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Spotify soars to 320 million listeners, with 144 million paid members

And the amount of time people are listening to Spotify recovered to pre-pandemic levels, after total hours took a hit as people around the world locked down.

Angela Lang/CNET

Spotify soared past a worldwide listener milestone as the number of people using the service climbed 29% to 320 million in the third quarter, the music streaming service said Thursday. Excluding anyone who listens free with advertising, Spotify's paid members also rose 27% to 144 million, the company said. 

The latest figures further cement Spotify as the world's biggest subscription music service. Spotify appeared to remain above its No. 2 competitor, Apple Music, which hasn't updated the public on its membership in more than a year. Though Apple Music has surely grown significantly, Apple said its service had 60 million subscribers way back in June 2019. 

Unlike AppleSpotify has a free tier that lets anyone listen to music with advertising. Apple has never disclosed a monthly-active-user stat; almost all people who use Apple Music are subscribers. 

Spotify's growth in the number of people who use its service at least once a month -- the 320 million -- was better than the company predicted in July, when it forecast 317 million monthly active listeners at the top end of its range. Its number of total subscribers matched the top end of its forecast from July. 

And looking ahead to the close of the fourth quarter, Spotify predicted it would end the year with 340 million to 345 million monthly active users and 150 million to 154 million premium paid members.

As the culture at large has shifted to streaming as the most common way people listen to tunes, Spotify and Apple Music emerged as the leaders in a race to dominate subscription music. Though Spotify remains the biggest streaming service by both listeners and subscribers, Apple Music has benefited from the popularity of the iPhone to recruit new members. 

Apple didn't immediately respond to a request for comment on Apple Music's growth. 

Spotify added Thursday that the number of hours that people are listening to Spotify surpassed pre-COVID levels during the quarter. Listening trends also have returned to normal, with in-car listening hours back above the pre-COVID peak. Usage on connected devices inside the home, which saw a spike during lockdown, also remains above pre-COVID levels, the company said. 

Read more: Best streaming music service for 2020

For the third quarter, Sweden-based Spotify reported a loss of 101 million euros ($118.7 million at current conversion rates), or 53 cents a share, swinging from a profit of 241 million euros, or 1.34 euros a share, a year earlier. Revenue rose 14% to 1.975 billion euros in the quarter.

Analysts on average had expected a loss of 56 cents in the latest period, on revenue of 1.999 billion euros, according to Thomson Reuters. 

Spotify shares were down 3.8% percent at $265.55 in light premarket trading. 

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