I’ve been an Apple Music subscriber (family plan) since day one. It’s been in the news quite a bit recently. Some good news and some bad news. I also keep Spotify installed on all my devices as well. There are aspects that are great about both services. I could argue that both are the best at their ultimate objectives.
Spotify, as a pure streaming service, is hands down the best platform. Technically, it’s rock solid. You don’t really read any articles about Spotify deleting content from user’s hard drives. I don’t see random screenshots of error messages on Twitter where tracks won’t play. If someone came to me and said I don’t own/don’t care about any existing music, what should I sign up for? I’d have to say Spotify. It has one goal: to be the best streaming music app (assuming the dabble into podcasts does’t eventually clutter up the UI). Spotify doesn’t build hardware. It doesn’t run a syncing service for data. It runs a music platform. It’s only focus is on music.
Every Monday morning, Spotify refreshes your Discover Weekly playlist. In my head, the features works like this. You get into the car on Monday morning headed to work/school/wherever. You launch Spotify, go to Discover Weekly and hit play. There is zero decision to make about what to listen to. This is a sister feature to Apple Music’s For You (I’ll discuss it later). In my experiences, it’s a really good feature. Apple claims that human curation is the future, but Discover Weekly is really good in the interim.
This might seem like a trivial feature,but Spotify notifies me when artists I am following release new music. Apple Music sort of has this though Connect, but that is assuming the artists promotes their new material.
Apple has typically been behind on social features, and music is no different. Spotify allows you to follow friends and browse their public playlists. Why can't I do this on Apple Music? Spotify is also the default place for sharing playlists for most people.
Over the past year, various artists have started holding out (temporary and permanent) music from Spotify. This includes Taylor Swift, Drake, Radiohead, and Beyoncé. While it's doubtful a single person likes all four of those artists, it's probable they like one. The risk for Spotify is that they become viewed like Netflix's movie selection (a lot of old stuff, but nothing new). Spotify is the young generation's iTunes in that it's their default music platform. If that platform stops having the music they want, they will look elsewhere.
As an old timer, I have 30 GB of music that I've ripped or purchased. With iCloud Music Library, my existing content co-exists with my streamed content. If Apple can fix incorrect matches, it will be a killer feature. I also still purchase a handful of albums each year. These albums appear just the same as if I was streaming them. This is also important for when artists aren'ton Apple Music. Lemonade from Beyonce is a streaming exclusive to Tidal, but can be purchased and uploaded to appear right along side the rest of your library.
Regardless of how much Spotify has done to help begin growing the industry again, Apple Music has a better perception among artists. From how it responded to Taylor Swift's open letter, to having Jimmy Iovine on board, Apple Music came at a time when a lot of artists where turning against Spotify over its free plan. Spotify is also partially owned by record labels. As the Internet continues to eliminate middle men from commerce, Apple is positioning itself as a company who loves music and wants to support the artists. If the role of record labels decreases, Apple has set itself up nicely.
While Spotify uses a lot of computer creation for content, Apple likes to take a "human approach". Both have their advantages. I've found plenty of great content through Apple Music. One of the best examples is the Intro to X style playlists. When I find a new artist, I start with this playlist. Instead of just covering the top songs, it covers a nice progression to their style.
Apple's family plan is $14.99/mo, and it covers up to 6 people. Spotify is $9.99/mo and an additional $4.99/mo per family member. For a lot of people, this will make the decision simple.
The Bad of Apple Music
Connect, in its current form, is useless to me. Most artists are using the big 3 social media platforms to engage with their fans. Connect is just another place. Connect should either be killed or become a place to feed in content from Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
From early complaints to more recent ones, Apple Music has a negative perception among (some of it is deserved) among some of the it's most passionate users. It takes a short amount of time to lose credibility, and it takes a long to build it back.
For You and Drake
For You was great in the beginning, but it's becoming stale for me. It's showing Intro to X for artists who are already in my library, and I haven't found much new recently. Apple has also made a deal with Drake for a rumored 19 million dollars. While I don't care for his music, I do recognize that he's extremely popular. I feel like he's been shoved down my throat in recent weeks. From an Intro to Drake appearing in For You, and banners appearing everywhere, I am becoming quite annoyed at his content being shoved down my throat.
Both services have room to improve, and get better. If you look what $9.99/mo buys a music fan in 2016, you'll realize how great technology has become.
I'll leave you with this, support for favorite artists. If you only stream their music, be sure to buy a t-shirt, join their fan club, or see them in concert.