Apple Music vs. Spotify

Apple Music vs. Spotify: Which service is the streaming king?

When it comes to global subscriber numbers, Spotify is the king of on-demand streaming music. The Swedish-born service helped pioneer the current market, and has tens of millions more paying subscribers than the competition, not to mention countless millions more free users. But Apple Music, known for its high-level exclusive releases and full integration into Apple’s popular iOS ecosystem, is the hottest service on Spotify’s heels.

Apple’s streaming service has shown impressive growth in listenership since its inception, garnering about half the number of Spotify’s paying users, and now reaching about 40 million monthly subscribers since it went live in June 2015 — nine years behind Spotify.  In fact, it is now the most popular paid streaming service in the United States.

But let’s get down to brass tacks — which is really the better streaming service? Follow us below to see if Apple has what it takes to steal Spotify’s crown.

Music library

Spotify first gained its dominant position on the strength of its impressive 30 million-plus song catalog. Couple this with the fact that it adds more than 20,000 new songs each day and the service offers more music than your ears even know what to do with. While several holes do exist in its library, Spotify’s catalog is extremely deep, and even onetime holdout Taylor Swift eventually conceded her protest. The Swedish streaming service also 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. (Just stroll through our favorite Spotify playlists for a sense of the size is the catalog.)

screen-shot-2016-09-29-at-5-29-11-pm

Apple’s service touts around 40 million songs, however, which is superior to Spotify’s “30 million-plus” figure (though we’re not sure by how much), and also outdoes newer contenders like Amazon’s paid streaming service and Jay-Z’s Tidal. Moreover, Apple has taken steps to secure many more exclusives than the competition, largely because it doesn’t offer a free tier. The Swedish streaming giant isn’t too happy with artists signing exclusivity deals with Apple, either; Spotify reportedly 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 have — whether previously purchased via the iTunes Store, ripped from a physical CD, or uploaded to iTunes Match — will appear in your Apple Music library, giving you the option to freely browse your 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

Music discovery

With so many songs at the ready, streaming libraries can seem daunting for those who want to find new music, but Spotify provides a lot of useful tools for finding new songs to suit your individual taste. Playlists like Release Radar, New Music Friday, and Monday’s personalized Discover Weekly provide fantastic opportunities for subscribers to latch on to new music from artists they never stumbled across on their own. The program’s deep well of dozens of base genres to choose from makes new music ripe for the picking, and other personalized playlists like Daily Mixes are constantly being added to the mix. Spotify even has a featured series called Secret Genius, which allows fans of pop music to listen to the songwriters behind some of their favorite hits.

Free users will be able to take advantage of these playlists, too, with up to 15 on-demand (meaning not shuffled) playlists to choose from daily. That adds up to about 40 hours of new music in total every day. These lists are curated based on a questionnaire you fill out when you sign up for a free account that asks you to choose your favorite artists.

Discover Weekly, in particular, deserves high praise in the streaming world (it’s so smart that Google copied the feature). Added to your feed every Monday morning, the feature delivers a two-hour playlist of personalized music recommendations based on your listening habits, as well as the habits of those who listen to similar artists. Playlists are often chock-full of music you haven’t heard before, as well as deep cuts from some of your favorite artists, thus broadening your listening repertoire with a collection of songs right up your alley. Listen to a lot of Black Keys? Your weekly playlist might include The Arcs, a side project of Black Keys guitarist Dan Auerbach. Fan of Dawes or Neil Young? Expect to find the likes of Laurel Canyon prodigy Jonathan Wilson on your playlist. The feature is not always on point, but it’s often impressive.

Discovery Spot

Spotify also gives you the chance to create, share, and follow playlists of any kind — including those shared by friends — with a simple click, along with expertly curated playlists for any mood or genre you’re into to keep things fresh.

As for Apple Music, upon creating an account, users are prompted to select some of their favorite artists so the service can get a sense of their tastes. The interface for this is a digital ball pit, each ball representing an artist, with users tapping particular balls to indicate artists they like or love. You can also always head back via the Account tab — accessible by tapping the icon in the top right corner of “For You” — to reselect your favorite genres and artists. While it is a visually striking way to dictate music preferences (the pink on a white background is pure Apple-chic), the style stomps on the utility a bit. On mobile devices, in particular, the balls quickly clog up the screen, sluggishly bouncing off each other and making it a pain to select more artists.

applemusicchoosefavoritesforyou

Thankfully, once the process is complete, Apple Music does a great job curating playlists to appeal to your preferences. Playlists might be based on style (mellow, jazzy hip-hop), a particular artist, or even a particular activity like driving. Apple claims the playlists are curated by a “team of experts.” This cabal of tastemakers — whoever they are — does a good job creating varied playlists that are at once familiar yet fresh, like a mixtape you might get from a friend.

