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I’ve been a loyal Spotify user since what feels like the year the service launched, and a premium subscriber since 2014. Spotify premium has tons of great extra features, and I absolutely think it’s worth the money if you’re considering a paid music streaming subscription. But as I’ve been spending a lot more time at home of late, I’ve started watching a lot more YouTube, and the various pre-roll and mid-roll ads were starting to grate on me. Of course, you can remove those ads—by signing up for YouTube Premium. But that would also give me access to YouTube Music, meaning I’d technically be paying for two music services. So, I wondered: could I fully make the switch from Spotify to YouTube Music?
After using Google’s service for over a month, I have a lot of thoughts to share. YouTube Music definitely gets some things right, but there are still gaps in its capabilities that Spotify makes obvious. In short, while YouTube Music has enough for most people as a standalone music service, for power users, there are definitely things to know about where it stands right now when it comes to certain features. Still, there’s no denying the value of Google’s bundled package, especially if you watch a lot of YouTube.
Update: Things have changed since we first posted this article, and several shortcomings have been fixed. We’ve updated several sections according to these to make sure both apps are still fairly evaluated.
Value for money
Both YouTube Music and Spotify Premium subscriptions cost the same, including family and student plans. However, if you’re considering signing up for YouTube Premium, it will cost you $12 a month, which is just $2 more than what you’d pay for Spotify Premium or YouTube Music. For that small premium, you get to watch videos without any ads, download them, and play them in the background, which is definitely worth considering, especially if you travel often or watch a lot of YouTube videos. Family and student plans are also available and cost $18 and $7, respectively, compared to $15 and $5 for a music-only membership. If you’re only two people, you could consider Spotify’s Duo offer, which costs $13 monthly, but I personally think the YouTube Premium family membership is the one that makes the most sense if you’d like to share it with loved ones.
Turn YouTube videos into songs
If you like to listen to covers, live shows, etc. you’re much more likely to find these on YouTube than on a music streaming platform. Thankfully, YouTube Music lets you browse regular videos and play them as songs, add them to playlists, and download them. Depending on what kind of music you listen to, you might appreciate finding unpopular songs more easily with Google’s offering than Spotify’s.
Checking what songs you’ve been listening to may make little sense, but it’s handy when you’ve heard a song and want to know its name. For example, I once remember listening to music on Spotify while cooking, it played a song I liked, but I didn’t have an option to view my history — I later found out you can do this on the desktop app. Thankfully, YouTube Music is far simpler and lets you see what songs you’ve played directly from within the app, making it much easier to find the one you liked.
YouTube Music (on the right) offers an option to “see all” songs
Have you ever wanted to play a song from a performer without being able to remember its title? There’s nothing simpler than looking up an artist to find it, right? Well, with Spotify, that’s surprisingly a pain. An artist’s page only shows its top songs, so you’re out of luck if the one you’re looking for is less popular. YouTube Music is simpler than that, as the artist’s page does take you to their full song list, making the search a little less painful.
YouTube Music (on the right) has filters at the top
If you’d like to narrow down your search to display only songs, artists, or playlists, Youtube Music’s filters are clearly displayed at the top of the page, making this more intuitive. Sure, Spotify does offer the option to show just songs, artists, or playlists, but you have to scroll down and tap on one of the options, which I find a bit counterintuitive.
This one remains a mystery for me. A bunch of people, including our very own Rita and several tipsters, have complained about Spotify playlists being shuffled in the same order all the time, meaning whenever you play them, and whatever device you do it from, the songs always play in the same order. I’ve personally never experienced that — and tried again by writing down the order, and it was different every time I checked. However, I haven’t seen people complain about such an issue with YouTube Music, so switching apps might be better for you — if you have that weird problem.
Uploading your music to the cloud (update)
In the same way Google Play Music lets you upload your own audio files to the cloud and play them on any any device, YouTube Music offers a similar functionality — well, with significant differences. The app can also be used to play files stored on your device, while Spotify doesn’t offer neither of these features. If you have a Play Music library already uploaded, you’ll soon be able to transfer it over, too.
Update: Even though Spotify doesn’t let you upload your songs to the cloud just yet, it’s working on the option to let you play local audio files, which could hint the company is working on offering this feature.
If you’re a Spotify user, you probably know you can’t play different songs using separate devices with the same account, as the active one would automatically cut playback on all others. However, I’ve noticed I could play three different songs at the same time on my phone, smart speaker, and Mac, using my account. This may actually be a bug, as it would defeat the purpose of having multiple accounts, but it can come in handy if you’re playing songs in the living room for your kids and want to listen to some music while working.
No podcast support (updated)
This one was missing from our initial list, but if you like to listen to Podcasts, you can do this natively with Spotify. Sadly, you’d need to use Google Podcasts (or another solution) if you’re a YouTube Music customer, as the app doesn’t support the functionality and therefore doesn’t let you browse podcast catalogs, let alone play them natively.
Spotify just added audiobooks to its collection, with a selection of nine classics to listen to at no extra cost. Sure, these books are part of the public domain, but they could be the beginning of a more largely supported feature. These are recognized as actual books, with chapters and a specific interface as shown above.
When it comes to YouTube Music, there are some audiobooks available on the platform, as shown above, but these merely appear as albums, and each chapter is marked as a song, so the advantage goes to Spotify on this feature, at least when it comes to usability.
