Spotify and YouTube music are two of the largest music streaming services out there. Spotify has been up and running since 2008, and in that time, has become the front runner in terms of overall monthly users and subscriptions. The YouTube Music app was initially started in 2015, with a subscription-based model appearing in 2018.
With an established platform already in place, YouTube Music has the perfect opportunity to make inroads into Spotify’s dominant market position.
So whether you are new to music streaming or you’re considering switching to one of these two platforms, let’s dive into the advantages and disadvantages with our detailed YouTube Music vs Spotify head-to-head. We’ll finish up by giving you our recommendation on which one you should use.
First up, one of the biggest differences between these two services is the devices that they support. Right now, Spotify supports more devices than YouTube Music.
It’s not only on devices like Google Assistant smart speakers but also Amazon Echo speakers as well. If you’re an Apple HomePod owner, you’ll be able to set up both Spotify and YouTube Music to play on your HomePod.
You can use both the google voice assistant and Siri to play music from either service. Amazon’s assistant right now only connects to Spotify and not to YouTube music.
Spotify is more integrated across the board…
For example, if you are lucky enough to own a Tesla Model 3 and have a premium account, you can connect Spotify to your Tesla. And then play music via the screen without using Bluetooth from your phone.
Spotify Connect supports over 2,000 devices from over 200 different companies. That’s significantly more than YouTube Music, which uses ChromeCast to stream its content. Spotify is also usable with all the major game consoles, giving it even further versatility.
Of course, both services are available on common platforms like iOS and Android. As well as their respective car apps, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Desktop apps are also available for Windows, Mac, and Linux, and both also have a web browser option.
Winner – Spotify.
Free vs. Paid Versions
Both services offer a free version, but one key difference between them is that the free version of YouTube Music will allow you to play any song you want. Does free Spotify play every song? No, you are limited to shuffled songs when listening to an album or songs from set playlists. You can also skip as many tracks as you like with YouTube Music.
However, Spotify does allow you to keep playing music in the background when your phone goes dark or when you close the app. YouTube Music’s app will stop playing music if this occurs. This isn’t an issue on a desktop as you can simply open another tab, but on a Smartphone, it’s incredibly annoying.
Ads will feature on both platforms if using for free.
Both services limit the streaming quality for free users. Spotify free-loaders will have the quality capped at 160kbps, whilst those unwilling to pay on YouTube Music can listen at a maximum of 128kbps.
Winner – A draw.
Both Spotify and YouTube Music have huge song catalogs, somewhere in the 50-60 million bracket, with thousands more being added every day. You’ll be able to find whatever you’re looking for regardless of how popular an artist is.
One of the main advantages of YouTube Music is that it can pull songs uploaded by independent artists directly from YouTube. You can’t do this on Spotify as independent artists need to pay a distributor to get their music uploaded there, and most can’t afford to do so.
Although this won’t be a deal-breaker for most users, it means that overall, there is more music available on YouTube Music vs Spotify.
Winner – YouTube Music
Another big advantage YouTube Music has over Spotify is the ability to pull music videos directly from YouTube. If a song has a video, you can switch between watching or listening right there in the app. It’s up to you. It’s audio-only on Spotify. This applies to live shows too. If it’s on YouTube, you can find it on YouTube Music.
Winner – YouTube Music
One thing that Spotify has that YouTube Music doesn’t is Podcasts. Spotify has recently been going after the podcast market very aggressively, landing exclusive deals with high-status figures like Joe Rogan and Michelle Obama.
Make no mistake; the most popular podcasts are on Spotify. The best part is you don’t have to pay for Spotify Premium to access their podcasts. They’re available for no cost through their free version. The only downside with Spotify podcasts is they can’t currently be played via Google Assistant.
Turning to YouTube Music, it doesn’t feature podcasts on its app. If you want to listen to Google’s podcast service, you’ll need to download the Google Podcast app on either your iOS or Android device, or access it via a web browser.
Winner – Spotify.
