Arguably the biggest area where Spotify finds itself behind its competitors is radio. In our own personal tests, choosing a particular artist to build a station around on Spotify doesn’t offer the same creative discovery you’ll get from services like Pandora.
Choosing the artist Gary Clark Jr. on Spotify, for instance, called up similar artists like The Black Keys, Eric Clapton, and Stevie Ray Vaughan, but it tended to mainly focus on Clark Jr.’s own music. While choosing a specific genre for a Spotify radio station allows for a wider selection of songs, the service also tends to focus on run-of-the-mill hits — the Jazz station, for one, tends to stick to the same 50 or 60 standards. It’s still a worthwhile listening experience, but Spotify’s radio feature doesn’t journey far outside of the box.
In an age that prioritizes automation, Apple Music’s preference for the human touch really helps with radio-style programming. This philosophy is embodied in Beats 1, Apple Music’s premier radio station that runs nonstop, playing music on live radio shows selected by DJs.
While in-house DJs like Zane Lowe do an admirable job, especially when it comes to premieres, the most intriguing shows on Beats 1 are those hosted by notable musicians such as Annie Clark (St. Vincent), Q-Tip (A Tribe Called Quest), and Ryan Adams. These shows provide listeners a unique look into the tastes of artists they admire. Some of them also have interesting formats, such as St. Vincent’s Mixtape Delivery Service, in which Clark solicits fans to tell her what is going on in their lives and assembles playlists to suit them.
Beyond Beats 1, Apple Music has a number of more generic radio stations for those who simply want to listen to say, classic rock, jazz, or Top 40 hits. There are also non-music stations such as BBC News and ESPN, creating a menagerie of options that’s hard to, well, beat.
Winner: Apple Music
Apple Music costs the industry-standard $10 per month, as does Spotify Premium, Tidal Premium, Pandora’s on-demand service, and just about every other on-demand subscription service on the block (Amazon Music Unlimited costs $10 per month, or $8 with an Amazon Prime subscription). Apple originally hoped to undercut its competitors by offering its service for $8, or even $5 per month, but that plan was derailed by the major labels that own the rights to the vast majority of the company’s catalog. To make an Apple Music or Spotify subscription a bit more appealing, both companies offer special family packs that allow customers to add up to six individual accounts for a grand total of just $15 per month.
If you’re considering Apple Music, there’s another way to save some cash. Current users can get a year’s worth of service for $99, as long as you know where to look. You’ll first need to be subscribed to Apple Music (it doesn’t matter which subscription you have). Head to your Subscriptions in the App Store app (accessed through your Apple ID at the bottom of the ‘Featured’ tab) and select Apple Music. You should see an “Individual (1 year)” option for $99 — select it, and you can save nearly 20 percent over the course of a year. Credit goes to Techcrunch for discovering the tip.
Considering Apple grants every prospective subscriber three months of Apple Music for free, the service may be sweeping away more of Spotify’s user base than CEO Daniel Ek would like to acknowledge. However — and this is key — Apple does not have a free, ad-based tier like Spotify, which is a big reason the Swedish company was able to corral so many users in the first place. The majority of Spotify’s users listen for free, and that’s better than any three month trial or discounted yearlong subscription Apple could offer.