There’s a lot of debate online today spurred by a report showing streaming music service Tidal’s app has plummeted down Apple’s US App Store charts over the past fortnight – and the comparison of that ranking with Spotify and Pandora.
The main line on this has been “Tidal is dead already” or at least doomed. But we think there’s something much more interesting to take away: Pandora (in the US) and Spotify (there and in other countries) are doing well. Very well. In fact, in several major western markets, Spotify is making more money than some of the most lucrative mobile games, which have traditionally hogged the App Store revenues.
Here are some images to show what we mean – note, Spotify and other streaming services make their App Store money from in-app purchases of premium subscriptions: people can sign up for Spotify from the iOS app, and pay for a subscription within it.
First, the top grossing iPhone apps chart from the US App Store:
Pandora is making more money at the time of writing than Candy Crush Saga in the US – on iPhones, at least. Spotify is only just behind it, but ahead of a host of other lucrative games including Candy Crush Soda Saga, Boom Beach, Hay Day and Hearthstone.
How about the same chart in the UK App Store?
Spotify is making more money than every single iPhone game bar Clash of Clans right now – Candy Crush Saga and Game of War – Fire Age included, which are two of the biggest hitters in mobile game-land.
What’s happening on the German App Store?
Or how about in France?
So this is quite fun: Deezer is outgrossing everything bar Clash of Clans in its home country, while Spotify is a little further down the chart. How about the latter’s home country of Sweden?
Spotify trumps everything, Clash of Clans included. Perhaps not a huge surprise in a market where streaming is so mainstream, and has been for some time. What about an emerging market like Brazil?
Spotify AND Deezer AND Rdio are in the top 10. Perhaps the most interesting chart of the lot, here, with the obvious caveat that our knowledge of how much money Brazilians are spending on apps overall is sketchier than it should be.
Now, this is just a collection of App Store chart screenshots, which will look different in a few hours, let alone next week. They offer no more certain a long-term assessment of these companies’ businesses than, for example, judging whether Tidal is doomed based on a similar snapshot before its new owners have revamped the product and kicked off a proper marketing campaign (beyond Times Square billboards and phoning some fans).
But still, this is something for the music industry to get its teeth into nonetheless. Here are a couple of thoughts to get started:
First: the top grossing chart on the App Store doesn’t measure ad revenues, nor does it measure subscriptions signed up to and paid outside the store. It just counts in-app purchases in the case of these streaming music apps: so however much Spotify is making – to repeat: more than Candy Crush Saga in several countries – Apple is getting a 30% cut of the revenues. Which in turn might spur questions on how this possibly pays off for Spotify, given its margins.
Second: none of this proves that music > games in the mobile world. Spotify may trump Candy Crush Saga in some countries, but the former is still available in a few dozen countries while the latter is available globally, and Candy Crush publisher King has a bunch of other games to boot.
According to the latest IFPI stats, digital music contributed $6.85bn to labels’ bottom lines in 2014. The same year, the top three mobile games publishers (King, Supercell and Japanese firm GungHo, which makes the Puzzle & Dragons game) reported cumulative revenues of just under $5.4bn.
It’s not a good idea to turn this into a statistical willy-waving match between music and mobile games, in other words – or at least if you did, you’d need to factor in plenty of other figures (physical and live revenues for music, ad revenues for games etc).
But yes: while there’s plenty to be written about Tidal’s mis-steps since its new owners took over, and what that might mean for its long-term prospects, it feels a bit premature to be writing it off as dead because of its App Store ranking. Far more interesting to look at the top-grossing chart performance of Spotify, and think about what that means for our industry.
Further reading: Here’s how Tidal can be more than just a rich musicians’ club