When looking at YouTube Music vs Spotify user interfaces, there are probably more similarities than differences. Both layouts are intuitively simple to use, and any feature is only a couple of clicks away. Both smartphone apps feature three main sections; a home, search, and library tab.
When playing a song on either service, the view also looks pretty similar. You see the album artwork and have play/pause and skip buttons. On YouTube Music, you have thumbs up and thumbs down buttons, whereas Spotify has a like button.
Each service also has an ‘up next’ or cue view to show you what songs are playing next. Allowing you to rearrange within the playlist the songs that you want to hear next.
A feature that is unique to Spotify is the sleep timer. For example, if you want to go to sleep listening to a podcast or music, you can set the timer to stop playback anywhere from five minutes to an hour or at the end of the current track.
While YouTube music doesn’t have this feature, if you have a Google Assistant enabled speaker or phone, you can technically do this. Play any media by telling Google Assistant to set the sleep timer for however long you want it to play.
Spotify also has a few extra features…
And they add a lot of value to the overall package. Head to the settings, and you can turn on crossfade, allowing you to blend songs, thereby skipping the gaps between them.
There’s also an audio normalization option that will standardize the volume levels between tracks. As well as a built-in equalizer if you want to make adjustments to the frequency range.
Winner – Spotify
Once again, the library organization tabs on each platform are pretty similar. On Spotify, the ‘your library’ section will show you the playlists you’ve created, artists you’re following, and albums and songs you’ve liked.
Anything you’ve downloaded is also found here. Spotify also recommends albums that they think you’ll like based on your listening history. There’s also a podcast section in the library tab that shows you the podcasts you follow, as well as the episodes you’ve downloaded.
It’s much the same story over on YouTube Music, with only minor differences as to how the separate categories have been organized and the absence of any podcast section.
One major advantage of YouTube Music…
It allows you to upload music that you may have purchased from services, like iTunes, to your library. Spotify will not allow you to upload anything. Instead, it has a ‘local files’ feature that lets you play any other music files you may have stored on your device through the Spotify app.
Winner – YouTube Music.
Music Discovery and Playlists
How times have changed. With such vast catalogs of music just a click away, it can be a little overwhelming when looking to find new music to add to your collection. Fortunately for Spotify users, this is an area where they are truly in a league of their own.
The main reason to choose Spotify…
Well, this has to be the wonderful algorithm that helps you build your library with music that is perfectly tailored to your tastes. They do this through generated playlists, one of which is the excellent ‘Discover Weekly.’
Based on your likes and listening history, Spotify sends you a two-hour playlist of songs that is so well personalized to your style; it’s almost shocking. The choice to send you this every Monday morning is particularly inspired, given that this can often be the lowest point of the week for many.
The best thing is most of the featured songs are from artists you’ve never heard of before, giving you an array of talent to then go off and explore at your leisure. There’s almost no better way to expand your musical horizons.
More wins for Spotify…
Another great playlist is ‘Release Radar,’ sent every Friday. If any of your favorite artists have any new songs or live material, you’ll find it here, ready for your appraisal.
Spotify also uses its brilliant algorithm to generate radio playlists based on individual songs or artists, even whole genres. They even create playlists based on playlists you’ve made yourself. Open up your favorite playlist and click on the radio tab, and voila! You’ll have a whole new tract of songs of a similar nature. Wonderful stuff.
Spotify also employs experts to curate playlists based on a whole host of metrics. Want a list based on mood, language, or individual country? You have hundreds to choose from.
YouTube Music also offers custom-made playlists…
However, they seem to be completely ripped off from Spotify. For example, every Friday, you’ll receive a ‘New Release Mix,’ and every Wednesday, they send a ‘Discover Mix.’ They embody the same concept as the lists on Spotify. But YouTube’s algorithm doesn’t reach near the levels of effective personalization that Spotify has achieved.
