Over 50% of U.S. Internet Users Now Pay for a Music Streaming Service

A dozen years after Spotify launched in the United States and 18 years into the existence of YouTube, streaming music is so ingrained in Americans’ behavior that 91% of the U.S. internet population used a music streaming service in the last year, according to the 22nd edition of MusicWatch’s U.S. Annual Music Study. 

According to the report, released Monday (Mar. 11), the number of U.S. subscribers to music services such as Spotify, Apple Music and Amazon Music Unlimited reached 109 million in 2023 — meaning over half of U.S. internet users aged 13 and over now pay for a music streaming service. That number increases to 136 million if SiriusXM and Amazon Prime Music are included. SiriusXM is predominantly a satellite radio service that also has an internet product. Amazon Prime provides music streaming to customers who sign up for Prime for free shipping and other perks. 

In 2012, just 56% of Americans used any type of music streaming service. That number jumped to 69% in 2014 and surpassed the 80% mark in 2018. But 2023 was the first time music streamers surpassed 90% of the internet population. MusicWatch counts music streaming on ad-supported audio platforms such as Spotify and Pandora, paid services such as Apple Music, and video services such as YouTube. For the sake of this survey, short-form video platforms such as TikTok and Instagram Reels are not considered to be music streaming platforms.

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The number of people who stream music has grown even faster than the proportion of the population that does so. In 2012, the U.S. internet population stood at roughly 125 million. By 2023, it had grown by nearly 60 million to 193 million. The way people access the internet has changed over that period. In the early days of the internet, people mostly had a dial-up home internet connection, but over time, home internet access improved while mobile internet usage exploded. 

The prevalence of mobile internet has played an important role in music streaming adoption. Not long ago, MusicWatch principal Russ Crupnick noticed a change in the reasons why people paid for subscription services. Early subscription adopters were heavy users who found value in features such as playlists, connecting to their social networks and recommendations. Then, about five years ago, Crupnick found new subscribers’ reasons for paying a monthly fee started to change. 

More recent adopters of paid music streaming services care more about access, not features, says Crupnick. As more people had smart speakers, bluetooth headphones and in-dash entertainment systems in their cars, it was important for services to offer a seamless listening experience as they moved from place to place. “It just works,” he says of subscribers’ rationale for paying. “It works everywhere that I want and works on all of my devices.”

Per-capita spending on recorded music increased 7% from 2022 as music subscriptions, CDs and vinyl all saw double-digit gains. That improvement came from both organic growth and price inflation, says Crupnick. Music subscription services pushed through a string of price increases after keeping their prices mostly untouched for many years — Apple Music in Oct. 2022, Spotify in July, YouTube Music also in July and Amazon Music in August. 

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