When it comest to subscribers, the undisputed king of on-demand streaming music is Spotify. With a reported paid user base surpassing 40 million subscribers — not to mention an astronomical 55 million additional listeners on its free, ad-based service — the Swedish-born service currently trounces the on-demand competition. Its biggest competitor? Apple Music, a much younger paid-only service that, as of September 2016, is reported to have at least 17 million subscribers. Although that is less than half the size of Spotify’s paid user base, it’s impressive when you consider that Apple Music went live in June of 2015, nine years after Spotify’s founding.
It’s hardly surprising that Apple Music is successfully nipping at Spotify’s heels, however. Not only is it backed by one of the biggest companies in the world, it also gives users access to the entire iTunes library, a swath of curated playlists, and a 24-hour radio station helmed by BBC-alum Zane Lowe. Even the required subscription fee of $10 per month is no great barrier for entry, as Apple Music offers a three-month free trial and a discounted family plan. Some users will likely jump ship after the trial period, but either way, the service touts all the characteristics of a powerhouse streaming client.
Given the recent release of iOS 10 and MacOS Sierra, it seems reasonable to take stock of how Apple’s streaming service measures up against Spotify. Follow us below to see if Apple Music has what it takes to steal the crown.
One of the main reasons Spotify continues to enjoy streaming dominance is its impressive 30 million-plus song catalog. Couple this with the fact that it adds over 20,000 new songs each day, and the service offers more music than your ears even know what to do with. While there exist several glaring holes in its library — hello Garth Brooks, Taylor Swift, Tool — Spotify’s offering is about as comprehensive as it gets. Moreover, Spotify brings all the latest record releases, exclusive live sessions, and various new singles right to its New Releases tab each Friday, providing a great way to hear the latest from established artists, and rising stars alike.
However, Apple’s service now touts around 40 million songs, which is superior to Spotify’s “more than 30 million” figure (though we’re not sure by how much). That’s something that other competitors, like Amazon’s new paid streaming service or Jay Z’s Tidal simply can’t match. Moreover, Apple has taken steps to secure more exclusives than the competition. For example, Taylor Swift’s oeuvre, noticeably absent from Spotify, is available on Apple Music. Spotify isn’t too happy with artists signing exclusivity deals with Apple, either. Reportedly, Spotify has a history of altering search rankings for artists who release their music through Apple first.
There’s another area where Apple Music has the leg up on its competition: integration of the iTunes library. Any music you’ve got — whether previously purchased via the iTunes Store, ripped from a physical CD, or uploaded to iTunes Match — will appear in your Apple Music library. This means Apple Music subscribers have the option to freely browse their own music alongside Apple’s standard catalog. Spotify offers a similar function, relegating your local music files to a separate tab, but you can’t access your local music via broad searches like you can with Apple Music.
Winner: Apple Music