The level of individual curation is impressive, with one DT staffer quick to highlight a Behind the Boards playlist that encompasses music from audio engineers who have helped create some of the best music of their time from the studio control room. Spotify also offers “expertly curated” playlists, but Apple Music’s playlist selections come from individual DJs on the Apple payroll.

Apple Music’s Beats 1 Radio function, which offers live radio 24 hours a day, also plays a major role when it comes to music discovery. It’s refreshing to see Apple move beyond sophisticated algorithms for a human approach to facilitating true music discovery, but Spotify has its own magic at work, and its personalized playlists are only growing.

Spotify’s hands-off playlists, especially its fantastic Discover Weekly, give it the edge here. Until Apple Music can compete with this algorithm-based approach, we will give Spotify the win.

Winner: Spotify

Home Theater

SiriusXM’s $3.5 billion purchase of Pandora just might be music to our ears

SiriusXM is aiming to expand its customer base beyond those listening in the car through a $3.5 billion deal that will see it acquiring streaming service Pandora, in which it already owns a 16 percent stake.
Music

The best new music this week: Prince, Brockhampton, Mountain Man, and more

Are you looking for the best new music? Each week, we scour the internet to find the most compelling new releases. On tap this week: Prince, Richard Swift, Christine and the Queens, Brockhampton, and Mountain Man.
Mobile

Apple iPhone XS Max vs. Huawei P20 Pro: Clash of the titans

Anyone seeking a great new smartphone with plenty of money to spend has two amazing options, but which is better for you? We pit the Apple iPhone XS Max vs. Huawei P20 Pro in various categories to help you choose.
Home Theater

Pandora takes aim at Spotify’s Release Radar with smart playlist The Drop

Pandora is debuting its own answer to Spotify’s Release Radar in the form of The Drop, a weekly personalized playlist for Premium subscribers full of new music based on what they already love.
Music

Spotify is the best streaming service, but its competitors aren’t far behind

It can be hard to decide which music streaming service is for you, so we've picked out the individual strengths of the most popular services, aiming to make your decision a little easier.
Music

Rapper Mac Miller has died at age 26

Rapper Mac Miller has died at age 26 of an apparent drug overdose, following a longtime struggle with substance abuse throughout his 20s. Miller was scheduled to begin a nationwide tour in October.
Apple

OPINION: Apple’s new iPhones show off its best tech, and also its greed

We’re just as enamored by the new iPhones as the next person, but with fast charging an extra cost and the removal of the headphone dongle it feels like Apple is gouging us on accessories.
Music

Here are the best internet radio stations for your listening pleasure

Even in the streaming era, radio stations get some of the best exclusives and curate some of the finest handpicked playlists around. Here are the best internet radio stations, for your listening pleasure.
Music

A wealth of rich tunes: Cash in with the best songs about money

There may not be as many songs about money as there are songs about love, but it's a close second. If you're looking for a skrilla-inspired playlist, check out our picks for the best songs about money.
Home Theater

Get the most boom for your buck with the best headphones under $100

Everybody wants a bargain, and this list has a bunch. For those looking for a solid set of headphones without spending a big stack of cash, this list is is your starting point. Check out our picks for the best headphones under $100.
Home Theater

5 gorgeous turntables that spin stacks of wax in style for less than $500

Vinyl records are awesome, but they're also finicky. To get the best out of your stacks of wax, it's best to play them on a quality turntable. Here are the best turntables to be had for under $500.
Mobile

From true crime to comedy, here's our list of the best podcasts around

When you aren’t in the music mood, podcasts can be your ear candy. Whether you love to stay up-to-date on the latest news or want to know what’s happening in sports, you’ll find something on our must-listen-to podcast roundup.
Mobile

Google’s improvements to Sound Search will help it recognize songs better

Google has made some key improvements to how Sound Search works. By increasing the capacity of its machine learning algorithms, the company has made Sound Search faster and more accurate, especially in regards to more obscure songs.
Computing

Don't spend hundreds on Pro Tools or Logic. Try one of these free alternatives

Believe it or not, Pro Tools isn't the only digital audio workstation worth your time. Check out our picks for the best free recording software, whether you're looking for a lightweight app or a full-blown audio workstation. Updated meta…
1 of 4