MusicWatch report sees steady growth in music subscribers, but raises questions behind the data

Monthly streaming music subscribers in the United States now number 51 million, according to a new report from MusicWatch. The report, provided exclusively to Billboard, found that the subscriber base has nearly doubled from the end of 2016. However, MusicWatch did provide a few caveats for the growth. It estimated that 20 million separate users in the U.S. are sharing those paid accounts. It also projected that at least 29 million users are accessing streaming music on a free trial or as part of a larger bundle program, such as Amazon Prime Music for any Amazon Prime customer.

The data also showed that not all streaming services are benefiting equally from the growth in subscriptions. According to the report, Spotify and Apple Music are responsible for about 80% of subscription streaming in the U.S. Subscribers to Google/YouTube, Amazon Music Unlimited, iHeartRadio, and any other platforms combined total roughly 5 million.

The report also shared some insights on listener motivations. Paid listeners were more likely to own more types of connected devices and to care about high-quality home entertainment. They generally choose to subscribe for ad-free access to an unlimited listening experience. On the flip side, free tier listeners reported not having enough money, already owning the music they like, and using multiple free options as their reasons for not subscribing.

Anna Washenko