Music subscriber market shares 2022

MIDiA has just released its annual ‘Music subscriber market shares’ report and dataset, with data for 23 DSPs across 33 different markets (clients can access it here). Here are some of the key global trends:

Music subscriptions may be recession-resilient, as China leads the way

As the world edges towards a recession, the music streaming market continues to stand strong. Despite indications of slowdown in some markets, the global music subscriber market remains buoyant. Growth, though, is uneven, with a number of leading streaming services outpacing the rest, especially the Chinese ones, which are now setting the global pace. 

Home entertainment tends to perform well during recessions, not least because people are inclined to cut down on leisure spend (eating out, bars, clubs, etc.), and thus spend more time at home. In previous recessions, lipstick sales boomed, reflecting their role as an affordable luxury that consumers turn to when they can no longer afford the more expensive luxuries. Music subscriptions have a good chance of playing a similar role in the coming recession.

The early signs are positive (subscriber growth was stronger in the full year of 2021 than 2020), and though the first half (H1) of 2022 growth was down from H1 2021, this reflects the mature state of the streaming market in many markets, as much as it does global economic headwinds.

The evolution of the global music subscriber market is beginning to fork between the leading Western digital service providers (DSPs) and those in Asia – China especially so. Nearly all the leading DSPs continue to experience strong subscriber growth, but none more so than Chinese DSPs Tencent Music Entertainment (TME) and NetEase Cloud Music. 

These were the key trends in 2021 and the first half of 2022:

  • Subscribers: There were 616.2 million subscribers by the mid-point of 2022, up by 7.1% from the end of 2021. Total net subscriber additions for the first six months of 2022 (42.1 million) were down on the 53.8 million that were added one year earlier, hinting at the slowing global economy. However, more subscribers were added in 2021 than 2020
  • Revenue: The $12.9 billion of subscription label trade revenue generated in 2021 was up by 23.1% on 2020, and it was the first year since 2017 that revenue growth exceeded subscriber growth, resulting in a 1.0% increase in global annual ARPU, reaching $22.42
  • Spotify: With 187.8 million subscribers in Q2 2022, Spotify remained by far the largest DSP. However, its market share has steadily eroded since Q4 2020, and its Q2 2022 share of 30.5% was down from a high of 33.2% in Q2 2018
  • Tencent Music Entertainment and NetEase Cloud Music: Spotify’s declining market share has much to do with the growth of the Chinese market (where Spotify does not operate). In Q4 2021, TME overtook Amazon Music to become the third largest DSP globally, and in Q2 2022 it had 82.7 million subscribers (13.4% market share). China has long been the world’s second largest subscriber market and is on track to soon surpass the US as the world’s largest
  • Apple, Amazon, and YouTube: Amazon Music was the fourth largest DSP, with 82.2 million subscribers, and YouTube Music was fifth, with 55.1 million. Both gained share between Q2 2021 and Q2 2022, growing faster than the total market. While YouTube and Amazon both gained share in 2022, albeit it at a declining rate, second-placed Apple Music continued its long-term trend of underperforming the market, with its 84.7 million subscribers recording a 13.8% market share, down 1.2% from Q2 2021. 

The global music subscriber market is approaching a pivot point, with the slowdown in mature, Western markets contrasting with more dynamic growth in other regions. It is realistic to assume that the global recession and the organic maturation of the global subscriber market will result in some slowdown of growth in 2023, even if the sector remains otherwise resilient.

The slowing growth should be the catalyst for what needs to come next, especially in developed markets: unlocking growth pockets through differentiation. Western DSPs have managed to grow with largely undifferentiated product propositions. Music rightsholders should explore creative ways in which they can empower their DSP partners with differentiated content assets, enabling them to super-serve specific consumer segments and thus unlock extra growth within them.

If you are not yet a MIDiA client and would like to find out how to get access to this report and data then email stephen@midiaresearch.com

Why Amazon Music is primed for success

Amazon Music today announced that it was extending the number of songs available on its Prime Music tier from two million to one hundred million. It is kind of a big deal, but not that big a deal when you consider the actual value of these additional 98 million tracks. With around 2.5 million new songs being uploaded to streaming services every single month, the simple truth is that most people will not listen to most of the catalogue. Prime Music already had a good chunk of the most valuable tracks, now it has all of them, alongside tens of millions of streaming detritus. And yet, the catalogue increase is actually really important, but because of what it represents rather than what it actually is.

