Spotify vs. Apple Music: The great debate

Amelia Anthony

It’s been a topic of discourse, memes and endless Internet polls, and everyone seems to have an opinion of their own.  It has spread like wildfire across Twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram, sparking endless arguments and rants.

Is it Trump’s Supreme Court pick?  No- it’s the Apple Music vs. Spotify controversy.

There are dozens of music streaming services out there, from Pandora to Soundcloud and everything in between.  But when it comes down to it, only two apps vie for the top spot in the music streaming competition: Apple Music and Spotify.

Spotify has been the top music service in the world for years, with 83 million paying users worldwide compared to Apple Music’s 50 million. Despite what some critics say, however, the release of Apple Music nine years after Spotify isn’t going to be changing the dynamic anytime soon.

Apple Music is… okay.  There’s nothing gravely wrong with the way it presents your music or the overall experience.  In fact, up until you start making playlists, the experience is relatively streamlined. The app asks you to choose your favorites from the floating bubbles of genres and artists.  It makes you feel like you’re getting a curated experience, when in reality your “For Me” tab is likely to be a few recycled albums from the artists you chose on the previous page.  The layout feels hard to navigate, and while you can make your own playlists, play specific songs, and find what you’re looking for, the actual services end up being much better than Spotify’s.

Spotify’s services are extensive, from hundreds of curated playlists to a “Discover” tab that includes new music for you based on the artists you’ve been listening to the most.  This also includes a playlist of new music just for you that updates every week, as well as a playlist of new releases from the artists you care about most. When it comes to music discovery, Spotify is unsurpassed.  Another plus of the app is that it has a built-in equalizer that lets you customize exactly how you listen, while also offering presets.  With Apple Music, you have to first go through your iOS settings, and then choose from one of the presets with no additional changes possible.  While this would most likely be fine for casual listeners who wouldn’t use the equalizer setting extensively, it’s a big deal for more intense music fans.  

The lack of discovery features within Apple Music is striking, especially considering how many Spotify offers.  While Spotify’s features extend even past the ones mentioned above, Apple Music’s only real advantage is that it claims to have more songs cataloged than Spotify.  But even that could be changing soon, as Spotify just recently added a feature for artists to upload their own songs. This feature could be a game changer for Spotify.  It would help to expand their music library as well as draw in new artists looking to get their music into the world while still gaining 100 percent of the revenue they earn on their songs. This, in the long run, becomes just another advantage they have on Apple Music, and another reason that users might make the switch to Spotify.

Another drawback Apple Music has faced is the fact that users have to pay a $10 monthly fee to use it, despite already owning and having paid for Apple products.  Apple users are upset about the base price, as well as the fact that they don’t get Apple Music for free. The fact that the service is only for Apple users is something the company has not thought through, since none of their users will come from Android or Samsung devices.  Both of these things limit their number of users user, as well as the number of devoted fans sticking by their services.

Spotify Premium, the feature-filled, ad-free version, goes for $10 per month, but users can choose to use the app for free with ads.  However, it’s the student bundles that make Spotify one of the best choices for younger listeners. College students also get the added benefit to bundle Spotify Premium, Hulu and Showtime for only $5 a month. On their own, each of these services cost a hefty $10 a month, which can be expensive, especially for a college student. The only bundle Apple Music offers is their family pack, which offers multiple accounts for $14 per month.

In the end, it’s Spotify’s music discovery and playlist curation services that give it its biggest advantage.  The app offers users things that Apple Music simply doesn’t, and while Apple Music tries to pull off the idea of making personalized playlists, it comes across as almost lazy in comparison to the offerings of Spotify’s extensive playlist curation.  Spotify has pulled ahead in the competition, and it isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.