For any digital platform that’s careful about the numbers it makes available for public consumption, there’s a squadron of third-party research firms aiming to fill the gap with their own calculations and estimates. Today brings two separate reports from app-analytics companies, SensorTower and App Annie, poking at the metrics of YouTube and its music-streaming service.

SensorTower’s is more general: it reports that YouTube was the top-grossing app in the ‘photo and video’ category worldwide in the second quarter of this year across Apple’s App Store and Android’s Google Play store. Its report claims that YouTube users spent “close to $138m” within the app, which is more than double its total in the first quarter of this year. That spending will be a combination of premium subscriptions and individual ‘super chat’ purchases, although this isn’t music specifically.

App Annie’s report *does* focus on YouTube Music though. “YouTube Music grew 170% in global smartphone monthly active users year over year in June 2019  — outpacing the growth rates of leading contenders including Spotify, Apple Music and Soundcloud,” claimed the company, although it didn’t publish the specific user numbers (in MAUs) for this: just a chart of the various services and their rank-change year-on-year.

App Annie reckons that Spotify is still the most popular music-streaming smartphone app by MAUs, ahead of (in this order) Apple Music, SoundCloud, Pandora, Amazon Music and then YouTube Music, with Indian services JioSaavn and Gaana in seventh and eighth positions, with TuneIn Radio and Deezer making up the top ten. None of this tells us how much money YouTube Music is making from subscriptions, but it is one of the few charts that brings together and compares the free audiences of apps like SoundCloud and YouTube Music with those of Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music and so on.

That said, there are some reasons for caution. JioSaavn and Gaana both claim more than 100 million monthly active users in their own stats, for example, yet they’re both several places behind Apple Music, which has 60 million paid subscribers plus a number of free trialists that’s certainly nowhere near 40 million. It’s possible that the methodology is counting users of Apple’s ‘Music’ app (as opposed to ‘Apple Music’), or it’s possible that it’s casting doubt on the Indian services’ claims.

Sometimes, getting more data simply raises more questions about the unknowns of this market. ’Twas ever thus…

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Music Ally's Head of Insight

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