As far as personalized suggestions go…
YouTube Music has one advantage over Spotify. When you initially subscribe to Spotify, it takes a little while for the algorithm to work out a broader picture of your musical tastes. This isn’t surprising as it simply needs time to learn.
However, YouTube Music already has an understanding of what you’re into, based on your historical use of YouTube itself and all the information Google has gathered. Right away, they can offer suitable suggestions without their algorithm having to learn from scratch.
All told, though, once the Spotify algorithm has had time to work you out, and this doesn’t take long, it’s a way more effective tool for music discovery and playlist generation.
Winner – Spotify.
Subscribers to Spotify Premium can stream at maximum quality levels of 320 kbps. Whereas you’re restricted to a max of 256 kbps over on YouTube Music.
This gives Spotify the edge. Although most listeners aren’t going to be able to tell the difference. Spotify HiFi is just around the corner, though, which promises lossless CD-quality audio, which equates to 1411 kbps. YouTube Music has also stated that their highest quality level will be upgraded before long, without stating exactly when.
Winner – Spotify.
Social Media Integration
This is another win for Spotify who provides more comprehensive coverage. Playlist and song sharing are available across all the major social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and others.
If you have a Facebook account, you can connect it to your Spotify account. This will then give you updates on what your friends are listening to via a ticker-tape-style feed on the desktop app. Collaborative playlists can also be made with your social media buddies.
YouTube music has no such level of integration, allowing you to share songs on Facebook and Twitter only.
Winner – Spotify
A single Spotify Premium account will set you back $9.99 per month and $14.99 per month for a family plan. This covers six separate accounts from the same billing address. Students only have to pay $4.99, and for that, you also get a basic Hulu subscription, truly one of the best student streaming deals available.
Couples or roommates can take advantage of Spotify’s Duo pricing plan, which gives you two premium accounts for just $12.99 per month. Each Premium account can be used on up to five devices, with a restriction of up to 10,000 songs per device.
A single YouTube Music Premium account…
It’s also the industry standard of $9.99 per month. They also charge $14.99 per month for a six-person family plan. Although each user has to be over the age of thirteen, the minimum age for a Google account. Students also receive the knock-down price of $4.99 per month.
Pay an extra $2 on top of those prices, and you can upgrade to YouTube Premium, which will kill ads. And enables background/offline playback across all their platforms, including YouTube, YouTube Gaming, YouTube Kids, and YouTube VR. You’ll also gain access to YouTube Originals output.
Winner – A draw.
Need More Spotify Information?
Whether you listen to Spotify, YouTube, or something else on your mobile device, you may encounter some sound issues. If so, take a look at our handy guides on How to Fix a Loose Headphone Jack, How to Reset Your Bluetooth Headphones, How to Wear Headphones with Glasses, and Why do I Hear Static in my Headphones for more great tips.
And don’t miss our reviews of the Best Music Streamers, the Best Wireless Speaker Conversion Kits, the Best Headphones for Music, the Best Bluetooth Headphone Adapters, and the Best Headphones Under $100 you can buy in 2021.
YouTube Music vs Spotify – The Final Verdict
In the grand scheme of things, Spotify is the best music streaming service. Its algorithm understands you and is superior for music discovery and playlist generation. It also offers better social media integration, if that’s your thing, and provides a ton of podcasts for free.
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If watching music videos is important to you, then YouTube Music might be a better option. But overall, you can’t escape the feeling that the service is still in its developmental stage.
If you’re not going to stump up for a premium account, then there is a case to be made for both. Free YouTube Music places no restrictions on what you can play or the number of songs you can skip.
Free Spotify is the best option…
This is especially the case if you want a web browser on your smartphone whilst listening to music or continue playback with the display off. These things you can’t do on free YouTube Music.
For those that want to upgrade to a Premium account, both platforms offer free trials. YouTube Music Premium offers a month’s free trial, and Spotify allows access to its full features for three months before having to decide. So, if you’re unsure which is best for you, take advantage of these offers to find out.
Until next time, see you in the streams.