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Did you know: The most popular music streaming platform isn't Spotify

Spotify is one of the biggest music services in the world, but it's not the most popular — not by a long shot.
March 21, 2021
OnePlus 7T music playback spotify

When asked to think of top streaming music services, Spotify and Apple Music are probably the first two that come to mind. They might be followed by Pandora, Deezer, and Amazon Prime Music. Even though these all enjoy healthy subscriber bases, none of them is the largest or most popular streaming music service — not by a long shot.

YouTube and its two billion monthly active users crush all the competition in terms of numbers and popularity. How does YouTube, the video streaming service, outrank the mighty Spotify when it comes to music? We’ll tell you.

Spinning up Spotify

Spotify menu on a smartphone on a bed of rocks

Founded in 2006 and launched in 2008, Spotify has enjoyed critical success around the globe. Home to 60 million tracks, four billion playlists, and 1.9 million podcasts, Spotify is one of the top destinations for music and other audio content.

The popular streaming music service tasted its first real growth when it kicked off in the UK in 2009 and later in the US in 2011. Spotify reached its first one million paying subscribers across Europe in March 2011. It doubled that number to two million by September of the same year. By August 2012, Spotify’s total user base had ratcheted up to 15 million active users, with about four million paying subscribers. The company quickly reached 20 million global listeners and five million paying users — including one million in the US — by December 2012.

See also: 15 Tips to get more from your Spotify premium account

Spotify’s numbers continued to grow by leaps and bounds. In May 2014, it reported a total customer base of 40 million, with 10 million paying. The meteoric rise continued the next year, too, with 75 million total users with 20 million paying. Spotify reached 100 million total listeners and 40 million paying subscribers in mid-2016.

Today, Spotify has 345 million monthly customers, with 155 million of those paying for one of Spotify’s premium plans. The service is available in 178 markets around the world. To put that into some perspective, the world’s number two dedicated music service, Apple Music, had about 72 million subscribers as of June 2020, reports Statista.

Spotify’s millions can’t compare to YouTube’s billions

spotify vs youtube music cloud locker

If Spotify’s numbers are impressive, YouTube’s numbers are mind-boggling. The Spotify vs YouTube race is not even close. There is, however, a bit of a caveat that we’ll get to later on.

Here’s what you need to know. If you don’t count kids’ songs as “music videos,” then seven of the top 10 YouTube videos of all time are music videos. Further, 17 of the top 20, 27 of the top 30, and 37 of the top 40 are music videos too. In fact, nearly all of the top 100 YouTube videos of all time are music videos (and not cat content). This gives you a really good idea of what people use YouTube for. Major artists don’t debut their latest tracks on MTV anymore. No, that honor is reserved for YouTube. Luis Fonsi’s “Despacito,” for example, has 7,087,915,396 views. There are plenty of other names in the all-time top 10 you might recognize. Those include Ed Sheeran, Wiz Khalifa, Mark Ronson/Bruno Mars, Psy, Justin Bieber, and Maroon 5.

Related: Best music streaming apps for Android

YouTube has a distinct advantage — it’s a top destination on the internet worldwide. In fact, YouTube is the second-ranked web site on Earth. It owns the second-largest search engine on the web and enjoys more than 30 million daily active users. They watch some one billion videos per day. Moreover, YouTube accounts for 37% of all internet traffic and users watch up to 40 minutes via mobile every day.

More to the point, YouTube is included natively on the vast majority of Android phones sold globally. For 2020, IDC expected Android phone shipments to reach 1.055 billion. Spotify, by way of comparison, ships on relatively few phones out of the box. That gives YouTube a major leg up on the competition. Google’s video platform is available in more than 80 languages across over 100 countries.

YouTube Music is a different story

YouTube Premium Music Logo in App

Technically, YouTube is not a music streaming service. The website’s main product is video, though people surely use YouTube as a de facto music service. How can they not?

YouTube Music — a stand-alone music streaming service from YouTube — exists complete with its own online destination, app, and user base. The service first appeared in November 2015. Earlier this year, it supplanted Play Music as Google’s main/sole music streaming service. Like Spotify and Apple Music, YouTube Music is available in free and paid tiers. It’s available in about 95 countries around the world.

Nevertheless, YouTube Music’s numbers pale in comparison to other music services, at least for now. Paid subscribers of YouTube Music total about 30 million, according to Google’s most recent data from October 2020. However, that’s up significantly from its numbers of 20 million in 2019. This means the transition from Google Music to YouTube Music netted YouTube Music 10 million new users in rapid fashion.

More reading: YouTube Music vs Spotify: Can Google even compete?

Clearly, YouTube Music is a fledgling service that trails Spotify and Apple Music by a large margin. YouTube proper, however, is so far ahead of any other service that despite its focus on video it will remain the number one destination for music for the foreseeable future.

This is the twelfth post in our “Did you know” series. In it, we dive into the history books of Android and consumer technology to uncover important and interesting facts or events that have been forgotten over time. What do you want to see us cover next? Let us know in the comments and check out our previous entries in the series below.