Angry Robot

Spotify / Apple Music

I signed up for Apple Music when it came out and have been using ever since. I first tried Spotify about a year ago but didn’t pay for it; didn’t love it. I went back and started a trial of the pay version a couple weeks ago.

Streaming music is a tradeoff. On the one hand you get basically ALL MUSIC for cheap. On the other hand you don’t own any of it. That last part was a hangup for me as I am literally and figuratively very invested in my music collection. However I have tried to sidestep the issue by contemplating music’s fundamentally intangible quality. It’s, like, not really there and shit, so can you really own it anyway? Man?

You can certainly rent it from one of these two services.

I really enjoy hunting down music, so I wasn’t looking for any assistance with “music discovery”, but indeed that’s what impressed me right away about Apple Music. Like predecessor Beats Music, its claim to fame is its “curation” by “humans” and at first those hand-picked playlists were fun to explore. There weren’t really enough of them though. However, there are also algorithmic album suggestions which I found were quite good. Amusingly they often suggested albums I already had in my library; also amusingly, I actually found that useful.

Apple Music has huge problems, however. Firstly, on the Mac it’s grafted onto the aged iTunes, which is best imagined as an ancient, rickety donkey which has already had a whale, lion and giant squid grafted onto it. All of its knees have exploded and been put back together with duct tape.

Secondly, both iTunes and Music on iOS are buggy AF. I often try to go to an artist page only to get a completely blank one. Or, a song just stops playing halfway through (especially infuriating in the car or when my hands are in a sinkful of water). Or, some tracks are just greyed out for some reason on some days. Who knows. It’s like the back end just isn’t into it, like it’s being run by a bunch of sullen teens who keep on getting distracted by Snapchat or whatever.

But Spotify? Damn, son.

I didn’t like Spotify using the free version – poor sound quality plus ads every four songs or so made for a crappy experience. But once you pay up you’re good. If the “discovery” was good with Apple Music, with Spotify it is almost too good. I am finding a new, awesome artist like every day, and that seems constrained by my available attention bandwidth. Score this round to the machines.

I also like that I can make a playlist, that it is default public, and people can “subscribe” to it. On Apple Music it’s like only all-powerful yet anonymous genius types who can present you with playlists, but on Spotify anyone can “curate”, including your friends – which would seem to offer more value anyway, and be more analagous with the real world.

My only real complaint is that Spotify hasn’t bothered to get the “AllMusic”: licence. I stumble upon some new artist and I want to know a bit of background, and I keep on jumping out to Google. But that’s living. A++, highly recommended, would listen to again.