I’ve been a paying Spotify user for years, and it’s changed the way I listen to music.
I’m all for streaming. Purchasing and downloading individual songs feels so old school, and there’s no going back. I think streaming is the future of how music will be listened to, and Apple clearly agrees with yesterday’s launch of Apple Music and Beats 1 radio.
There are plenty of music streaming services out there, from Jay Z’s Tidal to Pandora and Rdio. But there’s only one real competitor to Apple Music right now, and it’s Spotify.
That begs the question: which one should you chose?
First off, there’s absolutely no reason you shouldn’t try Apple Music if you have an iPhone. You won’t have much of a choice if use the stock Music app and update to Apple’s latest software update, since it comes pre-installed.
Apple Music is normally $US10 per month, but Apple is offering a free three-month trial. Unpaid listeners will get to keep listening to Beats 1 and the other Pandora-like radio stations when the trial ends, but for now the whole service is fully unlocked for everyone.
Here’s how Apple Music compares to Spotify.
Beats 1 is surprisingly good
I was a tad sceptical of Apple doing a 24-hour radio station. The DJs hired to run the Beats 1 program are top notch, but there’s still a lot that could go wrong.
Beats 1’s first day was far from perfect, but after listening to it for several hours on launch day, I can say that I’m genuinely impressed. I think it’s actually Apple Music’s main draw.
Beats 1 isn’t anything like a random radio station you get in Spotify or Pandora. It’s a live broadcast with real DJs and guest artists picking songs from all genres.
The result is a quite eclectic listening experience.
Apple does music discovery better than Spotify
Thanks to Apple Music’s recommended playlists, I discovered about a dozen great tracks I’d never heard before after a few hours.
There’s a lot to digest in Apple Music, but one thing I appreciate is that the playlists are shorter than Spotify’s. Apple’s playlists typically include between 20 and 30 songs or as few as 10, while Spotify’s can sometimes include hundreds. It doesn’t feel as overwhelming to have a ton of tracks in one playlist, and shortening the number of tracks makes me feel like the songs were more carefully selected.
It’s important to note that Spotify already does a level of human curation for its recommended playlists too, but the company wouldn’t tell me exactly what the mix is between people and algorithms selecting songs. Apple has hundreds of human editors making the playlists to recommends in Apple Music’s “For You” section.
Apple Music’s playlists are good, but I’m heavily invested in playlists on Spotify already
Speaking of playlists, one of the things I love about Spotify is that you can collaborate on playlists with other people. That’s something Apple Music doesn’t offer yet, and it’s going to be hard to ditch the Spotify playlists I’ve made with friends.
There’s no easy way to bring over playlists from other services (besides the old Beats Music) to Apple Music. It’s also going to be a big pain to manually replicate them if I do make the switch. I have dozens of playlists I made and ones I follow on Spotify that I really like, and I suspect being someone who’s invested heavily in Spotify like me will have a hard time switching.
Spotify is way better on the desktop
Apple Music on the desktop is absolutely terrible, mainly because of iTunes. It’s buggy and super confusing to use. You can’t do basic actions like click on artists or albums while listening to a song in a playlist.
If Apple Music and Beats 1 were taken out of iTunes and made into another app on the Mac, that might be better. But right now, Spotify’s desktop app is a much better experience.
Picking between Apple Music and Spotify is going to be tough
I don’t think Apple is necessarily a major threat to Spotify. Both services have basically the same music — with the exception of Taylor Swift’s latest album, of course. They both do essentially the same thing in that they stream music on demand, but in every other way they’re designed to serve different purposes.
Apple Music is for people who don’t know what they want to listen to
Apple Music is for people who don’t know what they want to listen to. It wants to be the cool guy at the party with the best playlist. Spotify, on the other hand, seems more catered towards people who already know what music they like.
There’s no reason for paying Spotify users to switch to Apple Music unless they’re hardcore Taylor Swift fans or just prefer Apple’s design. Plus, Beats 1 is free for everyone and both services do the same thing when factor out playlists.
Apple Music probably will hurt Spotify’s growth over time because it’s preinstalled on every iPhone, but not enough to put Spotify out of business. Spotify has the advantage of being well established already with 60 million users, even though only 20 million pay for a subscription.
On the other hand, Apple has proven it can sell over 60 million iPhones in one quarter. The company has sold over half a billion iPhones and iPads and has around 800 million iTunes accounts on file. It’s impossible to not be amazed by the immediate reach that gives Apple Music.
Not sure whether to switch
In three months, Apple is going to start charging me $US10 per month to keep using Apple Music. I have to decide to cancel either Apple Music or my Spotify subscription. It’s a tough choice to make, and I have a feeling many Spotify users like myself are in the same boat.
But given how impressed I already am with Apple Music and Beats 1, there’s a chance I’ll jump ships. I’m not convinced Apple will get me to stop paying for Spotify yet, but if it can keep improving Apple Music and adding new features, my days a Spotify subscriber might be numbered.