Both are heavyweights in their own right but between Spotify vs. Youtube Music, which streaming app is best for you?
As the music streaming industry becomes more saturated, Youtube Music and Spotify remain household names that boast massive influence and a staggering user base.
But with seemingly identical features, it may be difficult for some to choose between the two. So, how exactly do these two behemoths stack up against each other? And which one will compliment your listening habits best?
What Is Spotify?
Spotify is the brainchild of Swedish entrepreneurs Daniel Ek and Martin Lorentzon. The app debuted in Europe in 2008 and quickly gained ground after reaching its first million subscribers in 2011. Today, it’s one of the most popular music streaming services available.
What Is Youtube Music?
Youtube Music is a music streaming service developed by Youtube under Google. It was first launched as Youtube Music Key in 2014 and designed as a complementary video streaming service to the now-extinct Google Play Music. The app underwent a couple of rebrandings before finally becoming Youtube Music in 2018.
Free Plan Comparison
Spotify and Youtube Music operate on a freemium business model. Both services offer free plans that allow users to stream music with ads. Both also provide the option to upgrade to a Premium account.
You can expect to see a lot of differences in both apps’ free plan offerings. Yes, you can access their entire content library, but how you get to listen to that content differs.
For quick and easy reference, we’ve laid out those differences in this table.
|Features||Youtube Music Free Plan||Spotify Free Plan|
|Grants access to entire content library||Yes||Yes|
|Ad skips||After 5 seconds||No|
|Background play||Yes (Web player only)||Yes (All platforms)|
|Song skips||Yes (Unlimited)||Yes (Maximum of 6 songs/hour)|
|On-demand playback||Yes (All platforms)||Yes (Desktop and web player)|
|Offline streaming||No download option for songs or videos||No download option for songs|
|Playback modes||Offers song mode and video mode||No video mode|
|Number of audio quality settings for desktop app||2 settings:|
Automatic (depends on internet speed)
|Number of audio quality settings for web player||2 settings:|
|Number of audio quality settings for mobile||1 setting:|
Automatic (depends on internet speed)
|Highest audio streaming quality||128kbps||160kbps|
Youtube Music offers greater leeway to free users. So, if you’re searching for a hassle-free platform that just lets you stream music without too many restrictions, this may be a better option.
Free Youtube Music lets you skip ads, whereas Spotify does not. You can listen to your music however you want, whether on shuffle mode, in a queue, or from a playlist. Spotify, on the other hand, limits playback to specific playlists only. You can also skip as many songs as you like, whereas Spotify only lets you skip 6 songs per hour.
Perhaps the only downside to Youtube Music is that the mobile app must remain open for uninterrupted listening. If you’re using the desktop app, however, this shouldn’t be a problem.
Pricing & Plans
Both apps are virtually identical in terms of pricing and the basic premium features offered. Here’s a quick breakdown of the Premium plans and their prices:
|Platform||Individual Premium||Family Plan||Student Plan|
These plans offer the same standard features on both platforms, which are:
- 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 fundamental differences that set them apart:
Audio quality difference
Both apps offer high-quality streaming. However, Youtube Music’s is capped at 256kbps, and Spotify’s goes up to 320kbps.
Additional subscription plans
Aside from their Individual, Family, and Student plans, Spotify also offers a Premium Duo plan. This allows two people (who live at the same address) to have two separate Premium accounts for a discounted price of $12.99.
Bonus access to other streaming services
Unlike Youtube Music’s Family plan, Spotify’s Premium Family plan gives subscribers access to Spotify Kids. There are also additional perks in place for those who sign up for a Premium Student plan. Aside from a 50% discount, students also get access to two popular VOD streaming services, Hulu and SHOWTIME.
On the other hand, Youtube Music 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.
Verdict: Which is more worth it?
All in all, Spotify outshines Youtube Music in more ways than one. It offers better audio quality and subscription flexibility. Not to mention bonus access to other streaming services like Spotify Kids, Hulu, and SHOWTIME.
Ultimately, the decision depends on your needs and preferences.
For instance, Spotify may be a better bet for those who have kids or those on a budget. It may also be better for students who enjoy streaming movies and TV shows, or those who are heavy podcast listeners.
On the other hand, Youtube Music may be a better option for those who want other music-related content like music videos, performances, or documentaries of their favorite artists.
I should point out, however, that what Youtube Music lacks in bonus streaming services it makes up for with their built-in video streaming option. You can watch any music-related videos, such as live performances, concerts, and even documentaries, in high quality (if available) through the app.
Who Has Better Content?
Both platforms have undeniably massive music collections spanning various genres and consisting of both mainstream and indie artists. But how exactly do these collections differ, if at all?
