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Found! A Music Label That Will Actually Tell Us How Apple Music Is Doing!

Tl;dr: It's no Spotify -- yet.

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Peter Kafka covers media and technology, and their intersection, at Vox. Many of his stories can be found in his Kafka on Media newsletter, and he also hosts the Recode Media podcast.

No one knows how Apple Music is really doing, because Apple Music doesn’t have any paying subscribers yet.

Everyone who is using the service right now is part of a three-month free trial, which won’t expire until October at the earliest.

But the music labels that have licensed their stuff to Apple can see how those free users are interacting with the service, via daily reports Apple provides to them.

So here’s one data point, via DashGo, a distributor that specializes in getting indie music to digital outlets: DashGo CEO Ben Patterson says that Apple Music streams represent about 4 percent of the volume of streams he’s seeing from Spotify.

So, what does that mean? We know that Spotify has at least 75 million users worldwide, and we believe that Apple Music has at least 10 million users. So using that ratio, we might expect that Apple Music users listeners were generating around 13 percent of the total streams that Spotify users were generating. Which would mean Apple Music is underperforming, at least for DashGo, right now.

Patterson thinks the disparity may come from the fact that he works with relatively obscure acts — the first thing on his “featured clients” page is a song from Coconut Records, a little-known project from “Rushmore” actor Jason Schwartzman. In Patterson’s words, he specializes in “deep cuts/long tail” music.

And in its initial messaging, Apple Music seems to be targeting a very broad swath of music fans — which is why its dustup and subsequent patchup with Taylor Swift was such a big deal.

“I think Beats One [Apple’s free radio station] is very solid, and Taylor Swift is chalking up tens of millions of streams, but I don’t think the plays are trickling down as deeply,” Patterson said via email.

Patterson also thinks that Spotify’s emphasis on user-created playlists, which can be shared throughout the service and updated over time, also helps users with very specific tastes find new stuff. Apple Music also lets users make their own playlists, but it’s not easy to share them; the company emphasizes playlists made by its own experts. “Perhaps the absence of general-public playlists limits exposure,” Patterson said.

Then again, you might think that the people eager to try out a new subscription music service would be aficionados who would be the most interested in listening hard-to-find stuff. My hunch is that even with 10 million users, the service’s current base skews toward serious Apple fans, or music fans, or both.

On yet another hand, it might be that this stuff is more genre specific. The Hits Daily Double piece that first floated the 10 million Apple Music number earlier this week said that a “couple of cutting-edge hip-hop titles” were doing as well for Apple Music as they did on Spotify. Want yet another hand? Okay: Patterson says Apple Music is doing well for him in Russia — where Spotify doesn’t stream at all.

But we don’t know! It’s early, and it’s one data point. (Hey! Do you work for a music label that’s working with Apple Music? I’d love to see your numbers, too. If you don’t feel as bold as Ben, I’m happy to keep you anonymous. Peter at Recode dot Net.) We’ll keep looking for more.

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