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APPLE VS. SPOTIFY: BEYOND THE NUMBERS

Much is being made of Apple having surpassed Spotify in U.S. paid users, 28m to 26m, outpacing Spotify in pace of growth, ostensibly with a further edge in other English-speaking territories, according to a Wall Street Journal report. Apple says it would’ve surpassed its rival in domestic subs sooner but for Spotify’s much-hyped Hulu bundle offer.

While all of this certainly indicates progress by Apple, why do artists and managers—with rare exception—care so much about Spotify? Because the Swedish streamco is in the brand-building business due to its global reach (with 207m users worldwide, per the WSJ, 96m of those paying or trial subscribers), and that's the name of the game for the acts and their reps. That’s where the big money, via social networking, tickets and merch, now lives. Spotify has more than 50% of total U.S. streams this year, while Apple has 25% and the rest of the field the remaining 25%. The top two may be close in terms of U.S. subscription income, but all those free Spotify streams are essential for chart position and audience mindshare.

It could be said that the rights holders see the top two streameries like Wal-Mart and Target—two giant customers—while Amazon might be called Tower, with a bunch of one-stops and indies making up the rest of the pie. Top label execs talk about Spotify first—unless they’re going on the record, in which case they mention Apple, Amazon and YouTube.

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