New study breaks down UK subscription economy (music included)


A new report compiled by market-research firm YouGov for e-commerce firm Zuora aims to quantify the market for subscription services in the UK, including music.

The report claims that 78% of Brits pay for at least one subscription product or service, including 27% for video-on-demand, 17% for media publications and 15% for software and storage.

And music? The report claims that 11% of Brits ‘subscribe’ to Spotify, which it quantifies as 5.7 million people. Meanwhile, 5% subscribe to Apple Music, which is 2.6 million people.

These figures set off our warning klaxons, because Music Ally’s sources suggest Spotify is actually just north of three million subscribers in the UK. The claim that the UK accounts for 17.3% of Apple Music’s 15 million global subscribers also seems high.

We contacted Zuora’s PR agency for clarification, and it turns out the discrepancy is all to do with how you define a ‘subscriber’. The 5.7 million Spotify subscribers referred to in the report covers both free and premium users of the service.

They also supplied us with figures for paying subscribers for music services in the UK: 3.6 million for Spotify (7% of the population); just over 1m for Apple Music (2%) and around 515k each (1%) for Deezer and Google Play Music.

According to YouGov, Tidal and Microsoft’s Groove Music are both under its 1% bar for paying subscribers, as are Rdio (no surprise: it shut down) or YouTube Music Key (no surprise: it’s not available in the UK yet).

The 3.6 million Spotify subscribers is closer to our sources’ estimate of that service’s paid user base in the UK, but raises a new talking point: is Spotify’s conversion rate really 63% for Brits? Our sources suggest the service has more than 7 million active users in the UK overall.

Plus, of course, if Apple Music has reached the 1m subscribers mark in the UK, that would be a notable milestone – and 6.7% of the service’s global paying customers.

But there’s also the wider point that while the music industry thinks of ‘subscriptions’ as automatically premium / paid, that may not be how every research firm sees the subscriptions market.

Written by: Stuart Dredge