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Apple Music vs. Spotify: Which Service is Better?

September 11, 2017



I originally decided to tackle this topic because, along with dividing America, the debate of Spotify vs. Apple Music is now dividing my own household: my brother uses Apple Music, while my other brother and I use Spotify Premium. Both music streaming services cost the same for the individual per month (although Apple does offer a $99-per-year deal, making it $20 cheaper if you choose this plan), so money doesn’t play much of a factor in the debate. Instead, it seems to be a matter of personal preference, or even simply brand recognition. My brother uses Apple Music mainly because “I just use everything Apple.”

If you’re wondering why it even matters, listen to this: In 2016, The Recording Industry Association of America released data to show that streaming music services account for 51.4% of revenue in the music industry. This means that for the first time ever, streaming services account for the majority of revenue in the music industry, bringing in $3.6 billion over the course of one year. Since streaming services are likely the way of the future for the music industry, and currently there are 45 million subscribers between Spotify and Apple alone, it’s safe to say this debate has never been more timely. 

So, here we go: Spotify vs. Apple Music. Which is better?

Spotify launched in 2008, giving it 7-years headway over Apple Music (which launched in 2015). It currently has 30 million subscribers. Apple Music has 15 million subscribers.

Here’s a list of Spotify’s pros:

1. It adds 20,000 new songs every day.

2. It has all the latest record releases.

3. It has unique playlists to help you find new music easily and enjoyably; for example, the “New Releases” playlist, updated every Friday. It also has the user-specific “Discover Weekly” playlist, which has 2-hours of personalized music recommendations based on your own listening habits and what others (who listen to similar artists) like.

4. If you’re okay with listening to ads, Spotify gives you the option to have a free plan.

5. Since it’s linked to your (and your friends’) Facebook accounts, it’s a great spot for seeing what your friends are listening to, as well as sharing your favorite songs/playlists with friends on social media.

6. It offers exclusive live sessions.

Rather than listing Spotify’s cons next, I’ll simply list Apple Music’s pros (since, inadvertently, it’s pretty much the same thing).

Here’s a list of Apple’s pros:

1. Apple Music secures more exclusives with popular artists than Spotify, meaning, if you have Apple Music, you can often hear exclusive new albums before you can hear them on Spotify (Its been rumored that Spotify tries to make these Apple-exclusive artists harder to find on Spotify’s streaming account in retaliation).

2. You can integrate your existing iTunes library. This means that, when searching an artist or song, your existing iTunes music will pop up alongside Apple Music’s catalogue.

3. The $99-annual deal means you save $20, compared to the $120 you pay individually for Spotify’s annual subscription.

4. Apple excels at its radio-style programming. In particular, Beats 1 is a radio station playing music 24/7, selected by various famous DJs and musicians.

5. It has a slightly larger catalogue, touting 40 million plus songs, while Spotify has 30 million plus.

I will admit, in my research, I often found only very slight differences between Spotify and Apple Music. It became a bit like splitting hairs, honestly (c’mon people–some of these differences are so minor!).

For instance, both offer personalized playlists curated based on your listening habits; The only difference is, with Apple Music, you must select (in the beginning, as well as later on in the Accounts tab) some of your favorite artists before Apple Music can curate playlists for you, while Spotify uses an algorithm to allow a hands-off approach. The main problem with Apple’s favorite-artist-selection page is simply the look: with a bunch of balls labeled with artist’s names bouncing around on the screen for you to click, it becomes messy and a bit inconvenient to add new artists. With Spotify, you don’t deal with any of that–it stealthily keeps track of your favorites for you and provides useful suggestions without you having to say–or, er, click–a word.

As mentioned in my list, Spotify’s “Discover Weekly” playlist is one of it’s biggest selling points. However, Apple competes with its “For You” tab, which provides suggestions depending on the music you listen to, what you tell Apple you like or dislike, and genre and artist choices you make when you first join Apple Music. Some prefer “For You”, while others steadfastly support Spotify’s algorithm-based playlists that cater to your musical tastes without asking for anything from you. Is this perhaps a silly and slightly-lazy reason to prefer Spotify’s streaming system? Probably! But then again, does it save you time and effort? Definitely.

Undoubtedly, Beats 1 and other live-radio options are in Apple’s favor. While Spotify has randomly-generated radio stations, August alone has the likes of Drake, Frank Ocean, Major Lazor, Pharell Williams, Ryan Adams, Zane Lowe, and others, DJ-ing for Apple’s Beats 1 radio station. In this respect, Apple definitely takes the lead.

Ultimately, I think the debate can come down to a few logistical factors (which devices you’d like to play on; whether you want a free-plan option; whether you’re desperate to be the friend with the exclusive music content before anyone else; how much music you listen to in your iTunes library currently)…

…and a few superficial factors (comparing the look of the two; how much it bothers you to manually input your favorite artists into Apple Music versus user-specified playlists magically appearing in Spotify; how much you care about listening to live-radio; how badly you want to see what your friends are listening to on Facebook).

Bottom line: Since this is a debate, and it would be lame of me to stay neutral, I have to side with Spotify. Perhaps part of me was just peer-pressured into it (Out of four different articles I read, three also declared Spotify the winner), and perhaps it’s simply personal preference… I think Spotify’s automatically-generated playlists are typically spot-on when offering me new music to check out. Plus, the exclusivity of Apple Music’s content is not worth me making the switch because I’m usually behind in what’s “new” for music anyway, and when it is finally posted on Spotify, I’d never know it’d been out for weeks on Apple Music. Also, although Beats 1 makes for an appealing argument in favor of Apple, I personally am not as interested in a live-DJ radio experience as I am in checking out my cousin’s new Spotify country playlist posted on her Facebook page.

Perhaps it’s simply because I want to be right and I want my brother to be wrong. Who knows? I will say that after writing this article, I’d suggest to anyone just jumping aboard the music-streaming bandwagon (welcome!), that you try out Apple Music’s 3-month trial period and Spotify’s free plan–and then decide for yourself, since really, it’s largely a matter of personal taste.