Spotify crosses the 100m subscriber mark – but is it enough?

Swedish innovator has a big lead, but may yet concede the streaming crown to Apple Music

ME! singer Taylor Swift has softened her stance on Spotify. But can the company stay number one in the streaming charts? Photograph: Ben Birchall/PA Wire.

ME! singer Taylor Swift has softened her stance on Spotify. But can the company stay number one in the streaming charts? Photograph: Ben Birchall/PA Wire.

 

Spotify now has 100 million paying subscribers and 217 million users in total.

This sounds like sweet news for the music streamer, which is also increasingly dabbling in podcasts – if spending about $400 million (€358 million) on three podcast platforms can count as dabbling.

Unlike the many hot-air merchants that favour the term, the Swedish company has earned the right to be called a “disrupter”. Streaming now accounts for 47 per cent of global music revenue, according to recent figures from the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry.

Some of this revenue comes from listeners who access catalogues of music on free services, including Spotify’s own advert-supported version. But a chunky 37 per cent of global music revenue comes from the paid streaming segment, or people who pay a monthly fee.

Artists such as Taylor Swift – who voiced reservations about advert-supported streaming, in particular – have either changed their minds or cut the sort of deals that helped them soften their stance.

Spotify is the clear market leader, but only for now. The company has a powerful competitor on its heels in the shape of Apple Music, which as of the end of 2018 had 50 million paid users, or half the tally accrued by Spotify. Apple is due to give an update on that number when it reports its latest quarterly earnings tonight. A report in the Wall Street Journal earlier this month suggested that, in the US market, Apple Music has already overtaken Spotify in paid subscriptions.

This is a duel, not a duet. There is not much love lost between the two companies right now, with Spotify filing an antitrust complaint against Apple with the European Commission in March over certain App Store practices.

Apple Music is part of a much larger entity. Podcasts aside, Spotify is a standalone music streamer. While it turned briefly profitable, it is now back in the red and expects to make a loss in 2019. Could this be another case of the innovator paving the way for an ultimately more successful copycat?

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