YouTube Music vs. Spotify: Which Music Service is Best for You?

Comparing the popular audio streaming services

YouTube Music and Spotify are similar music streaming services. Both have free options, lock-step pricing plans, massive libraries, and offer the ability to upload your own music. Spotify is immensely popular, and has been around a lot longer, but YouTube Music has a lot to offer as well. If you're torn between these two music streaming behemoths, we'll help you make a decision with an in-depth look at pricing, content, music discovery, and more.

YouTube Music vs Spotify

Overall Findings

YouTube Music
  • Free version doesn't require sign-up.

  • Millions of songs (total number unspecified).

  • No podcasts, unless you upload to your library.

  • Unique and rare content like concerts, live music, etc.

  • 100,000 song limit on library uploads.

  • Maximum of 5,000 songs per playlist.

Spotify
  • Free version available (requires sign-up).

  • Advertises over 50 million songs.

  • Includes tons of podcasts.

  • Exclusive premium content you won't get anywhere else.

  • No limit on library uploads.

  • Maximum of 10,000 songs per playlist.

YouTube Music and Spotify have a lot in common in terms of pricing and overall functionality, but there are some important differences. While both have great free options, for example, only YouTube Music allows you to jump right in and listen to music without even signing up. Spotify, on the other hand, is a fantastic source of podcasts. And while it doesn't have podcasts, YouTube Music does offer up unique and rare tracks from concerts and other sources thanks to the massive amount of user-uploaded YouTube content they have on tap.

Pricing and Plans: It's a Dead Heat

YouTube Music
  • Basic plan: $9.99/mo.

  • Family plan: $14.99/mo.

  • Student plan: $4.99/mo.

  • Grandfathered Google Music plan: $7.99.

  • Ad-supported free option.

  • 30-day free trial available.

Spotify
  • Basic plan: $9.99/mo.

  • Two user plan: $12.99/mo.

  • Family plan: $14.99/mo.

  • Student plan: $4.99/mo.

  • Ad-supported free option.

  • 30-day free trial available.

YouTube Music and Spotify both have ad-supported free versions and a variety of monthly subscription plans. For the most part, pricing of those plans is in lock step. The biggest difference is Spotify has a two user plan which falls between the single user and family plans in cost. YouTube Music also has a low-cost option for Google Play Music All Access early adopters, but that isn't available to the general public.

YouTube Music is included for free with YouTube Premium, and Spotify is sometimes bundled with other services like Hulu.

Content: Spotify Is Probably the Winner, but Don’t Count YouTube Out

YouTube Music
  • No officially released number of songs.

  • Includes a lot of unofficial and fan-uploaded content.

  • Upload up to 100,000 songs to personal library.

Spotify
  • Over 50 million songs

  • Over 700,000 podcast episodes.

  • Includes exclusive podcast content.

  • No limit on uploading songs to your personal library.

Both YouTube Music and Spotify have massive libraries, and it's unlikely the average listener will bump up against too many library holes. Your mileage may vary depending on your listening tastes, in which case you're best off just checking to see which service actually carries your favorite obscure artists.

It's difficult to make a direct comparison, because YouTube only gives a generic 'millions' number for their library, while Spotify is a bit more specific. The fact is Spotify probably has more official songs they have contracted with labels to provide. They also have more podcasts by virtue of the fact that YouTube Music doesn't really do podcasts.

The wrinkle here is YouTube Music taps the massive well of user-uploaded content available on YouTube in addition to tracks they officially have a license to stream. Some of this content is legit, while some of it is subject to removal at any time by means of DMCA. The bottom line though is you'll find rare concerts, live music, b-sides, and other content on YouTube that Spotify just doesn't have, and you can play it all through the YouTube Music interface without ads.

Music Discovery: It's All About the Algorithms

YouTube Music
  • You Mix algorithm-based endless playlist suggests music you might like.

  • Explore feature offers new releases, hot trends, and playlists based on moods and genres.

  • Recommends music based on mood, time of day, location, and more.

Spotify
  • Algorithm-based music discovery is a gold standard in music streaming.

  • Well known for their playlists, they just have far more to offer here due to being around longer.

  • Spotify Discover Weekly playlists help surface music you might be interested in every week.

Spotify is well known for their algorithm, which is notoriously good at providing music you like, surfacing music you might like, and even music you love but have forgotten about. That's a tough act to follow, and it has helped Spotify maintain a lead in the music streaming game, but YouTube knows a thing or two about algorithms as well.

YouTube Music provides You Mix, which is an algorithm-based endless playlist which provides a never-ending stream of music you're probably going to love, or it will once it learns your preferences. While Spotify is fantastic in this department, it's possible YouTube Music might be just a bit better.

Spotify dominates in terms of playlists, and it isn't even a competition. YouTube Music is no slouch in this department, offering playlists in a huge variety of genres and even based on different moods, but Spotify has been around too long for YouTube to catch just yet.

Spotify also has the edge in terms of radio stations, for the same basic reasons. However, YouTube Music's algorithm-based radio stations are fantastic as well. YouTube Music also recommends music, tailored to your preferences, based on mood, time of day, and more.

Ultimately, both of these services will help you discover new music and remember old favorites. Spotify has the edge in terms of playlists and radio stations, but YouTube Music is hot on its heels with its own fantastic algorithm.

Device Limitations: Listen Offline on PC With Spotify

YouTube Music
  • Works on up to 10 devices, including offline features.

  • Deauthorize devices up to four times per year.

  • Need to log in every 30 days to maintain access to offline content.

  • Offline content only available on mobile devices.

Spotify
  • Works on up to five devices, including offline features.

  • Deauthorize devices whenever you want.

  • Need to log in every 30 days to maintain access to offline content.

  • Offline content available on both mobile devices and PCs.

YouTube Music and Spotify both have some limitations in terms of what devices you can use, how many devices you can use, and how long those devices can remain offline. YouTube offers a slight edge in this department, allowing you to authorize up to 10 devices at once. However, you can only deauthorize a device to add a new one four times per year, so make sure you authorize the right 10 devices.

Spotify has harsher limitations, only allowing you to authorize up to five devices at a time. However, you can deauthorize devices whenever you want, either all at once or one at a time.

If you want to have more devices authorized at once, YouTube Music is the winner here. But if you want more flexibility, go for Spotify.

Spotify also offers more flexibility with offline content. YouTube Music only allows downloads on mobile devices, while Spotify lets you download music and podcasts with the desktop app and the mobile app.

Final Verdict: Spotify Is the Better Music Streaming Service, but YouTube Music Is a Perfect Complement to YouTube Premium

Spotify has too much of a head start for YouTube Music to take the crown just yet, but they're both really good music streaming services. Spotify just has the edge in too many areas, like ease of deauthorizing devices, music storage, and the massive breadth of their playlists and radio stations.

YouTube Music is a tough sell as a standalone service, but the equation changes when you consider YouTube Premium is a thing which exists. If you're a YouTube Premium subscriber, there's really no reason to subscribe to Spotify. YouTube Music is close enough to Spotify in every metric that matters and it's an excellent replacement for Spotify if you already have access to YouTube Music through YouTube Premium.