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Which of these music streaming heavyweights is the best for you?
However, deciding between the two can be tough due to differences in the content variety, sound quality, and subscription options.
This article will unpack each platform’s features, making it easier for you to choose between the two services without any regrets. Keep reading to find out more!
YouTube Music Premium offers four audio quality settings, while Spotify Premium provides five. Here’s a breakdown of the audio quality for each setting:
|Audio Quality Setting
|Depends on internet speed
|Very High / Always High
|256 kbps (retains this quality regardless of internet speed)
Spotify and YouTube Music’s free tiers limit audio quality to 160 and 128 kbps, respectively. Overall, Spotify technically has better sound quality than YouTube Music because the former offers audio streaming up to 320 kbps on its Premium plan, compared to the latter’s 256 kbps.
Spotify’s higher bitrate can technically provide better sound, but the difference from 256 kbps may not be noticeable to casual listeners, especially on average audio equipment. Aside from that, though, Spotify’s maximum audio quality loads faster than YouTube Music’s 256 kbps. With an 80 Mbps connection, Spotify tracks load instantly, while YouTube Music often has a 2-3 second delay.
Both platforms have a dark-themed interface and a boxy grid layout for playlists and albums. Spotify excels with its more polished design, eye-catching header images, attractive cover art, and detailed playlist descriptions, effectively utilizing space. In contrast, YouTube Music’s design appears more simplistic, with some areas, like the Explore and Moods & Genres sections, lacking inspiration.
Spotify’s desktop app is more intuitive, thanks to a resizable sidebar with a drag-and-drop function, which I found handy for accessing and organizing my music library. On the other hand, YouTube Music doesn’t have a dedicated desktop app, so desktop users must rely on the web player. Unfortunately, it falls short of the feature-rich experience provided by Spotify.
Spotify and YouTube Music offer filterable search results but differ in presentation. On mobile, searching for an artist on Spotify shows only songs and featured playlists, while YouTube Music provides more detailed results, including top songs, videos, albums, and other related content. However, search results appear similar on the desktop app and web player.
A key difference in the Spotify mobile experience is Clips, short-form videos that bring a social media vibe similar to Instagram or TikTok. Sadly, YouTube Music has no interesting features like this, except for Video mode, which allows users to switch between audio tracks and their corresponding music videos.
Lastly, both platforms can be cast to other smart devices, with Spotify using Spotify Connect and YouTube Music using Google Chromecast. Spotify’s setup, however, feels more seamless. It can automatically detect all other devices connected to the same network and quickly switch between them, while YouTube Music often interrupts playback with notifications to select a playback device.
Content Availability and Variety
Both Spotify and YouTube Music, with their major label partnerships, boast extensive libraries exceeding 100 million tracks. With such a wide range of music genres available, it’s rare to encounter missing official releases on either platform.
Both apps have niche and unofficial tracks. But YouTube Music stands out with its wider range of user-uploaded content, including covers, demos, and remixes not found on Spotify.
For example, Taku Iwasaki’s Origin: Spirits of the Past soundtrack, absent on Spotify, is accessible through user-created playlists on YouTube Music. It’s a consistently reliable source for rare tracks, often filling the gaps Spotify leaves.
Personally, whenever I can’t find a song on Spotify, turning to YouTube Music almost always yields results.
When it comes to content variety, Spotify provides non-music content, hosting over 375,000 audiobooks, five million podcast titles, and ambient sound playlists. It also features Spotify Original Shows, which combines music with spoken word, allowing users to interact with songs featured in these shows.
On the other hand, YouTube Music offers a limited selection of podcasts but doesn’t officially host other non-music content like audiobooks. However, its integration with YouTube’s video content allows various non-music media, including unofficial podcasts and audiobooks, to slip through, thus diversifying its content.
Additionally, another standout feature of YouTube Music is its video streaming capability. I especially enjoyed the ease of accessing music videos, live-streamed concerts, and artist documentaries on the app. This blend of official and unofficial audio and visual content makes YouTube Music a more versatile and engaging choice for music lovers.
There are several ways you can discover new music on Spotify and YouTube Music, which you can see in the table below:
Explore (YouTube Music)
|“Made For You”
|“Mixed For You”
|“Fans Also Like”
|“Fans Might Also Like”
Spotify’s Search and YouTube Music’s Explore sections offer similar discovery features, allowing users to browse music by genre, mood, and new releases. The main difference lies in the volume and variety of their offerings.
Spotify’s Made For You section, with playlists like Daily Mixes, Release Radar, and Discover Weekly, is tailored to your listening habits by mixing familiar tunes with new recommendations. Your Niche Mixes is a personal favorite as it contains 100 playlists based on different moods or activities, including songs from genres and artists I don’t usually listen to.
YouTube Music counters this with its Mixed for You section, providing a similar personalized experience through mixes that reflect your listening trends. Its Discover Mix parallels Spotify’s Discover Weekly, offering weekly new song recommendations. However, its personalized mixes are notably fewer than what Spotify offers.
Spotify and YouTube Music have a “Recommended” and “Suggestions” section in user-created playlists, which provide new songs that align with the playlist’s theme. However, YouTube Music distinguishes itself by also suggesting Related Playlists, providing entire playlists with themes similar to what you’re currently listening to, thus enhancing music discovery.
