It’s no surprise that, given the vastness of the digital world, there are several different services that are dedicated specifically to streaming music. With that comes a question of which services are better than others, an argument I’ve found myself in more times than I can count. When I tell somebody for the first time that I am an Apple Music user, I am usually met with the same, one-word question: “Why?” From there, sometimes they launch into telling me why they prefer a different streaming service — maybe it’s cheaper, or maybe it has a bundle with a TV subscription. Look, I’m not here to tell you what apps you should or shouldn’t use. But I will 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 using iTunes. I still remember buying songs with my parents’ account on the old computer in my den, then discovering my now-favorite albums with my own account and loading them onto all of 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 an easy one — when I upgraded my iPhone during my freshman year of college, my new plan came with three free months of the 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 the media library and player itself. But the two have now merged together into a single app. I’ve used that same app on my phone screen to access my music even before I began paying for Apple Music, and the clean user interface looks no different. If I look up 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 simply hit “add to library.” Songs are added directly to my library as if I really owned them, and paying $5.99 a month for unlimited songs is a much better deal than constantly multiplying $1.29 whenever I hyperfixate on a new artist or album. Spotify is technically a dollar cheaper for a student subscription, and it gets 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 a long stretch of not having any iTunes money, I made the account because YouTube wasn’t cutting it anymore, either. Does that make you trust my opinion more, or less? If anything, I think it makes me a more credible source to compare 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 a paid-only service. The features that Spotify Premium offers are undoubtedly compelling: no ads, unlimited skips and the ability to play music offline. But in its attempts to get users to actually switch to Premium, Spotify alienates them, bombarding them with ads every one or two songs and only allowing music to be played on “shuffle mode” (this is true at least on the mobile app; for some reason this does not apply on the desktop version).
Yeah, I understand that having a free ad-based tier is kind of standard nowadays, 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 needing to purchase the ability to play songs in order — sometimes I’m in the mood to listen to an album chronologically, and shuffle mode simply isn’t an option when I want to listen to show tunes. Apple Music being paid-only may seem limiting to potential customers, but I’d rather have to pay to use a service at all than pretend the free version of another service is worth it long-term.
On top of the “free vs premium” debate, I prefer Apple Music over Spotify because of its overall structure. As I touched on earlier, Apple Music sorts added songs in one big library, whereas Spotify’s main system is playlists. I am honestly less likely to actively look for new music, which makes the playlists that Spotify curates for me a waste of their time. Being able to make my own playlists is nice, too, but then I encounter all of the above complications whenever I actually try to play them. Having my music organized in a library like Apple Music’s makes it easier for me to locate certain songs or albums and play them by themselves. Even within this structure, my library is organized chronologically, something that’s especially helpful when I have certain songs on repeat for weeks on end, and includes songs that I physically purchased in the past alongside songs that I don’t technically own — like a musical time capsule of sorts. Spotify does technically let you add local files to your playlists, but you can’t search for those files in the same ways that you would other songs. I like having all of my music in one place, no matter where it came from, so Apple Music wins yet again.
Lastly, to me, it’s the little things that Apple Music carries that also give it a leg up over Spotify. It has more to offer than just music — there’s also radio shows, music videos, the occasional “Behind the Album” documentary and other special features. The karaoke-style lyric feature is also aesthetically pleasing and makes it very easy to learn the words to brand-new songs while I’m in the car. Spotify has become almost a social media platform as well as a streaming service, with a tab that shows you what your friends are listening to. Music, like so many forms of art, is a form of connection as well as entertainment, which I love. But sometimes I listen to things that I just don’t want my friends asking me about.
Of course, I can’t forget to point out that Apple Music currently pays its artists more than double what Spotify does. Artists earn about a penny per stream via Apple Music, a much nicer number compared to $0.0033 a stream from Spotify (to do the math, that means you’d have to play a song 236 times in order for that artist to make one dollar). Tens of thousands of musicians have been rightly stirred up by the discrepancy in these numbers, going so far as to create petitions targeting Spotify directly in order to bring about greater transparency and positive change in being recognized by streaming giants. With streaming being the primary mode of listenership, 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 resonate with you, maybe the knowledge that my streams add up faster on my favorite performers’ paychecks will stick.
If you’ve made it this far and think I’ve just written this entire article out of spite, the truth is, you’re right. Is all of this writing mostly a result of my annoyance at people poking fun at me for not using Spotify? Maybe — I have gotten literally booed before. Is my love for Apple Music just an extreme case of brand loyalty? I wouldn’t consider myself that much of a snob. Could this have been a more compelling argument if I compared these two apps with other music services? Perhaps, but who really uses YouTube Music, anyway? Music is so personal, despite the vastness of available material. Apple Music happens to reflect that sentiment the most for me — I can track 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 private. It feels more like “mine.”
I will admit, Spotify does have 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 will admit 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’ll give my money to, Apple Music is the only great option, and I’ll die on that hill.
Daily Arts Writer Hannah Carapellotti can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.