If you are one of those people who cannot live a day without listening to music, chances are that you have done so via a popular streaming music platform. As of late, the two main contenders in the arena seem to be Apple Music and Spotify.
These streaming services are the present and future of music industry. Each has its own unique advantages; but which one will surpass the other?
Spotify is a platform that uses streaming as its means of media acquisition. Streaming is quickly becoming the dominant choice among media consumers. It doesn’t eat up memory on the device, new music is refreshed to the package, and playlists are sharable among friends, and the world, if you wish. Gone are the days of entering a password every time you make a purchase.
Soundtracks and compilation albums have been proven money makers in the music industry. Think of the playlist as a graduated version of the variety CD. These shared playlists benefit the user and composer alike. Every time and artist’s song is played, they get paid for it. Likewise, the user gets to enjoy the music at a fraction of the price, had they downloaded it.
Apple Music has been the dominating force when it comes to media downloads. You have the option to download a single song or an entire album from the 45 million in the iTunes Library, 15 million of which are unavailable to stream though. Also you have the option to get the digital art if you miss the old school days of CD booklets.
Apple has about 1 billion registered users on its network as well as a reputation for continued longevity. Despite iTunes’ staying power, Apple has seen a decline in downloaded albums and songs in 2015 by 16% in nominal terms, according to music industry analyst Mark Mulligan at Canadian Music Week in Toronto. This decline is expected to increase between 25% and 30% this year, nevertheless, iTunes music downloads are still estimated to be worth $600 million in 2019. Does the decline in sales spell the end of iTunes as Apple is preparing an aggressive two-year termination timetable for iTunes store?
Spotify vs Apple Music: the Clash
With music crossing over to the digital, the industry is poised to offer better quality, at a competitive rate. One of the major down sides to having music so readily accessible is that the sound quality suffers a bit. Even on the newest devices the compression technology doesn’t offer the same fidelity and listening quality that a CD does. Although the idea of streaming is still catching on, eventually the growth will plateau. This will give the music industry the chance to introduce ‘premium packages’ in which they can charge a slightly higher fee, for better sound quality. This may seem a tad on the greedy side, but compare this to the days when you were forced to pay $13-$17 dollars for one song, and maybe a few others you might like. When the two are seen side by side, streaming seems like a much more agreeable option.
1. Subscription Plan:
When comparing the subscription prices, Spotify and Apple Music have similar competitive packages. For example if you decide to go with either Spotify Premium or Apple Music Membership, the cost is $9.99 a month (with a 3-month free trial on both platforms), or you can sign up to a Family Plan for $14.99 a month, for up to 6 different people. Most people opt for the $9.99 option, so the actual cost is $120 a year, but that’s still pretty good. Apple Music also offers a Student Membership for $4.99 a month, which is quite cheap considering its benefits.
Another advantage that Spotify has is that you can listen to an entire album the day of its release, rather than just samples. A major downside to this service is that it doesn’t have all songs available. That ends up being true with both services because even Apple Music has a few bands that you won’t be able find in its libraries.
In terms of beating the competition in providing digital services, one major factor comes down to compatibility issues. Spotify adhering to this concern, is compatible with a number of devices and even supports older versions of iOS. It also has native clients for Windows, Android and Linux. A strong advantage, Spotify’s web player will work almost on any operating system.
Apple on the other hand, has taken a leap of faith by working on different operating systems, including Android. However, it is still not possible for users of older iOS devices to enjoy Apple Music, as it is not supported on iOS 8.4 or less. In addition, Apple Music has the disadvantage of not working on a web player and needs iTunes to play on a desktop. Practically, it is therefore inconvenient to play Apple Music for example when you are not using your own computer and have to install iTunes.
3. Sound Quality:
Music is all about the sound quality, right? Both Spotify and Apple Music bring decent audio quality to your ears. Spotify premium offers an adjustable rate with extreme quality as it calls it reaching a peak at 320 kbps Ogg, whereas Apple Music uses 256 kbps ACC. Hearing the experts’ viewpoint on the matter, findings from a listening study conducted by CNET comparing Spotify and Apple Music audio quality, it seems that Spotify wins this battle over their rivals.
4. Music Discovery:
This list of examining the pros and cons of each music streaming service, would not have been complete without looking into the discovery features of each platform.
Spotify has a number of options to find songs and artists or albums. Spotify’s “Discover” feature is perhaps not as effective, and does not recommend playlists but only artists, albums and individual tracks. However, its more recent addition “Discover Weekly” is a great way to browse new releases, as it offers a custom playlist of up to 2 hours of the hottest hits each week according to your preferences. There is also the “Now section”, a smart feature which recommends songs based on the time of day and day of the week using a grid instead of Microsoft’s hip tiles.
Their competitors, Apple Music shares a similar feature with the “For you” screen, a cool layout offering a mosaic of music suggestions inspired by Windows Phone’s live tiles. The feature allows you to find playlists, individual tracks and artists though it might take a bit longer to incorporate your preferences to know what suits you. There is also its “New” section which indicates suggestions of what other Apple Music users are listening to, and current playlists to enhance your music experience.
Spotify has a “Browse” section serving for similar purposes, yet it seems to have a more user friendly interface with top lists, genres and moods, as well as news.
5. Free Music:
Spotify is an exclusive streaming music service provider of free in-demand music. Users can enjoy any song or album for free, although intermittent ads subsidize the streaming. This free service feature has been heavily criticized by artists who claim that there is little gain money-wise. Nonetheless, Spotify claims that their free service prevents piracy and artists do get compensated through Spotify.
On the other end of the scale, although the impression is that Apple Music does not allow users to listen to songs for free, the reality is that Apple Music is available for free, including the Beats 1 station. This feature is available although interfered by advertising and you can enjoy up to 6 songs per hour.
6. Voice Control:
As far as apps is concerned, perhaps not surprisingly, Apple has the upper hand. On iOS for instance, only Apple can use Siri with apps, a feature that has been integrated into Apple Music. This digital assistant can handle requests like playing songs, albums or artists, and even locate and play the top playlists from a given year.
Spotify on the other hand, does not offer this type voice control or digital helper. You can enhance your overall Spotify experience with third-party apps like Vela, yet they are not integrated into iOS.
It’s tempting to look for a winner-looser situation when it comes to rivalry services or software.
The above comparison, was not meant to be exhaustive. In a perfect world we would just be able to combine the services, and then use it as we saw fit. Some songs that you like may not be on Spotify, and likewise, Apple Music may not have the songs you’re looking for either. There are people who use both services and cherry picking the features they like. People like the convenience of access to songs on the go, as well as being able to download and save them once in a while. Both services have their advantages and disadvantages. Who knows? Maybe soon the companies will merge and then we can enjoy all the benefits.
Until that happens, the answer to the question of which is better, Spotify or Apple Music, boils down to personal preference. If you like owning your music and having the files physically on your computer, Apple Music is the way to go. If you don’t want to be hindered by computer memory loss and have access to a ton of songs at any time and virtually from any device with decent sound quality and different discover music options, then check out Spotify.
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