Over the past few days, Spotify and Apple Music, the two services many consider as leading the music streaming market, have given an update on how many people subscribe to their services. While Apple Music’s subscriber base has risen to 17 million 14 months into its launch, Spotify’s just reached 40 million, as the company’s founder and CEO Daniel Ek happily shared on Twitter.
But are Spotify and Apple Music really the largest streaming services out there? In terms of paying subscribers, probably yes. (We cannot say for sure because Google doesn’t disclose subscriber numbers for Google Play Music.) But in terms of the number of people listening to music on any platform, there is one that is often overlooked: YouTube.
According to research conducted by Ipsos on behalf of the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), 82 percent of YouTube users utilize the platform to listen to music. Considering that YouTube has more than a billion users, that makes for a pretty large number of listeners. Doing the easy math gives YouTube an estimated audience of 820 million listeners – dwarfing Spotify’s 100 million listeners (including those who use the service’s ad-supported free-tier).
Using a loophole in international copyright laws, YouTube pays much lower licensing fees to the music industry than services such as Spotify. To be eligible for such lowered rates, YouTube considers itself a hosting platform rather than a content distributing platform, a practice that has repeatedly been dismissed as unfair by record companies and competitors. YouTube often downplays its role as a music distributor, saying it is mostly a promotional platform for artists and record companies.