Not surprisingly, given the vastness of the digital world, there are several different services that are dedicated specifically to streaming music. With that comes the question of which services are better than others, an argument I’ve run into more times than I can count. When I tell someone for the first time that I’m an Apple Music user, I’m usually met with the same one-word question: “Why?” From there, they sometimes start telling me why they prefer a different streaming service — maybe it’s cheaper, or maybe there’s a TV subscription bundle. Look, I’m not here to tell you what apps you should or shouldn’t use. But I’ll tell you why I’ll defend Apple Music until the day I die.
My first answer to this question is that I use the service out of nostalgia. I grew up with iTunes. I still remember buying songs with my parents’ account on the old computer in my den, then finding my favorite albums with my own account and loading them onto all the iPods and iPhones I’ve had over the years. An iTunes gift card was and continues to be at the top of my Christmas and birthday wish lists. My transition from iTunes to Apple Music was easy—when I upgraded my iPhone my freshman year of college, my new plan came with three free months of service, and I’ve never looked back.
Apple Music is separate from iTunes, of course – Apple Music is Apple’s streaming service launched in 2015, while iTunes is itself a media library and player. But the two are now merged into one app. I’ve been using the same app on my phone screen to access my music even before I started paying for Apple Music, and the clean UI doesn’t look any different. If I search for a new song, my screen is formatted the same way it was when I was younger, only instead of the option to buy the song for $1.29, I can just hit add to library. Songs are added directly to my library as if I actually own them, and paying $5.99 a month for unlimited songs is a much better deal than constantly multiplying $1.29 every time I focus on a new artist or album . Spotify is technically a dollar cheaper for a student subscription and gives you access to Hulu too, but I already pay for Hulu so we’ll just ignore that.
Now would be a good time to make a very important disclaimer: I do have a Spotify account. At some point in the long period where I didn’t have any money from iTunes, I made the account because YouTube wasn’t cutting it anymore either. Does that more or less make you believe my opinion? If anything, I think this makes me a more reliable source for comparing the two services. Spotify may seem like the better option because it has a free tier as well as its premium subscription, while Apple Music is only a paid service. The features that Spotify Premium offers are undoubtedly fascinating: no ads, unlimited skipping and the ability to play music offline. But in trying to get users to actually upgrade to Premium, Spotify is alienating them by bombarding them with ads every one or two songs and only allowing music to play in “shuffle mode” (this is true at least for the mobile app; for for some reason this does not apply to the desktop version).
Yes, I understand that having an ad-based free tier is kind of standard these days, but if you really want to convince me to subscribe, forcing me to either pay or delete the app entirely isn’t the way to go. I also personally hate the idea of having to purchase the ability to play songs in order – sometimes I’m in the mood to listen to an album chronologically, and shuffle mode just isn’t an option when I want to listen to show tunes. That Apple Music is only paid may seem limiting to potential customers, but I’d rather have to pay at all to use a service than pretend that the free version of another service is worth it in the long run.
In addition to the free vs. premium debate, I prefer Apple Music over Spotify because of its overall structure. As I mentioned earlier, Apple Music sorts added songs into one big library, while Spotify’s main system is playlists. Frankly, I’m less likely to actively seek out new music, which makes the playlists Spotify curates for me a waste of time. Being able to make my own playlists is also nice, but then I run into all the above complications when I actually try to play them. By organizing my music into a library like Apple Music, it’s easier for me to find specific songs or albums and play them myself. Even within this structure, my library is organized chronologically, something that’s especially useful when I have certain songs on repeat for weeks at a time, and includes songs I’ve physically purchased in the past alongside songs I technically don’t own – as a musical a sort of time capsule. Spotify technically allows you to add local files to your playlists, but you can’t search for those files in the same ways you would other songs. I like having all my music in one place, no matter where it comes from, so Apple Music wins again.
Finally, I think the little things that Apple Music brings also give it an edge over Spotify. It can offer more than just music — there are also radio shows, music videos, the occasional Behind the Album documentary, and other special features. The karaoke-style text feature is also aesthetically pleasing and makes it easy to learn the words to brand new songs while in the car. Spotify has become almost a social media platform as well as a streaming service, with a section that shows you what your friends are listening to. Music, like so many art forms, is a form of connection as well as entertainment, which I love. But sometimes I listen to things I just don’t want my friends to ask me about.
Of course, I can’t fail to point out that Apple Music currently pays its artists more than double what Spotify does. Artists earn about a penny per stream through Apple Music, a much better number than the $0.0033 per stream from Spotify (to do the math, that means you have to play a song 236 times for that artist to earn one dollar). Tens of thousands of musicians were rightly upset by the discrepancy in these numbers, going so far as to create petitions aimed directly at Spotify to bring about greater transparency and positive change in their recognition by the streaming giants. Since streaming is the primary mode of listening, it is more than reasonable to want music services to accurately reflect their user traffic and fandoms in the royalties given to the artists themselves. If any of the other points I’ve made so far don’t sit well with you, maybe the knowledge that my streams stack up faster on top of my favorite artists’ paychecks will stand.
If you’ve come this far and think I’ve written this entire article out of spite, the truth is, you’re right. Is all this writing mostly a result of my annoyance with people making fun of me for not using Spotify? Maybe – I’ve literally been booed before. Is my love of Apple Music just an extreme case of brand loyalty? I wouldn’t consider myself that much of a snob. Could this be a more convincing argument if I compare these two apps to other music services? Maybe, but who really uses YouTube Music anyway? The music is so personal despite the vastness of the material available. Apple Music most reflects that feeling for me – I can trace how much I’ve grown over the years simply because I’ve used it (or something like it) for so long. It’s not as much of a social platform, which makes my library a little more personal. I feel it more like “mine”.
I’ll admit that Spotify has a few good things going for it: I’ll use it when I’m in the rare mood to discover new music or want to find niche playlists, and I’ll admit that it’s fun to post my Spotify Wrapped at the end of the year along with everyone else. But when it comes to who I’m going to give my money to, Apple Music is the only great option, and I’m going to die on that hill.
Daily Arts writer Hannah Carapellotti can be found at [email protected].