According to The Wall Street Journal, Apple Music has scored a substantial win against rival streaming service Spotify. Industry sources say Apple Music had 28 million U.S. subscribers for the month of February, more than the 26 million Spotify had.
As of the end of 2018, Spotify reported that it had 96 million subscribers globally. Apple CEO Tim Cook publicly disclosed that Apple Music had passed the 50 million milestone in May. Neither give subscriber data by region, but observers say they have seen growth trends tilt in Apple's favor.
The key factor in this race is the rates of growth. The Journal reports from sources that Apple Music has been adding subscribers in the United States at rates of between 2.6% to 3% per month whereas Spotify has only gotten between 1.5% to 2% per month. Globally, the difference is narrower, but Apple still takes the lead with monthly subscriber gains of 2.4% to 2.8% versus Spotify's 2% to 2.3%.
As early as February 2018, industry watchers believed Apple Music would shortly overtake Spotify's subscriber count in the United States. One source told Digital Music News back in July that both Apple Music and Spotify had 20 million U.S. subscribers with Apple taking a slight edge.
The Swedish company shored up its lead by launching promotional campaigns such as an expanded bundle deal with video streaming company Hulu and inking a deal with Samsung to make Spotify the default music app for its devices. Apple responded by extending free subscriptions to Verizon Wireless customers and increasing ad spending, purchasing TV slots during NFL games.
While we don't know what might come next in the United States for either service, both of them are expected to move into more markets.