Spotify (on the left) gives direct access to songs in the search suggestions
When searching for a song, Spotify displays the most popular ones directly while you type, which allows you to immediately tap it to start playing it. Unfortunately, YouTube Music requires an extra step, as you first need to tap on the suggestion to bring up the search results and then select what you want to listen to. It might seem like I’m exaggerating, but after using Spotify for such a long time, this extra step is annoying if you spontaneously want to listen to a song.
No Spotify Connect — duh!
I’m lucky to have a speaker that’s compatible with both Google Cast and Spotify Connect. However, I’ve only used Google Cast when launching music from Assistant or for multi-room audio. Otherwise, I’ve always preferred using Spotify Connect, because the music just plays instantly on the speaker, while Google Cast needs several seconds to connect. That’s no big deal when you haven’t started listening to music yet, but it’s extremely annoying to have your song cut for a few seconds if you want to transfer it from your phone to your speaker.
Swiping gestures (fixed)
Ever since Apple introduced the first iPhone in 2007, we’ve been used to swiping left and right to navigate from one image to the other. That same gesture has become natural in many apps, including Spotify, which lets you swipe on the album cover to go the previous or next song in your queue. Google is apparently unaware of such a gesture and still requires you to tap the icons to move from song to song. It might sound like a detail, but it’s incredibly frustrating when you’ve been doing this for a while.
Update: This has been fixed now, and you can swipe to go back to the previous or next song. You can also double tap on the edges of the album cover to skip 10 seconds in either direction, just like you would with the regular YouTube app.
Rita’s folders on the left, and the Chart folder’s content on the right
Spotify offers a little-known feature that lets you organize your playlists into folders. While most people don’t know or use these, the ones who do will be disappointed, as all YouTube Music playlists are shown in the same list, without the option to create a hierarchy. Few people will ever notice their absence, as you need to create these folders from the desktop client for them to show on mobile, which can be painstaking, to begin with — wasn’t the search function created for a purpose?
Better way of recommending songs (fixed)
I’ve actually debated this with Rita for a while and finally decided to give Spotify the advantage here. I’m actually more pleased with the songs YouTube Music recommends, as these are more in line with what I’m likely to listen to and like. However, since I listen to different types of music, I prefer Spotify’s way of recommending songs. Let me explain: If you’ve read this far, you probably figured out I like listening to acoustic covers. Thankfully, that’s not the only genre I listen to, and while YouTube Music’s suggestions might be spot-on, I may not be in the mood for that type of music when I open my recommendations. However, with its daily mixes, Spotify’s way of categorizing songs makes more sense, even though the songs themselves may be slightly less interesting.
Update: YouTube Music recently introduced a bunch of playlists, similar to the ones Spotify offers. The “My Supermix” playlist mashes up various genres you’re likely to listen to, while the other “My Mixes” tend to focus on a specific style of music.
Control music from other devices
One thing I loved with Spotify was the ability to control the music that was playing on my speaker from my phone, tablet, or Mac. It’s very convenient when you’re cleaning, for instance, as you can grab whichever device is handy to change the music. I also used this a lot when working, as I’d have my earbuds connected to my phone, but would find it easier to control Spotify using my Mac. Sadly, this isn’t possible with YouTube Music, most probably because the app seems to isolate each sessions, as mentioned above, letting you play different songs on various devices using the same account simultaneously.
Incompatibility with some speakers
Even though Spotify is compatible with the vast majority of Wi-Fi speakers, it’s hardly the case for YouTube Music. Some brands such as Sonos and Bose are giving a hard time to YouTube Music users, by either not showing up as compatible cast devices, or not working with the speaker’s built-in Google Assistant.
No desktop client (fixed)
I remember starting to use Spotify on my PC many, many, many years ago, and there’s been a desktop client for as far as I can tell. Sure, that’s an extra app to download and install locally, but it’s reliable and avoids inadvertently closing your browser and stopping your music. YouTube Music, on the other hand, just offers a web app, which works, but isn’t as convenient as a full-featured desktop client. For instance, I haven’t been able to move from one song to the other using my Mac’s TouchBar when streaming music through Safari and found out I had to use Chrome. I shouldn’t have to go through the pain of changing browsers with something as simple as listening to music.
Update: There is no official YouTube Music desktop client, but there are third-party apps, such as YouTube Music Desktop and Google Play Music Desktop Player, that you can consider. Sadly, they are still work in progress and lack some features, such as cast support or native integration with your system in some cases. I recommend you give both a try and find out which one works best for you.
Now that you know what I enjoy with YouTube Music and what drives me crazy, you’ll probably have to figure out which features are more relevant to you, and whether some are dealbreakers in your daily usage. Do I think YouTube Music is mature enough to face the competition? Yes, it is and will probably suit most people’s usage. However, Spotify has been the market leader for much longer and has had more time to work on advanced features for power users. That being said, music is very personal, and the way you organize and consume it may vary significantly.
If you watch a lot of YouTube videos, the value you’d get out of Google’s offering is probably more interesting, provided some of these drawbacks aren’t too annoying for you. In any case, I highly recommend giving both services a try, since the two of them offer free 30-days trials. If you’re ready to switch, I recommend using Soundiiz to transfer your library and playlists from one service to the other. It’s dead-simple and takes away the hassle of manually having to do so.