In Consumer Insights

The streaming music sector continues to be a daunting one. Despite launching their subscription streaming music service in December, last week Pandora announced that would lay off 7% of their U.S. workforce in the first quarter of 2017. And after a rumored merger with Spotify fizzled, new speculation has emerged that SoundCloud may be courting new interest from Google.

The streaming music landscape is marked by shutdowns and consolidations: in addition to Pandora’s acquisition of Rdio in 2015, dozens of startups like Grooveshark, Beatport, and have either been shut down (often in the face of sizeable lawsuits) or acquired by a larger and better-funded rival. But regardless of the size of their bank account or song library, all streaming services struggle with the same problem: the size of their audience base. So who is actually attracting the most users, and which devices are being used to listen to streaming music?

User Numbers and the Power of Incremental Reach

Instead of simply looking at sheer user numbers, Verto Analytics calculated the incremental device reach for users of Pandora, Spotify, and SoundCloud. Our chart shows the central role that smartphones play in consumers’ music-listening behaviors.


Pandora’s success appears to be closely linked to the popularity of its mobile app, as it claims the largest incremental audience across smartphones: while Pandora had 9 million PC users, they attracted an additional 41 million listeners via smartphones (this number is calculated by adding the incremental smartphone user number to the base of 9 million PC users), plus an additional 4 million users who used only listened on tablets. By adding these three numbers, we find that Pandora had 54 million net unique users in June 2016.

Smartphones (and therefore mobile apps) played a lesser role in driving user numbers for Spotify and SoundCloud users. However, one trend is clear across all three services: tablets are not a preferred way for users to listen to streaming music. As more digital businesses embrace cross-device consumer behavior – the underlying assumption is that consumers use multiple devices to access apps, sites, and services – as a new standard, it will become increasingly important to understand the power of incremental device reach in driving user numbers and user engagement.

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