beats-musicHow many paying subscribers did Beats Music have in March? Just under 111k according to a royalty statement published on the Trichordist blog yesterday.

It lists subscriber counts for Beats’ standalone portable subscriptions for families (61.6k accounts) and individuals (49.4k) – the first official confirmation of how many people Beats Music has signed up in the US since its debut in January.

Caveat: there’s still a degree of uncertainty about what these figures actually mean. How so? Well, Beats Music costs $9.99 a month for an individual, but $14.99 for a family plan through telco partner AT&T, and these plans support up to five users.

Yet the family plans are offered on a 90-day free trial and Beats Music only launched on 21 January, so anyone on a family plan would have still been in the trial period at the end of March – the month covered by the leaked royalty statement. So, it’s unclear if the 61.6k family plan “subscribers” are 61.6k people, or 61.6k accounts covering up to 308k people in theory – BUT it seems none of them were paying yet.

These figures are also out of date, for in mid-April Beats Music added an in-app subscriptions option to its iPhone app, boosting its conversion rate enough to shoot it up the App Store music category’s Top Grossing chart – although it’s now in ninth place in those rankings, behind Pandora, Rdio, Slacker and Rhapsody.

Still, they provide insights in other ways, such as the playcounts. Those 49.4k individual subscribers played 116.4m tracks in March: 2,357 songs each, or a startling 76 a day. At four minutes a track, that’s five hours a day, which would be mightily-impressive engagement, albeit in the service’s early days.

Indeed, the figures are so sky-high, they may seem unrealistic. Bear in mind, though, that these are Beats Music’s earliest adopters: the individuals who signed up to pay $9.99 for the service in the weeks after it launched. Hardcore users getting their money’s worth.

The Trichordist highlights another, less positive aspect of the leaked royalty statement though: “ridiculously low” songwriter royalties of $0.000126 per play. Pandora has caught most of the flak from songwriters in the US in recent times, but no digital service is immune from scrutiny as the campaign to reform the US royalties system gathers pace.

It’s an argument about streaming and about the way songwriter royalties are calculated in the US, rather than a specific criticism of Beats Music. But if that $3.2bn Apple acquisition goes through – a rumoured $500m to Universal Music included – Beats Music may find itself drawing a bit more fire from Pandora nonetheless.

Read Music Ally’s free ‘Beats Music: The Road to Apple?’ report