Amount of music content
Spotify’s music offerings are also quite diverse. Thanks to an exclusive partnership between Spotify and Billboard, mainstream music lovers are sure to find many of their favorite songs in any one of the 4 billion playlists in their collection. Another perk of the partnership also allows Spotify subscribers to stream popular Billboard charts, like the Hot 100, Billboard 200, and Billboard Weekly, straight from the app.
Beyond the mainstream, Spotify is equally as good at highlighting independent artists’ works through a well-developed Indie section.
A quick search on the app will pull up as many as 100 Spotify-curated Indie playlists right off the bat. And that’s just barely scratching the surface. You have popular playlists like Indie Pop and Ultimate Indie, which garner one to two million followers each. And you also have thematic playlists, some with delightfully specific titles such as Garden Indie or Indie Sunshine.
In February 2021, Youtube Music, on the other hand, accumulated as many as 70 million official music releases in their library.
This was made possible through a partnership with Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment, and Warner Music Group (aka VEVO). The partnership not only allows Youtube Music subscribers to listen to all their favorite chart-topping hits but also lets them watch their official music videos straight from the app.
In terms of Indie music offerings, Youtube Music has a decent number of playlists, though it requires some digging. Under Genres, Indie is lumped in with Alternative music, and even then, the section only features about 32 curated playlists, like Coffee Shop Indie and Mellow Indie. Typing ‘Indie’ in the Search bar will pull up several more playlists, though the collection is not as extensive as what Spotify offers.
In addition to music, Spotify has a wealth of non-music content to choose from. Subscribers can opt to listen to ambient sound playlists, or indulge in the beauty of the spoken word with a selection of over 7,170 audiobooks.
Spotify’s podcast collection is also impressive. And it’s thanks to the acquisition of podcast production companies like Gimlet Media, Anchor, Parcast, and The Ringer. As of February 2022, Spotify plays host to as many as 3.6 million titles. It’s also the exclusive streaming partner for The Joe Rogan Experience, The Michelle Obama Podcast, and Archewell Audio, the official podcast of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.
Spotify also recently launched Spotify Original Shows, which combines music and spoken-word content. Each show explores music history, trends, and stories, and is interspersed with songs related to the topic. Users can also interact with the songs by saving or liking them as they would on regular music playlists.
Youtube Music content is, unsurprisingly, more music-driven. Those looking for podcasts are advised to go to Google Podcasts, which may be inconvenient if you’re a Youtube Music subscriber looking to integrate the two features. You also won’t find audiobooks, spoken word tracks, or even ambient sound playlists “officially” hosted on the app itself.
Interestingly, there is a loophole to this setup. The beauty (or flaw?) of Youtube Music is that it takes a lot of its content from the video-sharing side of Youtube. With the help of a music-classifying algorithm, music content is filtered out from non-music content.
Whether due to a glitched algorithm or something else, a lot of non-music content still inadvertently makes its way onto the platform. As such, users are able to access loads of unofficial podcasts, audiobooks, and other non-music content on the app. And while most of these unofficial uploads are neither exclusive nor new, it certainly adds variety to Youtube Music’s content landscape.
Both apps have a strong core of mainstream music, thanks to partnerships they’ve made with major music distributors. However, Spotify does better with lots of original indie music from relatively unknown artists.
Youtube Music also has an edge by providing rare versions and covers of different songs. Those 70 million official releases? Well, that doesn’t even factor in unofficial content like song remixes, genre-bending song versions, song mash-ups, etc.
Podcast and audiobook enthusiasts will undoubtedly get more satisfaction from Spotify’s content, with its endless choices of original and exclusive shows available.
But as mentioned earlier, the real silver lining of Youtube Music is the inclusion of video streaming. For many, the ease of being able to watch music videos, concerts, live performances, behind-the-scenes videos, and even documentaries on their favorite artists is very appealing. Coupled with its ability to live stream concerts, Youtube Music may see an even further boost in content variety in the future.
Youtube Music Premium subscribers get 4 settings of audio quality, while Spotify Premium subscribers get 5 levels. Here’s what kind of audio quality each of those settings offers:
|Audio Quality Setting||Spotify||Youtube Music|
|Automatic||Depends on internet speed||N/A|
|Very High / Always High||320kbps||256kbps|
Spotify clearly outshines Youtube Music with a maximum streaming quality of 320kbps.
But keep in mind that to a casual listener, there isn’t going to be any noticeable difference between 256kbps and 320kbps in terms of sound quality. Even more so if you’re using mid- to low-tier audio gear. Any difference in clarity and detail will be more apparent if you’re going from 128kbps to 320kbps.
