An Interesting Comparison: Spotify (The Goth) vs. Apple Music (The Stoner)

I don’t need to subscribe to all the streaming music services, but since it’s my job to know about this stuff, I fork out for premium access with a bunch of them every month. My preferences change month-to-month. I was into Apple Music for a while because of Beats 1. Then I needed a playlist for a dinner with friends with picky musical tastes which lead me to the Songza-style recommendations on Google Play Music. Lately, I’ve drifted into Spotify because I like the interface.

If I had to choose just one, I have no idea what I’d do.

This article from the New York Times’ consumer advocate, The Haggler, looks at the situation.

In this episode, we depart from the familiar letter-and-intervention format for a dive into the world of music streaming services. It is a topic that fascinates the Haggler, who can still barely fathom that for a mere $10 a month, he can get access to just about any musical recording on the planet.

But which streaming app is the best? The Haggler has been mulling this question for a while, and after a lot of dabbling he regards Spotify as the gold standard. It is sturdy and remarkably fast; when you play a song from the cloud, it starts so quickly it seems to be waiting for you.
The system is also easy to use. Streaming services, at least to the Haggler, are all about creating playlists — grabbing albums and songs and putting them in a place where you can find them quickly. That process is simple and intuitive on Spotify.
If the system has a weakness, it is a less-than-lovely user interface, which is black and a Halloweenish shade of green — a little too goth for the Haggler’s tastes. Far more important, it isn’t great at introducing you to new albums and acts. It has features and algorithms designed to help you find undiscovered music, but they aren’t compelling or visually appealing enough to be much help. The Haggler winds up listening to the same stuff over and over.
This is why the Haggler has been rooting for Apple Music since an Android version of it was unveiled in November. The user interface is gorgeous — bright, airy and dominated by album art — and it is the finest new music introduction system ever created. It’s like a professional matchmaker who never sleeps. It is always trying to find you something to love.
But for all its upsides, Apple Music for iOS has been criticized for randomly deleting both songs and playlists. On Android, though, the app behaves even more weirdly. It took the Haggler a while to figure out what was happening. Then, a few weeks ago, it all became clear: Apple Music is stoned.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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