Music is an everyday part of life for many – in the home, car, or gym. To access our favorite songs and albums, more people than ever before are transitioning to subscription models. In fact, music streaming accounts for 75% of U.S. music revenue and generated $9.8 billion in revenue last year. According to The Wall Street Journal, Apple Music surpassed Spotify in U.S. subscribers this year. Of course, we couldn’t help but do some competitive benchmarking between these two music streaming platforms.

What are the numbers behind Spotify and Apple Music?

Internationally, Spotify remains far ahead of Apple Music. Spotify has a total of 207 million active users, with a reported 96 million paying subscribers, including users in a trial period. On the other hand, Apple Music, which does not offer a free option, has only 56 million paid subscribers worldwide.

The most substantial advantage for Apple Music is that the app comes pre-installed on iPhones, which are used by over 900 million people worldwide. It also has bundled deals with large service carriers like Verizon. Spotify has partnerships with Sprint and Samsung.

Competitive Benchmarking Overview 

We began our competitive benchmarking by looking at the international share of voice between Spotify and Apple Music within the past two months. Altogether, 263 million people around the world use one of the two platforms. Spotify users account for 79% of this group, while the remaining 21% use Apple Music.

With the significant difference in subscribers, it’s not surprising that Spotify dominates online conversations around the world. Spotify takes up 81.80% of online conversations while 18.20% of the discussion relates to Apple Music.

Spotify and Apple Music share of voice

Do these numbers reveal anything to us? Actually, yes! Compare the percentages of users to online conversations. Proportionally, Spotify generates more conversations than its reported user base, while Apple Music takes up less of the online volume than expected.

Competitive Benchmarking of Hip-Hop Consumption

So, let’s say that Apple Music generates fewer conversations than Spotify. But volume isn’t necessarily everything. Our insight surfacing technology found a unique relationship between Apple Music and hip-hop. According to both Statista and Forbes reports, hip-hop was the most popular music genre of 2018 in the U.S. and is leading the way in 2019. So how does that fit in with competitive benchmarking of the top two music streaming platforms?

Let’s first begin by looking at the co-mentions between Spotify and hip-hop (co-mentions refer to two topics mentioned in one post). In this first example, the two topics are Spotify and hip-hop.

It’s not a shock that Spotify is mentioned at the same time as hip-hop, but let’s hone in on the numbers below. Our platform found that 5.82% of the conversations about Spotify mentioned hip-hop. Keep that number in mind.

competitive benchmarking spotify hip hop

Now, look at the co-mentions between Apple Music and hip-hop. Our platform found that 10.51% of the conversations about Apple Music mentioned hip-hop. That’s almost twice as many conversations about hip-hop and Apple Music than hip-hop and Spotify!

competitive benchmarking apple hip hop

This tells us that there is a niche audience of hip-hop lovers using Apple Music. To increase subscribers, the most apparent next step for the platform is to broaden its collection of hip-hop music.

However, on top of that, increased R&D in Apple Music’s playlist personalization feature is encouraged. Both Apple Music and Spotify create tailored playlists that suggest songs based on a user’s listening habits. According to a recent Ipsos report, this music recommendation feature fulfills a consumer need for solutions and drives adoption. Reportedly, a whopping 17% of all Spotify listening comes from these “algorithmically generated playlists.” Therefore, increased development in this feature, especially for hip-hop, may further increase subscribers for Apple Music.

Competitive Benchmarking of Podcasting

It wouldn’t be fair to do competitive benchmarking on this topic without digging into podcasts. Over the past few years, podcasts have been rapidly gaining in popularity. So far in 2019, approximately 51% of the U.S. population has listened to a podcast. Advertising revenue from podcasts is expected to grow by more than 110% and hit $659 million by 2020.

While Spotify allows users to listen to both music and podcasts on its app, podcasts are found not in Apple Music — they are in Apple Podcast. A survey found that 52% of podcast listening happens on Apple Podcast, while only 19% happens on Spotify. Our findings on online conversations aligned with these numbers.

Naturally, since Spotify is mainly known as a music streaming platform, only about 13% of conversations about the platform mentioned podcasts.

competitive benchmarking spotify podcasts

On the other hand, 87.58% of conversations about Apple Podcasts discussed podcasts. 

competitive benchmarking apple podcasts

This isn’t exactly a groundbreaking finding. But what is interesting, however, is Spotify’s push into the podcast market. This year, the company is planning to spend over $500 million on acquisitions related to podcasts. It is supposedly working to improve the visibility and discovery of podcasts by redesigning its user interface. A playlist of user-specific podcast recommendations is underway. Ever since news began circulating about the possibility of curated podcast playlists, our platform found a 75% increase in the conversation around Spotify from May 24th to June 5th.

competitive benchmarking spotify podcasts

Notice the increase in positive sentiment around Spotify during this exact time period. Way to go, Spotify!

sentiment timeline

Why Competitor Benchmarking is Important

When comparing your brand’s performance with a competitor, it’s essential to perform regular competitive benchmarking to track performance relative to others in the industry. What are your competitor’s strengths and weaknesses? What types of niche audiences talk about their platform? In what direction is your competitor heading? A modern-day social listening platform should be able to conduct a thorough competitor analysis and answer these questions for you. Discover our automated trend detection & insights.