Additionally, perhaps because of how the apps are designed, Spotify’s highest audio quality actually takes less time to load than Youtube Music’s 256kbps, especially when comparing them with the same internet speed. At around 80mbps of internet speed, Spotify’s tracks almost load instantaneously, while you may have to wait for 2-3 seconds in Youtube Music.
Music Discovery is an important feature in music streaming apps. It’s great for keeping your library from going stale and, at the same time, helps lesser-known artists grow their audience.
Both Youtube Music and Spotify have algorithms in place that monitor the songs and artists that you like, and those you skip.
Using this info, it adapts to your music taste and recommends new music that it thinks you’ll most likely enjoy. These recommendations appear as personalized playlists created specifically for you, and both apps have several of them.
Here are some of the ways you can discover new music on Spotify and Youtube Music, and how each feature compares or differs between both apps:
|Discovery Feature||Spotify||Youtube Music|
|Browse tab (Spotify)||● Genres & Moods|
● New Releases
● Global Charts
|● Genres & Moods
● New Releases
● Global Charts
|Playlist Recommendations||● Recommended Songs||● Suggestions|
|Personalized Mixes||“Made For You”|
● Daily Mix
● Release Radar
● Discover Weekly
|“Mixed For You”
● My Mix
● My Supermix
● New Release Mix
● Discover Mix
|Artist Profile Recommendations||“Fans Also Like”||“Fans Might Also Like”|
Youtube Music makes a decent effort with improved personalized playlisting. But, frankly, it doesn’t come close to what Spotify’s discovery algorithm can do when it comes to sending new music your way.
What I particularly like is Spotify’s Tastebreakers playlist. It’s unique in the sense that it doesn’t just present you with songs you might like based on stuff you already like. Instead, it recommends songs from genres and artists you don’t normally listen to. And that’s game-changing.
Spotify also has another great playlist called RADAR, which focuses on new, emerging talent. This type of feature is noticeably absent in Youtube Music, which feels somewhat like a missed opportunity. While Youtube Music has an impressive range of content in its midst, it has yet to fully take advantage of it with a better music discovery algorithm.
Both apps make considerably similar efforts when it comes to offering listeners a way to discover new music. However, Spotify’s hybrid discovery algorithm is more successful at pinpointing which songs and artists you’ll most likely enjoy. While Youtube Music’s discovery algorithm isn’t bad per se, it feels like it does need more work in harnessing its listeners’ taste.
Ease of Use
Both platforms feature a dark-themed interface, with playlists and albums organized in a simple grid layout. Both are notably similar, but Spotify manages to make better use of the space with striking header images, more appealing cover art, and playlist descriptions. Youtube Music, on the other hand, feels somewhat unfinished in its design. Some sections look nicely put together, while others, like the Moods & Genres section, look downright uninspired.
One feature I appreciate on Spotify is the stationary navigation sidebar on the desktop app. It allows you to quickly access certain functions and features regardless of how far down the rabbit hole of Spotify content you are. In place of this feature, Youtube Music has a simple 3-tab navigation bar at the top of its desktop app. While it’s certainly better than nothing, it doesn’t offer the same accessibility that Spotify’s sidebar does.
Spotify also offers more intuitive controls. For example, you can easily drag and drop songs from other playlists into your personal playlists located in the sidebar. The mobile app also offers more sorting options for songs, and even allows you to search for songs within playlists.
Speaking of ‘search’, both apps do have a decent Search function. Spotify stays true to its sleek, minimalist aesthetic. It does so by displaying all search results on a single page, gridded and sorted according to artist, album, playlist, etc. I personally prefer Youtube Music’s more straightforward approach of providing search filters. This makes it so that you’re only seeing the results you want.
Youtube Music’s search function is better, thanks to its ability to filter search results. But overall, Spotify provides more intuitive functions. Moving around the app and editing playlists is easier with the navigation sidebar. And the addition of sorting options also makes it easier to manage larger playlists.
Both Youtube Music and Spotify feature song lyrics that users can access while listening to music. However, Spotify goes the extra mile with better design and automated scrolling. It also features Storyline, which gives users insight into how certain songs were written and produced. It’s a pretty cool feature to have, and I sometimes find myself looking for it while using Youtube Music.
Both apps 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.
Spotify initially announced plans to bring HiFi audio streaming to subscribers back in 2021. Unfortunately, licensing issues have placed that feature on hold for now. If Youtube Music is able to bring this to the table sooner, Spotify runs the risk of losing its competitive edge.
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 simply detects your local files and automatically displays them in the app 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 you insight into how you’ve listened to music in the past year. A variation of this feature would undoubtedly be fun to see on Youtube Music, especially if it can factor in music videos you’ve watched, as well.
