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Spotify has been the de facto music streaming service against which we compare all others for years now. Sure, there are plenty of competing services, of course, but none of them are anywhere close to being as successful as Spotify: In 2022, Spotify had a 30% market share for music streaming, with Apple Music in second place with 15%, and YouTube Music in fifth at 9%. Despite that well-earned popularity, back in February I decided to switch to YouTube Music. Why would I put myself through that?
The decision came down to myself and those on my shared family plan wanting YouTube Premium (which includes YouTube Music). There’s little point in paying for two music services, and giving up Spotify felt like the obvious move. So, what was that transition like? After all, the world revolves around the most popular services, and in this case, that’s Spotify. The challenges that came next were interesting, to say the least.
Streaming services want you to stick with them, so they’re understandably not going to make it too easy to jump ship — and that means not giving you any simple way to move your library from one to the other. This was the first thing I needed to figure out, as my favorite playlist is 31 hours long and takes up over 20GB — there’s no way I was going to recreate that myself. My savior here was a website called Tune My Music. Due to the size of my library, I had to sign up for a month’s subscription, but $2 is a small price to pay for saving me all this work. All you have to do is log into the website with your Spotify and YouTube Music credentials, then tell it what content to copy. I doubt there will ever be an official way to do transfers like this, but at least this method works well enough and isn’t too expensive.
Even with that nut cracked, I still had more bugbears to face — like how YTM playlists deal with naming. Because everything is synced with regular YouTube, my playlists can easily get confused. If I add a video to my favorites in YouTube, it shows as an unavailable track in the Music app. You can’t search within a playlist either, so finding a liked song is a nightmare.
Both platforms can display song lyrics for most songs, but Spotify’s implementation is better, highlighting the text as the song plays, making it easy to find where you are in the song. YouTube Music, meanwhile, shows a manually scrollable wall of text that does nothing else. There also seem to be more errors in the lyrics it displays. Spotify isn’t perfect in that regard, but it’s certainly more accurate than YouTube, and it’s easier to report wrong lyrics when you find them.
The social aspect is easily one of the hardest parts of switching to YouTube Music. While most of my family group have happily moved over to YTM with me, my wife, extended family, friends, and workmates largely use Spotify. So whenever a new song is shared, I have to search for it myself rather than clicking the link sent in the group chat. For individual songs, that isn’t so bad, but when it’s a playlist with a dozen songs, it adds extra hassle and makes it easy to feel left out. I imagine this is how my fellow Android users feel when mocked for the green bubble.
Something else I’ve noticed in my time with YouTube Music is that when a new album is set to drop, it goes live on Spotify the moment it’s supposed to. That usually happens on YouTube, as well, but there have definitely been some occasions, such as with Fall Out Boy’s So Much For Stardust, where I had to wait an extra two hours before it was available.
It’s not all bad news, though. One of the big integrations Spotify added a few years ago was with Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, and Snapchat stories. It’s a fun and easy way of sharing your current musical obsession with your friends, and I’m pleased to say that all of these apps support YouTube Music now, as well. It’s a small thing, but I’ll take any improvement I can get, and I hope it’s indicative of more integrations in the future.
YouTube Music can be played on any device that supports casting, like the Nest Speaker, Nest Hub, and all manner of Android/Google TV devices. But even facing that big list, Spotify’s compatibility is far more diverse. It includes everything I’ve mentioned so far, as well as countless others that have added Spotify Connect. And even more helpful is the ability to control playback on any device.
If I have my earbuds connected to my phone while listening to Spotify, I can open the app on my PC and control the volume, play and pause, change the song, and more. If I wanted to switch playback to my PC, I could do that too. YouTube Music can’t compete with that in any way, and you can’t even transfer playback. If I want to change devices, I must repeatedly reshuffle my playlist.
Do I regret switching?
Despite my complaints here, I don’t plan to return to Spotify. If we were talking about music streaming in a bubble, then I probably would. But bundling in YouTube Premium offers so much more than that, thanks to the features you get in YouTube itself — and I don’t mean the removal of ads.
YouTube’s compression is a touchy subject, as it can make 1080p footage look pretty grainy. If you have Premium, you can now view some videos in “1080p Premium,” which has a higher bitrate for a clearer image and better sound. I appreciate the sound boost in podcasts, especially. I feel the same about Premium controls, which add music player buttons to the video you’re watching, letting you skip forward and back ten seconds at a time, save the video to a playlist, and easily changing the quality. I often use this when walking around while listening to an episode of my favorite show.
YouTube Premium may be more expensive than Spotify, but the interoperability between YouTube and YouTube Music is well worth it, and removing ads is just a bonus. I look forward to seeing how Google expands its service in the future, and while I’ll miss Spotify, for me and my family, YouTube Music just makes sense.