On Spotify, you get an AI DJ feature, which uses artificial intelligence to analyze your listening habits and introduce new songs and artists. It’s like a personal radio host, offering insights and commentary. It’s also a more interactive and engaging way to explore music beyond your usual playlists.
Although YouTube Music’s improved personalized playlists gave me great, spot-on recommendations, Spotify’s wider range of discovery features and tools gives users more avenues to uncover new songs and artists.
Free Plan Comparison
Spotify and YouTube Music use a freemium model, but their free plans differ significantly. While both provide access to their entire content libraries, the way you can listen to that content varies between the two apps. For easy reference, we’ve laid out those differences in the table below:
|Free Plan Features
|Access to the entire library
|Yes (After 5 seconds)
|Six songs per hour max
|Yes (All platforms)
|Yes (Web player only)
|Yes (Desktop and web player)
|Yes (All platforms)
|Song mode and video mode
|Audio quality settings for desktop app
|Audio quality settings for web player
|Audio quality settings for mobile app
|Highest audio streaming quality
YouTube Music’s free plan allows ad-skipping and lets you listen to your music however you want, whether on shuffle mode, in a queue, or from a playlist. In contrast, Spotify Free restricts playback to certain playlists. You can skip only six songs per hour, whereas YouTube Music offers unlimited skips.
Ultimately, YouTube Music offers greater leeway to free users. So, if you’re searching for a hassle-free platform that lets you stream music for free without too many restrictions, this is the better option.
Perhaps the only downside to YouTube Music’s free tier is that it doesn’t support background play, so the mobile app must remain open for uninterrupted listening. However, this shouldn’t be a problem if you’re using the web player.
Premium Plans and Prices
Spotify and YouTube Music are identical in pricing and the basic premium features offered. Here’s a quick breakdown of the Premium plans and their prices:
|Additional Premium Plans
|Premium Duo ($14.99/month)
Premium Mini (~$0.13/day or ~$0.46/week)
Both platforms offer the same standard features, which include the following:
- High-quality audio streaming
- Ad-free, on-demand playback
- Full access to the entire content library
- Option to download songs for offline listening
Looking deeper, there are also fundamental differences that set them apart.
For example, Spotify offers more Premium plans like Duo and Mini. The former provides two people with separate Premium accounts for $7.50 each, provided they live at the same address, while the latter gives you unlimited Premium access for a day or a week. This makes Spotify a more flexible option for budget-conscious subscribers.
On the other hand, YouTube Music doesn’t have additional plans but offers a similar type of perk through their regular Premium plan. Those who sign up for a YouTube Premium account get automatic access to YouTube Music Premium and YouTube Originals. Essentially, subscribers get ad-free, on-demand playback for three different streaming services.
Both YouTube Music and Spotify provide song lyrics, but Spotify’s design and automated scrolling offer a better user experience. Additionally, Spotify’s unique Storyline feature gives insights into creating and producing songs, and I find myself missing this engaging aspect when using YouTube Music.
Spotify’s newly introduced Smart Shuffle elevates the shuffle experience by adding new, similar songs to your playlist for a more personalized listening journey. In contrast, YouTube Music’s shuffle simply randomizes your playlist’s order without introducing new songs, making Spotify’s approach more dynamic and user-centric.
In terms of audio customization, both Spotify and YouTube Music have equalizers that let you personalize your sound. However, Spotify stands out with additional features like Crossfade, Gapless, and Automix, enabling seamless transitions and smoother playback in your music queue. In contrast, YouTube Music lacks these advanced transition effects.
YouTube Music’s ability to play locally stored files is another great plus. And the fuss-free process of accessing those files is an even greater bonus. The app detects your local files and automatically displays them without needing to do anything else. Spotify, on the other hand, requires a little hoop-jumping to do the same.
Lastly, one of Spotify’s most fun features is its annual Wrapped series. It works by giving insight into how you’ve listened to music in the past year. YouTube Music also has a year-end review of your listening habits, called Recap, but it’s not as dynamic as Spotify Wrapped.
Which Should You Go For?
Here’s a recap of what you’ll be getting from each service:
|YouTube Music Premium
Overall, Spotify is the winner in this comparison, offering higher sound quality, a user-friendly interface, and non-music content. It has more music discovery tools, making it easy to find new music. The platform’s extra premium plans offer flexibility and value. Additionally, unique features like AI DJ and Smart Shuffle make the listening experience more engaging and fun.
On the other hand, YouTube Music excels in content amount, casting a wider net in terms of music variety. Its extensive range makes it ideal for those seeking unofficial or lesser-known music. Its free plan also offers fewer restrictions and a more enjoyable experience for budget-conscious users who prefer to avoid subscribing to a premium plan.
Plus, if you already have YouTube Premium, or are thinking of subscribing to it, YouTube Music comes for free with a YouTube Premium subscription, which helps you save some bucks.
Frequently Asked Questions
- How much do Spotify and YouTube Music pay artists?
- Which is more popular, Spotify or YouTube Music?
- Can I transfer my Spotify playlist to YouTube Music?
How much do Spotify and YouTube Music pay artists?
Spotify averages $0.0033 per stream in payouts, whereas YouTube Music pays about $0.002 per stream. These royalty rates are on the lower end of the spectrum of what popular music streaming services pay artists, which you can see in the table below:
|Pay per stream
|Streams to get $1,000