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Streaming Music Playing Second-Fiddle To Video In TV Advertising

When it comes to streaming entertainment, music is taking a back seat to video in terms of priority with the biggest brands.

Over the last 3.5 years, service providers offering both streaming music and streaming video content have dedicated far greater resources to promoting video content over music offerings… by a long shot. 

Amazon, Apple, and YouTube spent a collective $1.16 billion advertising for their respective streaming video services on national TV from 2018 through the first half of 2021, according to data measured by iSpot.tv. During the same timeframe, they spent only $88 million advertising their music services.

In other words, music services received only 7.5% of the national TV ad spend that video services did. 

And that’s shrinking. After averaging about $24 million a year for the last three years on TV advertising for Amazon Music ($11 million in 2018, $35.6 million in 2019, and $25.2 million in 2020), the retailing giant has spent exactly $0 on TV advertising in the first half of this year. But it has spent $63.3 million on Prime Video. 

Apple is a distant second in TV ad spend for music. According to iSpot.tv, the company spent $11.6 million on national TV ads for Apple Music in the last three years, compared to $541 million on Apple TV+ (which it didn’t even launch until 2019). That means Apple Music got 2.4% of the TV ad spend that Apple TV+ received. (Although both services pale in comparison to the $826.3 million Apple spent since 2018 advertising the iPhone on national TV). 

Of the three, Amazon spent the most running TV ads for its Amazon Music service, on both an absolute and relative basis… at least until recently. The company spent $72 million in the same three years on national TV ads for Amazon Music, compared to $480 million for Prime Video. That works out to the music service getting about 15% of the TV ad budget that the video service did. 

However, Apple spent more this year than any other music service so far, with $2.5 million… already double the $1.2 million it spent advertising Apple Music all of last year. 

And then there’s YouTube, which spent $138 million advertising YouTube TV in the last 3.5 years, compared to $4.3 million for YouTube Music—about 3.1% of the YouTube TV spend. 

It’s worth noting that nearly all of YouTube’s music advertising spending took place from 2018-2019, with $2.1 million and $2.2 million, respectively. Last year and this year so far, YouTube dedicated nearly nothing to advertising the music service on national TV, while continuing to put over $25.5 million into YouTube TV ads. 

These are stark differences in TV ad spending between formats. If measured by TV ad spend alone, clearly all three brands place a far greater priority on their video streaming services than they do their music services. But compared to how much other music streaming services spend on national TV ads, it’s about on par. 

Spotify, for instance, has no video service to promote. It’s a pure-play music service (podcasts notwithstanding). In the last three years, Spotify spent $11.6 million on national TV ads, about on par with Apple Music. 

However Spotify’s TV spending has proven rather lumpy over the years. In 2018, it spent $2.5 million on national TV ads, according to iSpot.tv, then dropped to nearly nothing in 2019 (during the runup to its IPO), only to skyrocket to over $8.5 million in 2020 following its public listing. This year to date, Spotify’s TV ad spending has again dropped to barely measurable amounts. 

So when it comes to the “streaming wars” the big battle is being waged on the video front, not the music front. This despite the fact it’s far more common for consumers to use multiple streaming subscription services, while choosing only one music service. 

Still, music subscription rates continue to climb. According to Midia Research, 100 million new music subscribers were added in 2020, totaling 467 million. Among the providers, Spotify has the largest market share, at 32%. But that’s two points less than the company reported last year. 

Apple Music ranks second at 16% (up 12%), Amazon Music third at 13% (up 27%), while YouTube Music trails at 8% (but an increase of 60%). 

So clearly, music subscriptions continue to grow, and at double-digit rates. That growth may be coming from family plan promotions, service bundling, and other methods. For instance Amazon—which again has spent nothing this year advertising its music service—recently unveiled a promotion offering six months of free Disney+ with every new account. 

Yet with TV ad spending this sparse and sporadic among the big music service brands, it seems like a prime opportunity for an aggressive player to gain market share with a sustained TV buy.