Analysis Of How Users Of Each Streaming Music Service Differ

(1)Given that the content made available on streaming services is largely the same from platform to platform, what actually differentiates them? This article explores the role of audience, and the role they play in setting streaming services apart from each other.


Guest post by Hannah Chapple on Affinio

When every music streaming service has almost identical tracks, artists, and choices. . . What makes them different?

A friend of mine recently shared an LA Times article with me titled "In the digital deluge, what distinguishes one music streaming service from the other?". The article examined the differences between the many music streaming services currently available.

What we found most interesting is that the article was missing a key, and arguably the most important, factor in what made services differ. The writer made no mention of the artists or the fans perspective! The article shared that for some, it's the "exclusive" access to artists and their music that set services apart. However, this model has been criticized across the industry as unsustainable and is widely considered to be bad for both the fans and artists. Without artist exclusives, the article chopped up the differences between services to be minimal. So imagine if moving forward everyone is playing the game with near identical tracks, artists, and choices, how can a streaming service determine what sets them apart?

The answer is in the audiences they are attracting (and those they are not!)

The most significant factor that sets streaming services apart is the nature of their listeners. When differentiating between services, the LA Times article failed to acknowledge the audiences who are more inclined to listen to artists or different genres on one streaming service versus another. That’s because this type of insight is difficult to determine. For many, myself included, perhaps we listen to more than one streaming service for different reasons. So how can these music streaming services identify and lock in their listeners?

"The single most important thing for the music services to understand (and to differentiate themselves) is to understand their user's passions and interests." – Bryan Calhoun, Digital Strategy and Business Development for Artist Management Team at BPG/Maverick

Using Affinio, the marketing intelligence platform, I was able to analyze the US-based audiences of 10 music streaming services (pure-play and product), as well as YouTube to understand which services resonate with different audience segments.

Audiences Analyzed:


Affinio digested over 3,161,332 individuals who follow at least one of the streaming accounts and who self-describe as living in the US and segmented this audience into 20 interest-based clusters based on their shared affinities. Check out the audience visualization:

To add clarity and context to each audience cluster, Affinio exposes the top shared interests (including celebrities, media, organizations, and brands), biographical keywords, links shared, content favorited, and many more attributes. By exploring these clusters in detail, we can quickly uncover who they are and the interests and passions of the audience. Some of these clusters were defined by their shared interest in a particular music genre e.g. EDM Fans.

Once segmented, I was then able to use Affinio's Competitive feature to understand what share of an audience each music streaming service has within a given community (cluster). The analysis takes into account the size disparities of the provided source handles and adjusts the share percentages accordingly. This makes comparing very large audiences (e.g. Spotify) and small audiences (e.g. Deezer) manageable.

Who's Owning Key Audience Segments?

Teens Who Love One Direction & Bieber

In this audience segment, we can see that iHeartRadio and Pandora have a considerable audience share of Teens Who Love One Direction & Bieber.

General Pop Music Fans

In this audience segment, we can see that the audience for the pop music genre is fairly split between streaming services, but Apple Music has a slight lead.

Rap & Hip-Hop Fans

In this audience segment, Tidal and Soundcloud stand out as favorites for the Rap & Hip-Hop genre.


In this audience segment, Napster, Pandora, and Spotify have a considerable audience share of Gamers.

Put the audience first, or get left behind.

At the end of the day, streaming services face the challenge of creating a competitive advantage in an industry where the service offering is relatively similar across the board. They know a ton about what their existing listeners consume. And like any other industry, winning sales and increasing the bottom line are king. In order to win over the hearts and minds of new listeners and reduce churn, streaming services must align with the cultural identity of listeners and create enriched data-driven user experiences. If they don’t? Just remember, switching costs are low.

But how can they create these enriched user experiences? Social media data presents a powerful and unique opportunity for music streaming services. Today consumers are choosing to share more information than ever online and follow their favourite brands, services, artists, bands, events, and more. With Affinio, this mass amount of consumer data is at the fingertips of music streaming services to mine and quickly turned into valuable actionable insights, at scale.

By leveraging Affinio's advanced audience segmentation and custom data capabilities, streaming services can “dig in” and hone in on specific listener segments to find out who and what matters most to them and why. Affinio's high-quality, audience data has multiple use cases for the music industry: whether it be the creation of data-driven playlists and artist selection, to informing content creation, brand partnerships, sync licensing, and more. Every consumer interaction can be traced back to Affinio's defensible audience data.

[Download our eBook: Transforming the Music Industry with Next Gen Audience Affinity Data]

As shared by Bryan Calhoun, Digital Strategy and Business Development for Artist Management Team at BPG/Maverick, "The single most important thing for the music services to understand (and to differentiate themselves) is to understand their user's passions and interests."


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  1. Are switching costs low? I thought the data that streaming services gather for recommendations serve as a large switching cost as people don’t want to have the new streaming service relearn all of their preferences.

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