A dark horse no longer

Back in the mid-2010s, MIDiA first identified Amazon as being the dark horse of streaming music, but these days there is no doubting Amazon Music’s thoroughbred pedigree. It has the third-largest subscriber count of any Western streaming service and will likely pass Apple Music in second place sometime within the next twelve months, quite possibly sooner. But what makes Amazon Music so important to the music industry is not just its size but its audience segmentation. Which is a good part of the reason it just unlocked those extra 98 million tracks for Prime Music users.

Prime Music has come a long way

When Amazon launched Prime Music, it was not exactly with exuberant support from music rightsholders. So much so that Universal Music did not license it until 15 months later (making Amazon the only global scale streaming service that was able to successfully launch without all three majors on board). At the time, Prime Music looked risky to rightsholders: just as subscriptions were beginning to get traction, along comes a service that gives consumers a music subscription experience, free at point of access. So, rightsholders insisted on a limited catalogue size to ensure that it did not risk cannibalising potential 9.99 subscriptions. Over the years, rightsholders unlocked extra slices of catalogue, but today’s announcement is the genuine step change. 

A segment-based approach

So what changed? The market did. Now, as subscriptions reach maturing in most of the world’s bigger music markets, rightsholders are shifting focus from full frontal growth to a more segmented approach that can unlock growth pockets in otherwise mature markets. This is no easy task when they provide broadly similar licenses and the same catalogue to all streaming partners. But Amazon has managed to make a silk purse out of sow’s ear, launching a stack of different streaming products and deploying them strategically across different markets. If you need convincing, take a look at its product availability list. While most streaming services have built their audiences around mobile-centric millennials, Amazon has managed to build an audience that looks very different. 34% Prime Music users listen to music on a smart speaker compared to 14% overall consumers, while 22% are aged 55+ compared to 9% Spotify users. 

Competing around everyone else

Rather than just competing with the other streaming services, Amazon Music has competed around them. In doing so, it has expanded the addressable market for streaming, helping mature markets still grow strongly (while YouTube Music has been having a similar effect at the opposite end of the age spectrum, converting younger subscribers at scale). It is in this later stage of streaming growth that the more segmented partners, like Amazon and YouTube, become so important to music rightsholders. Unlocking 98 million more tracks, reflects both this elevated importance and an understanding among rightsholders that enhancing Prime Music will grow the market around Spotify and co., not at the expense of them. 

Another super power

On top of all this, Amazon Music has another super power at its disposal: emerging markets. These regions have long been identified as the driver of future growth, but they have also struggled to deliver in many cases. Markets like India and China number their free streaming users in the hundreds of millions, but paid users in the tens of millions (in China’s case) and single millions in India. Ad-supported revenue massively lags subscription revenue, even in Western markets, but in lower per capita GDP markets, ad spend is even smaller. Prime Music is proving to be a happy middle ground in markets like Brazil and India, striking the balance between scale and ARPU. With premium subscriptions needing time to find their audiences, Amazon looks set to become an ever more important partner in some of the key emerging and mid-tier markets.

When Amazon first launched Prime Music, the value proposition: pay for free shipping and get a music service for ‘free’, or as Amazon puts it, as a perk of membership. Now though, Prime is becoming much more than just free shipping, it is an ever-expanding household subscription in which entertainment now plays a central role (the recently announced Amazon Music Live / Thursday Night Football line-up is a case in point). As we enter a global recession, where consumers will likely cut back on buying things, a free shipping subscription could look like an unaffordable luxury. But a music and video service that has the benefit of free shipping suddenly looks like a value-for-money proposition. Prime may not be recession proof, but music and video certainly reduce its exposure to risk. The value equation in Prime Music is beginning to shift, as is Amazon’s role in the global music business. From dark horse to top-tier player in half a decade is no mean feat.