Research firm Verto Analytics has put out some new numbers comparing Apple Music and Spotify in the US, but it’s important to understand exactly what it’s measuring. And what it isn’t.

“This month’s Verto Index looks at the top streaming music properties, from Apple Music to TuneIn Radio, among U.S. adults (ages 18 and above)” explains the company.

“Despite being a relative latecomer to the scene, Apple Music is the top streaming music property on our Verto Index, with 49.5 million monthly users (most of them paying subscribers). Spotify is a close second, with 47.7 million monthly users, although the two services have been jockeying for the top position over the past year.”

Is this true? It can’t be, for Apple Music.

Earlier this month, Apple’s services boss Eddy Cue announced at SXSW that Apple Music now has 38 million paying subscribers, and a further eight million on the service’s free trial.

That’s 46 million active users for Apple Music globally, so the service does not have 49.5 million (mostly subscribers) monthly users in the US.

We’ve been here before. In March 2017, Verto Analytics claimed that Apple Music had 40.7 million users in the US, barely four months after Apple had passed the 20 million milestone.

At the time, we questioned this, and the company explained its methodology to us. It gathers data by installing a measurement app on the devices of an opt-in panel of consumers, tracking what apps they use.

“All data that Verto publishes is based on-screen engagement of the app (as described in our methodology), and in the Apple Music case, this data includes both the listening of music stored on the device and Apple music streaming. In other words, we do not report separately these two types of usage, but instead the aggregate,” Verto told us last March.

So, what the company is measuring isn’t the Apple Music streaming service, but rather the ‘Music’ app on iOS devices – which besides being the way people access Apple Music, is also the way non-subscribers listen to their music-download collections – as well as the Apple Music Android app.

49.5 million Americans are listening to music using Apple’s native music app, then. That’s an interesting statistic, but it’s not a measurement of Apple Music’s US user-base – nor is it a good figure to compare with Spotify, Pandora and other services.

Once you understand that, there’s plenty to chew on in Verto’s latest music-streaming index. It’s a ranking of the non-Apple streaming services for example: 47.7 million users for Spotify, followed by Pandora (36.8m); SoundCloud (34.2m); Google Play Music (21.9m – but we strongly suspect this figure includes people listening to their download collections on Android’s native music app); iHeartRadio (19.9m); Amazon Music (12.7m); SiriusXM (7.6m); and TuneIn Radio (6.6m).

(The inclusion of Shazam as a ‘music-streaming property’ with 10.6 million users is curious, so we’ve left it out of the list above. Shazam isn’t a music-streaming service.)

Verto is on firmer ground with its stats on demographics: 26% of Spotify’s American users are aged 18-24, for example, while 56% of them are men. Apple’s music app is 56% women, meanwhile.

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