Playlists, artists and streaming wars, oh my!

The rise of music streaming in the last decade has revolutionized the way that many people consume and discover music by providing unlimited access to hundreds of thousands of songs and algorithm-created playlists that are curated to the individual consumer. 

Streaming platforms have become increasingly competitive as more people are turning away from buying music to paying a monthly fee for unlimited access. The two biggest competitors in today’s streaming market are Spotify and Apple Music. 

Spotify launched in Sweden in 2008 and became massively popular as it spread throughout the rest of Europe. The app made its highly anticipated debut in the U.S. in 2011 and has since become the most-used streaming platform worldwide with a staggering 113 million users in 2019. It is also the second most-used platform in the U.S. with 47.7 million monthly users in 2018. 

Adam Holcomb is a junior at Georgia State who has been a Premium member of Spotify for a little over a year and an overall member for two years. He speaks about the numerous reasons why Spotify has gained such a massive, worldwide user-base that its biggest competitor, Apple Music, falls far behind at just 60 million worldwide users. 

“[Spotify] has a great algorithm to recommend new songs to users, and it’s cross-platform between iOS and Android. Overall, it connects to people more than Apple Music,” Holcomb said. “Friends can follow each other to keep up with what they are listening to.”

Along with music streaming, Spotify creates curated playlists for users to discover music based on their current libraries. The “Discover Weekly” playlist provides users with new music recommendations and is updated every Monday to suggest fresh music. 

Holcomb speaks fondly about his experience with Spotify’s personal recommendations for him. 

“They recommend different songs, and it’s easy to add new songs to the current playlist,” he said. “I’m always making new playlists for my new music and different moods, and it helps me find and add new songs.”

Holcomb explains how the “Daily Mix” playlists on Spotify, in particular, have helped him discover new artists based on the music to which he already listens.

“They have Daily Mix playlists that change up every so often, and they are based off several artists you listen to,” he said. “So, if I am heavily listening to Khalid, then it’ll base it off him. But it takes it a step further to add additional artists and help you become aware of artists outside of your little bubble.”

Spotify has recently made waves throughout the internet and their user base for providing Premium members, including those with a student discount, free gifts from their partners. 

“Google partnered with Spotify to give Premium users free Google Home speakers, so that was a nice perk,” Holcomb said.

With any service, there are usually a few things that can be adjusted to improve the user’s experience. Although he has had few complaints, Holcomb explains one thing that he would like to see adjusted by Spotify.

“I wish that when I share a song on Spotify to someone without Spotify that they could preview it,” he said. 

As of 2018, Apple Music was the most-used music streaming platform in the U.S., with 49.5 million monthly users. Launched in the U.S. four years after Spotify, Apple Music has since grown a loyal following thanks to its smooth integration with other Apple products. 

Connor McCage is a freshman at Georgia State who has been an Apple Music user since 2018. He speaks highly of his smooth experience using Apple Music on other Apple devices. He explains that the app’s interface is one of his favorite features. 

“I think Apple Music is definitely the smarter choice for iPhone users solely because of the more cohesive interface and integration,” McCage said. “I find the interface far more pleasant to look at and to use than the platform’s competitors.” 

Unlike Spotify users who often cite the generated playlists for helping them discover new music, McCage explains that Apple Music’s playlists have not really helped him at all. 

“I have found maybe two songs from the generated playlists. The recommendations the platform gives you seems to be based on genre and less on artist, which means you’ll often get very generic recommendations that are uninteresting,” he said. “I only scroll through them when I have absolutely exhausted everything else. I do enjoy the playlists that compile what your friends listen to.”

McCage speaks about how the poor recommendations are his least liked feature of Apple Music. 

“I definitely think they need to work on their music recommendation algorithm,” he said. “In my opinion, it’s pretty terrible as it stands, and from past experience with Spotify, it completely pales in comparison.”

However, McCage still stands by his loyalty towards Apple Music as the generated playlists are something that he can live without. 

“If you can get past the playlists and just find your music through the vast world of the internet, then you can’t beat Apple Music,” he said. “For anybody on an Android, I think Spotify would be superior, though.”

Both Holcomb and McCage cite their music streaming services for helping them discover new artists that they may not have known about had it not been for streaming. 

“I wouldn’t know about or would be able to listen to over half of what I listen to if it wasn’t for music streaming,” McCage said. “I’ve also found with some smaller artists like Acid Bath that never really got a major label release, and they are far more likely to be on Apple Music.”

Holcomb speaks about his own experiences with discovering new artists. 

“[I discovered] the band CAMINO. They’re smaller, so they don’t get massive coverage like larger names,” he said. 

Music streaming has dramatically transformed the way that the world consumes and discovers music. Without streaming, many people would not have discovered the music that will go on and be an inspiration throughout the rest of their lives.

The days of hearing a good song on the radio and having to decide to go to a record store and buy the whole album are over. Now, the regular music fan has almost unlimited choices for far less of a price.