Exclusive content has made it much easier to choose between video streaming services. The best content on these platforms is unavailable anywhere else. That makes it easier to choose one. Game of thrones and Star Wars? Hotstar. Stranger things and Brooklyn Nine Nine? Netflix. Seinfeld and Harry Potter? Amazon prime video.
With music streaming apps, it is entirely different because almost all the major artists are available on almost all major apps. The other contenders: Gaana, Jio Saavn, Wynk and more are all decent services too. JioSaavn and Wynk come bundled with a Jio and Airtel connection respectively and should be good enough for casual listeners. These apps will cover most popular releases both international and Indian. The fact that they are entirely free with your network provider makes them the dead simple choice.
Then there are the major contenders: Google Play Music, YouTube music, Apple Music and the latest entrant in India- Spotify. I was very excited when I found out Spotify was coming to India, being lauded as the best music app everywhere online.
The first premium music app I used was Apple music. I would get an iTunes gift card from my dad as an allowance and I would buy an album every once in a couple months. Then I was enticed to try out Apple music when the app got released on Android. I hopped on to the first three months free and continued to pay for two more months with my remaining gift card balance. Then I switched to Google play music because they too had first three months free. Hence, I built up a solid library on both. I used Google Opinion Rewards app to earn google play credit by answering surveys and used that to pay for a few more months of Google Play Music. As my balance dwindled and I didn’t get more surveys, I made the choice to switch back to Apple. I got a 50% student discount for a full year by using the MyUniDays app. So now I enjoy Apple music for just ₹49 per month. YouTube music and Spotify also provide such student discounts. And all these services also provide family plans where you can get a bunch of friends/family together and save lots of money. I have a friend who is doing this and each of them pay just ₹35 per month. Damn.
I like Apple music curation the most. They create “Essentials” playlists for each artists containing their best work, highlight important albums, provide a small history of the artists, and most importantly: they create and update playlists with specific moods, genres, countries, sub-genres and more. They also have personalized playlists based on your activity similar to Spotify but Apple only updates them once a week. This is better in some aspects because you get time to listen to the songs a few times before deciding whether you want to pursue this artist.
Spotify does curation very well with its advanced AI. When you open the app, you are shown a a few playlists called ‘Your Daily Mix’. These are updated daily and contain songs similar to those that you listened to in the past. This is surprisingly well made and almost all the songs in these playlists are to my liking.
Google Play Music and YouTube Music being separate is weird. Their playlists are all exactly the same. Why don’t they combine these two? Good playlists here too.
There is one major flaw in Spotify that makes me avoid it. Despite Apple Music (Android app) being very buggy and at times unusable, I stick to it because it has the best library. Spotify music lacks a lot of artists. It is presumed that they will add them soon. Until then, I will stick to Apple music.
I have always wanted a service which lets me set any song as my alarm tone. Today, that is possible with three music streaming services. Apple music allows this in the official apple clock app (iOS only, sadly) Spotify allows this in the google clock app (android) even YouTube music can be used in the Google clock app but requires a paid subscription. Spotify app can be used entirely free with the alarm function included.
I had to add this criteria because Spotify loads up so damn fast! When I tap on any song, it starts playing instantaneously. Apple music takes a few seconds to load, even on super fast WiFi but Google Play music is somewhere between these two.
This is a big one. YouTube music allows you to watch any music video, even covers and fan-uploaded videos. I think any video uploaded to YouTube with the tag ‘music’ makes its way to YouTube music as well. Apple music is amazing because although it costs the same as Spotify, Apple has official music videos while Spotify does not. Apple does not make good use of internet speed, videos are often choppy with low frame rate for the first ten seconds or so and then if you are lucky, the video will load in HD. YouTube music videos load flawlessly, just like YouTube does.
Apple Music app on Android sucks on multiple levels. Like I mentioned, it glitches a lot, sometimes refusing to play offline songs until you connect to internet, then it refreshes, realizes that it has been downloaded already and then works. Not good.
Spotify is great, nothing much to say here. Google play music works well but I found the use interface too basic and boring.
All three services have student discounts and family plans. Get a bunch of people together and get a family plan. Cheapest option.
I will stick to Apple music for now and pray that they figure out a way to make the Android app work well. I might switch to Spotify when they improve their library. Meanwhile I will continue to use Spotify for the occasional recommendation and switch back to Apple music when ads start playing.
Don’t want to pay at all?
Simple, get Spotify and bear with the ads. If you are fine with a slightly limited library, your network-provided music app is worth a try, too.
In an older article, I lauded Gaana as the best free music app and it still holds up today as an excellent competitor to Spotify. Perhaps Gaana has a better library than Spotify at the moment. Check for your favourite artists on both.
YouTube music is also excellent especially for music videos. You get the same videos on regular YouTube app too, but that has other videos in recommendations, distractions in comments and more ads. Music playback is also available in YouTube music but you can’t listen with screen off, if you use a free account.