriber growth in the United States, compared with 2% growth for Spotify. That has led many other publications to see this as a sign that Apple could overtake Spotify as the biggest subscription streaming service in one of the major markets, but that projection requires some caveats.
First, Apple offers a three-month free trial for new users, and those trials are counted toward its subscription numbers. There’s no publicly available data point telling how many of those subscribers don’t convert to paying customers, so the growth rate could be a little over-generous.
Second, Apple Music only has the subscription option available. The reported 36 million subscribers is its entire user base. Even though its U.S. audience is growing at a steady clip, Spotify’s ad-supported tier means that it still has a much larger footprint, both in the States and internationally.
Finally, even if Apple does take the lead for United States subscribers, Spotify still has about double its audience worldwide. Spotify started January with news that its global subscriber base surpassed 70 million. That company is walking its own positive trajectory, with 60 million subscribers announced in July 2017 and 50 million in March 2017. At its last formal announcement in June 2017, Spotify said it had more than 140 million monthly active users.
So yes, 5% growth rate for Apple in the United States is a very good development for the company. It will be interesting to watch if the launch of the Home Pod gives a further boost to its figures. But Spotify isn’t about to to roll over and admit defeat.