This isn't just another speculative poll on which music streaming / discovery platform is winning the arms race. Oh no! I thought it might be fun to collect a bunch of data from tools used by the digital marketing community to highlight which platform has built and maintained the largest online audience.
I'm going to say up front that this blog post has nothing to do with the profitability, quality, or awesomeness of any of the platforms compared. While this might seem like a naive omission for an article talking about marketing effectiveness, I think a focus on these aspects distracts from the point of which service has built, and is engaging with the largest audience.
If you're in a hurry, here's a summary of who's winning in a variety of categories:
|1st place||2nd place||3rd place|
|Website Traffic / SEO||Pandora||Deezer||Last.fm|
|Number of Users||Pandora||Grooveshark||Spotify|
As you can see, Pandora are our overall winners when it comes to size of audience. While they do have an unfair advantage (they've been around for 13 years, have ~1,000 employees and $56.3m funding) it's worth pointing out that they're far from having a monopoly. Spotify, Last.fm, Deezer and Grooveshark all give Pandora a serious run for their money in some areas that we've analysed. So let's kick off with the big one; who has the most users?
Which music discovery platform has the most users?
With over 150,000,000 reported users, Pandora takes the lead for most users signed up. In comparison, runner-up Grooveshark has only 35m users.
I was hoping to show both paid vs. free, and active vs. inactive users on this graph, as I think that would give a fairer insight into the value and quality of each platform's users. Unfortunately, these figures aren't something that many of the platforms give away too easily (although it's reported that all of Rhapsody's 1m users are paying a subscription fee, while 5m of Spotify's 33 million registered users are paid users).
Which service do people search for the most in Google?
Generally speaking, the more searches for your brand name in Google, the stronger the size and awareness of your brand. I was interested to investigate the volume of searches for each of the platforms' brand names, both over time and in relation to each other.
This isn't an easy one to analyse, particularly due to the multiple intents for searching for 'Pandora' (it's also a popular jewelry brand, and a Greek myth), but after having a poke around with various different queries and tools (SEMrush, Google Insights, Google Trends) it became clear that Pandora are indeed the most heavily searched for music streaming / discovery platform on Google, followed by Deezer, Spotify, and Grooveshark, all in close competition.
Interestingly, when you look at these search trends segmented by geographical regions, it becomes clear that each platform is focusing on different geographical markets. Grooveshark (heatmap displayed to the right) are clearly targeting Argentina, Australia, The United States, Mexico and Canada; whereas Deezer are obviously tackling France, and Spotify are making the biggest impact in Scandinavia and the United Kingdom.
Which service receives the most traffic from Search Engines?
It's very interesting comparing this graph and the one below, as it shows which platforms have placed some focus on SEO as a method for attracting a larger audience. Out of the services compared, it seems that Pandora and Last.fm have both placed heavy focus on building links and generating vast quantities of high quality user-generated content.
Deezer is an interesting one, as despite relatively few links and pages, they receive a huge amount of search engine traffic from Google.fr, which works a little bit differently to Google.com (e.g. it places more emphasis on ranking pages written in French, or created by French sources).
Which service has been linked to the most from other websites?
The number of links a website has from other sites is often a good indicator of the quality and degree of emphasis being placed on online PR & SEO.
Using data from Open Site Explorer and SEMrush, we're able to see that Last.fm receives an impressive amount of search engine traffic to their website, which appears to be attributed to building a vast quantity of backlinks and the creation of 48 million or so user generated pages.
One thing that Last.fm have done incredibly well from an SEO perspective, is that they've encouraged users and artists to link to their Last.fm profile. This isn't really typical of any other music streaming or discovery service, and it's had a huge impact in enabling Last.fm to rank very high in Google for searches for artist names, which tend to have a high search volume.
Now I know that link quantity isn't the be all and end all (link quality trumps link quantity), but in this case there does appear to be a good correlation between quantity and quality metrics, such as overall domain authority (here's a more in depth analysis from OSE).
Which service has the most followers on social media?
For me, the most exciting insight from this graph is just how exceptionally well Pandora are using Google Plus. It's not common to see a brand with over 500,000 +1s on the relatively new social network - even Spotify (in second place) only have 24,000 +1s! What's particularly interesting, though, is that Spotify have approximately 3x as many Twitter followers as Pandora, suggesting a slightly alternative focus between the platforms as to which social network to target.
Besides these two outliers, it seems that Deezer are certainly punching above their weight with over 1.3m Facebook fans, and Last.fm and Rdio both seem to have placed some effort into growing their Google+ communities. Without looking too much into how engaged these various communities of fans and followers are it's hard to make any concrete assumptions on who's using social media most effectively, but the numbers seem to suggest that in order of best to worst it goes: Pandora, Spotify, Deezer, Grooveshark, Last.fm, Rdio, MOG, Rhapsody, and then Earbits.
So there we go! Pandora, Deezer and Last.fm have got their heads screwed on right from an SEO perspective. Spotify, the kings of product launches, are doing some very forward social media engagement and online PR, and Pandora is leading the way with the most users.
What I find really interesting about this analysis, is that it's shown just how level the playing field still is, despite the competitiveness and aggressive nature of the music streaming market. It's clear that each platform has adopted a completely different strategy and geographical focus, making the progress of each platform very exciting to watch develop.
Disclaimer: I should probably point out that as of the time of writing, none of the services compared in this blog post are clients, and I have no vested interest in any of them. Some data in this post may be or become inaccurate or outdated due to the limitations of the tools used and well... the fact that these figures will inevitably become outdated.