Facing The Music

By Olivia Barker Dell

Out of all the music streaming services there are, Apple Music and Spotify are by far the most popular. In 2021, Spotify reached 406 million free and paid subscribers, while Apple Music had 98 million paid users. That raises the obvious question:  what makes so many more people drawn to Spotify? Is it the difference in features, cost, or artists? 

Apple Music founder Jimmy Lovine, and Spotify co-founder Danny Ek.

Before Apple Music was introduced to the public by founder Jimmy Lovine, many users used iTunes, which was automatically downloaded on every Apple product worldwide. In 2015, Apple Music was unveiled to the world and gained 11 million users in their first fiscal year. From there, the music streaming service has gained more than 10 million users per year on average. Apple Music provides users with over 90,000 songs and 30,000 playlists. 

As for Spotify, founders Danny Ek and Martin Lorentzon developed the app in the early 2000s, releasing it in 2006. Unlike Apple Music, Spotify has many users who don’t pay monthly and enjoy a range of music for free but with ads. Developers hoped that users would then upgrade to the premium version of Spotify, which is similar to Apple music’s basic subscription. At the end of 2021, Spotify reached 180 million premium subscribers and 226 million free and ad-supported subscribers for the aforementioned total of 406 million. 

That again raises the question: why is there such a massive difference in subscribers? To answer that, let’s compare these two streaming services through three main factors. 

Subscription Plans 

Spotify has 5 different types of subscriptions . The basic plan includes a variety of music with ads, a limited amount of “skips” per hour, as well as shuffled songs and curated playlists available all day. All Apple Music users pay a monthly fee with 4 different options, as Apple Music does not have  a “free” version of its app. 

Under a premium subscription, users on Spotify can choose from 4 different types (student, family, duo, and individual) depending on their needs. Subscriptions: individual (9.99/mo.), duo (12.99/mo. for 2 people), family (15.99/mo. for 6 or less people),  are quite similar, they all include unlimited music and skips with no ads, as well as offline listening. The only difference is that the family plan includes the ability to block explicit music, and includes a separate software to help with this called Spotify kids. Similarly Apple Music gives subscribers 3 basic versions: individual, family, and voice. Individual (9.99/mo.) and family (14.90/mo.) plans provide unlimited playlists and songs, unlimited downloads, and radio stations. The new subscription: voice (4.99/mo.) focuses mainly on Siri commands and is limited only to using Siri to play music but still includes unlimited music. 

The last type of subscription is the Spotify student plan for 4.99/month. Designed for college students, this plan includes the same features of the individual subscription plus  basic Hulu and Showtime.  Apple Music matches the student subscription price and features but does not include any extras. 

Some of the pages you’d find over on Apple Music.

While Spotify and Apple Music have a very similar individual base with unlimited music and playlists, Spotify is definitely more appealing to families with young children and college students who are interested in not just Spotify but other streaming services.

Content variety

While Spotify does have more of a variety of songs and artists, Apple Music surpasses their song count by over 5 million songs. In terms of artists, Apple Music carries over 5 million recording artists compared to the over 3 million on spotify. But if we dissect what kind of artists are produced by each service and how accessible they are, Apple Music mainly focuses on the most popular people in the industry such as Drake, The Weekend, Olivia Rodrigo, and Taylor Swift. Compared to Spotify which contains both the most popular artists and easy access to small artists that are unsigned. 

In terms of playlist and podcast variety,  Spotify contains more than 3 million podcasts, while Apple Music sits at a steady 500,000. On the other hand, Apple Music produces podcasts in over 100 different languages while  Spotify only has a range of 62 languages. If we look at playlists created by Spotify and Apple Music, their platforms are relatively similar, but Spotify has further developed users sharing abilities on the app compared to Apple Music. Playlists by friends and the public have been more accessible within Spotify compared to Apple Music. Through just  the search bar, users of Spotify can explore a variety of public made playlists, while Apple Music focuses mainly on Apple-made playlists. 

User interface and Features 

Interface is up to personal preference, as  both Apple Music and Spotify have the basic outline of a typical  music streaming service. Apple Music focuses more on a balance of their products and your personal array of music, setting aside an entire page for recommended artists and Apple-curated playlists and radio stations.  Spotify is more geared towards the individual musical preferences and gives users a variety of similar playlists and songs. 

A look at Spotify’s UI.

Regarding features, Spotify excels compared to Apple Music in social features. Spotify for years has given their users the ability to follow friends, make collaborative playlists, listen to music as a group, and see what your friends are listening to live. Apple Music has trailed behind Spotify in terms of these features, and have only recently added the ability to follow friends and access their playlists . Both Apple Music and Spotify share simple features including liking a song, sharing it,and adding songs to playlists instantly But Apple does more in regards to lyrics due to a search-by-lyric filter and a more accessible lyric-viewing system on their app. Spotify has a similar lyric-viewing ability, but isn’t  as robust as Apple’s offering. 


Whether either streaming service is better than the other is up to personal opinion, but what we can conclude is that there’s a reason these services are on top of their game. The millions of playlists, podcasts, songs, and artists available to any user at their fingertips– with either service– is mindblowing, and these titans of the music streaming industry are continually making our listening experience more seamless than ever.