Some people may not mind Youtube Music’s simplistic lyrics display, while others may prefer Spotify’s flashier aesthetic. Some may not even care for lyrics at all. Both apps can cast to other devices, so it’ll simply depend on what devices you already own and which one is more convenient for you.
However, Youtube Music’s ability to play local files may tip you further in their direction. So as long as Spotify hasn’t released their long-promised Hi-Fi audio streaming quality, this goes to Youtube Music.
How Much Do Spotify and Youtube Music Pay Artists?
|Platform||Pay per stream||Streams to get $1,000|
When it comes to royalties, both Spotify and Youtube Music are on the lower end of the spectrum of what music streaming services pay artists. And that’s despite the enormous user base both platforms boast. In 2022, Spotify pays out an average of $0.0033 per stream, while Youtube Music pays an even lower $0.002 per stream.
Spotify pays two types of royalties for music:
- Recording royalties: Royalties paid to labels or rightsholders for music that is streamed or downloaded.
- Composition royalties: Royalties paid to songwriters or anyone who participated in a song’s composition.
These are combined with the label or artist’s share of revenue generated by the total volume of their streams.
Youtube Music follows a similar pattern. But what makes the platform different is that music royalties can also be earned from music uploaded on Youtube (the main site). Here’s how:
Streams or views from paid Youtube and Youtube Music accounts automatically generate royalties for artists from subscription fees. Free accounts, however, do not generate royalties.
One way artists can still benefit from free streams is by monetizing their content (music videos, lyric videos, etc) through ads. This allows them to receive a portion of the ad revenue as royalties. YouTube ads typically make about $7-10 for every 1,000 impressions, which isn’t too shabby.
Content monetization is done through Youtube’s Partner Program, so any music monetized through that program applies to both Youtube and Youtube Music. However, not all content can be monetized. Channels will need to have at least 1,000 subscribers and over 4,000 watch hours in a year, among others.
Youtube’s Content ID
This system assigns a unique digital ID that allows artists and labels to track their content throughout the entirety of Youtube’s database. It basically allows artists and rightsholders to exercise more control over their music by either tracking, blocking, or monetizing any other content that uses it.
In the case of monetization, the revenue is shared by rightsholders or artists and the uploader.
Another way artists and labels can earn is through micro-sync royalties. These are generated when music is added alongside a moving image or video on an online video streaming platform like Youtube.
Rightsholders can opt to either monetize content that uses their music or charge a micro-sync license fee, which will grant the license holder use of their music catalog. Youtube currently pays micro-sync royalties only for US-based views.
As we know, free streams generate lower revenue/royalties than Premium streams. And some countries charge lower subscription rates, also generating lower revenue/royalties per stream.
As such, it’s hard to come up with an exact formula for how these are calculated and how much artists are getting. Additionally, payout rates are also dependent on the agreements between labels and artists.
Spotify may have more paid subscribers than Youtube Music, but its 406 million monthly active users pale in comparison to the 2.3 billion people who use Youtube every month.
Ultimately, this translates to better chances for artists to gain exposure and grow their audience. Plus, artists also stand to earn more royalties from Youtube not just from their own content, but other people’s as well.
Which Should You Go For?
Here’s a recap of what you’ll essentially be getting from each service:
|Spotify Premium||Youtube Music Premium|
Spotify is certainly more flexible, thanks to plan options that suit different lifestyles. It offers higher audio quality and better music discovery features that music lovers will appreciate. You also get an intuitive design that’s easy to use.
In contrast, Youtube Music offers a free plan that’s way more accommodating than most. You also get an easy way to upload local music files. Not to mention, it’s a great platform that offers diverse ways for artists to earn from their music.
As for music content and variety, both platforms do have a lot to offer. Spotify’s library of diverse genres and well-curated playlists will please any music fan. And the same goes for those looking for podcasts and audiobooks.
Casual music listeners who want something a little different (mash-ups, covers, etc) will enjoy Youtube Music’s variation. Those also looking for hard-to-find soundtracks will also fare better with Youtube Music than Spotify.
Hopefully, our breakdown of both apps’ features will have highlighted what is most important to you as a music listener. If you’ve made it this far and you’re still confused about which app to choose – do not worry. You can check out our comprehensive Spotify review and Youtube Music review for a more in-depth discussion on their features.
Plus, you can always go for their free trials to shed even more light on the facts we’ve shared here.
How did you find our review? Did we accurately cover the essential points, or do you think we left out some crucial aspects? If you’d like to share your thoughts on your experiences with both apps, please leave us a line or two in the comments below.