updated 01:49 pm EDT, Tue May 13, 2014
Takeover by Apple apparently technology-oriented
Beats Music recorded having just 110,992 subscribers in March, according to a leaked royalty report obtained by The Guardian. The service launched in the US in January, but by March had managed only 49,371 individual accounts and 61,621 family accounts. Since family accounts cover up to five people that may imply many more listeners, but AT&T has also been offering 90-day free trials of the service, which could potentially make the number of paying subscribers extremely low.
Spotify, for comparison, had 1 million paying American subscribers in March. Globally the service currently has over 24 million active listeners, of which more than 6 million are paying. Spotify has been around for several years though, giving it a distinct advantage. It's thought that Beats may be doing better now that its iOS app includes in-app subscription purchases; the change has pushed Beats higher on App Store charts.
Nevertheless the numbers support the view that Apple's reported acquisition of Beats for $3.2 billion is more about technology and platforms than subscriber bases. It's speculated that Apple may be hoping to revamp iTunes Radio with new features and paid subscription options.
Another fact exposed by the leak is that Beats Music is currently paying artists just $0.00126 per play, less even than Spotify, which pays rightsholders between $0.006 and $0.0084, still often considered too little. Beats has however been seeing high use among subscribers: the 49,371 individual customers played 116.4 million tracks in March alone, or about 76 per day per person.