It's been nearly a year since Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) services chief Eddy Cue said Apple Music had reached 60 million subscribers. The company doesn't regularly disclose Apple Music subscriptions, instead only giving investors updates when it reaches certain milestones. In contrast, rival Spotify (NYSE:SPOT) reports user metrics every quarter because music streaming is its core business. The Swedish company finished 2019 with 124 million paid subscribers.

Recent estimates from Counterpoint Research peg Apple Music's subscriber base at the end of 2019 at around 68 million.

Apple Music app displayed on a MacBook Air

Image source: Apple.

Global paid subscriptions top 350 million

Last week, the market researcher released estimates on how the global music-streaming market grew last year. Total subscriptions jumped 32% to 358 million. Spotify remains the leader in terms of both revenue share and paid subscription share, with Apple trailing by a notable margin.

Brand

Paid Subscription Market Share (2019)

Spotify

35%

Apple Music

19%

Amazon Music

15%

Tencent Music

11%

Alphabet's YouTube Music

6%

Others

14%

Data source: Counterpoint Research.

Translating those market shares into absolute numbers for companies that don't disclose metrics directly, Apple Music finished the year with approximately 68 million paid subscribers, while Amazon had around 53.7 million. The e-commerce juggernaut said in January that Amazon Music had 55 million customers, but that figure includes ad-supported users in the free tier.

When including free users, Tencent Music (which operates the QQ Music, Kugou, and Kuwo platforms in China) has the largest music-streaming user base in the world at 644 million, but just 39.9 million of those users are paying customers. Spotify and Tencent Music have stakes in each other following an equity swap in 2017.

"Spotify maintained its top spot with the help of promotional activities like free Spotify Premium for three months, price cuts, customized campaigns like Spotify and a focus on exclusive content," Counterpoint analyst Abhilash Kumar said in a release. "Tech giants like Amazon, Apple, Google have started focusing on music streaming and have sufficient cash at their disposal to give stiff competition to Spotify."

Counterpoint also notes that expanding into podcasts and exclusive content is driving growth of paid subscriptions. Over the past year, Spotify has made a massive push into podcasts, spending an estimated $600 million on four podcast acquisitions so far (Gimlet, Anchor, Gimlet, and The Ringer). Apple has long been the leading platform in podcasts but has largely neglected the industry. The Cupertino tech giant is now reportedly investing in exclusive podcast content for Apple Music.

The music-streaming industry will be one sector that will be relatively spared by the COVID-19 pandemic. Looking ahead, Counterpoint expects the global music-streaming market to jump over 25% in 2020 to exceed 450 million subscriptions by year-end.