Look they’re both bad, but watching a company completely ruin itself because of Joe Rogan is a bandwagon I’ll happily jump on.
Over the weekend, we made the decision to ditch our Spotify subscription and pick up the Apple One bundle. Why? Because giving $100m to Joe Rogan was deeply stupid and doubling-down when it became undeniably obvious that his mind is deeply cooked (not that it wasn’t obvious before) is a bad life choice. It’s not like Apple is without flaw, but when it comes to “exploitative business practices” versus “will actively spread conspiracy nonsense for cash” choosing sides is pretty easy.
Also, full disclosure, we own a cubic fucktonne of Apple devices. Everything from phones to the TV box all the laptops and tablets in-between. We picked our flavour of walled garden with gusto.
Conveniently, doing this also provided an excuse to tweak a few other subscriptions we have. In the wash, it actually works out significantly cheaper for us as it includes not just Apple Music, but News, Fitness, TV+, Arcade and ups the amount of iCloud storage to 2Tb.
The other stuff is nice, but as someone who has finally come around to the idea that music is something that has continued to be made after I was about 25, I had just got the Spotify algorithm to the point where it was serving up a lot of tunes in its Release Radar and Discover Weekly playlists that where both things I liked and were from artists I had not heard of before.
Moving services means I have to start that process all over again. And it’s through this process where you can see the difference between Apple and Spotify when it comes to collecting all that juicy musical preference data.
That isn’t to say that Apple Music is bad. In fact there are more than a few aspects where I already consider it superior to Spotify.
Here, in no particular order, are some takes on the relative strengths and weaknesses of both platforms.
By this I don’t mean the range of music available on the platforms. I think for the most part they are pretty much the same. Sure, probably towards the more obscure end of the spectrum things may diverge a little but that is always going to be case, really.
What I mean here is the actual management of the music that I decide I would like to bookmark for later listening. Whether it be a particular album or song, or flagging an artist as one whose publishing activities I would like to be kept abreast of.
As a dedicated music platform, Spotify is all over this like a rash. Following artists is a piece of piss, and you are notified when they drop a new track or album.
Apple struggles here. Apple Music is a bolt-on to what was iTunes. iTunes was all about ripping your CDs to MP3 and having them on your computer, then later about buying DRM’d music and having that in your library. In short, it was about organising music that you owned. The ability to pay a monthly fee to access the entirety of humanity’s musical output doesn’t fit into that thinking.
Will things improve over time? Yeah, probably. But for now Spotify is better at this.
Spotify again taking the points here.
I have, for about the last year or so, become deeply into working through the Release Radar and Discover Weekly playlists each week. Finding new (to me, at least) bands to follow and listen to only improved it and they had just got to the point where they were both delivering a solid selection each refresh.
Apple Music is improved significantly from when it launched, but is still an order of magnitude behind. This I think is due mostly to Apple’s mindset when it comes to control over curation.
Spotify lets the algorithm run wild generating all sorts of weird and wonderful things based on what people are listening to. Apple doesn’t do that – well, certainly not to the same extent. They appear, at least on the surface, to have significant human involvement.
This could well be due to the newness of my using the platform, but even after having synchronised the albums I had flagged in Spotify as well as a couple of playlists, there does not seem to be a lot of taking my particular tastes into consideration.
Yes, they are leading off with Neil Young and Joni Mitchell the moment you hit “browse” but of course they are. But almost immediately below that are “Ask Siri” playlists for “coffee shop”, “wedding” and “all-nighter”. All of which, to varying degrees, no.
Again, I’m sure over time this will improve. You can still click around and try and find stuff, but the experience just doesn’t hold a candle to the Swedish conspiracy theory enthusiasts.
In a way, it is not surprising at all that Apple wins this one hands down. One simple word explains it all – lossless.
While tapping this out, I am listening to lossless 16-bit ALAC tunes through my AirPods Pro and it’s a very pleasant experience – significantly improved on the quality you get through Spotify. Google tells me Spotify has been promising a lossless version for a while now, but it is yet to see the light of day as far as I can tell.
The lossless sound is noticeably better. I am not an audiophile by any stretch, but there is a level of detail in the sound that I did not hear when listening to Spotify. The Apple lossless sound is more…complete?
The difference was became apparent in the weirdest of circumstances. Listening to some music while I finished off some work while the five-year old was doing her gymnastics lesson in what I call the Industrial Shed of Aural Anguish. It was 35-degrees, horrifically uncomfortable, there is 30-odd screaming children and you cannot escape. It’s hell.
So discovering that I had suddenly become intently focussed on what I was listening to because I could hear, very clearly, all the layers in the mix of the music. Something that simply did not happen all the times I was sitting in that exact same situation listening to Spotify.
The actual process of migrating my library from Spotify to Apple Music was a lot more simple than I imagined. It did require the use of a third-party tool. Heaven forbid a walled garden install a gate.
SongShift was the app I stumbled across after seeing a tweet from The Grauniad’s Josh Taylor.
Setting it up was easy. Just log in to both the source and destination services, follow the prompts to sync your playlists and album libraries and away you go.
While the process overall was simple, there was a slight hiccough in that some albums were not named exactly the same on both services, meaning that the automatic matching did not pick up every single one. In all but a couple of bases, the best guess was correct but a few required manual searching.
Annoyingly one album straight up wasn’t available on Apple Music. Oh well.
It will be interesting to see how things evolve as I come to use Apple Music more. Hopefully there are some useful tools to help keep up the music discovery journey I had been on.
As for Spotify, well, I’m sure they’re not regretting their decisions at all.