YouTube Music vs. Spotify: Which Service Better Fits Your Music Needs?

A handy comparison of these two streaming giants

Spotify and YouTube Music are directly competing with each other to become the leader in the digital music streaming space. Both services offer free access to their entire song libraries, a variety of paid subscription models for those after higher audio quality, and additional features such as offline listening and removing ads.

Should you try YouTube Music or Spotify? Read on to find out as we break down every feature and limitation of each online music streaming service.

YouTube Music vs Spotify Illustration

Overall Findings

YouTube Music
  • Massive selections of songs, including covers and remixes.

  • No support for podcasts.

  • YouTube Music Premium included with YouTube Premium.

  • Supports an array of devices and services.

  • Huge selection of songs to choose from.

  • High-quality audio.

  • Impressive podcast directory.

  • Quality apps on almost every smart device.

  • Multitasking available for free and paid users.

YouTube Music and Spotify both offer massive libraries of music to choose from, with literally millions of tracks available on each. What’s better? Well, Spotify does win in terms of audio quality, but the difference is small enough that most listeners won’t hear any difference, and some may even prefer how some songs sound on YouTube Music.

Something that isn’t dependent on personal preference is YouTube Music’s lack of multitasking support with its console, iOS, and Android apps for free users. Spotify is clearly the better option for mobile users and gamers who don’t want to pay for the YouTube Music Premium upgrade. Spotify is also the default winner when it comes to podcasts since YouTube Music offers no support for that medium.

Audio Quality: Spotify Beats YouTube Music By a Hair

YouTube Music
  • Audio options from 48 kbps to 256 kbps.

  • Vocals sound slightly clearer.

  • Songs use less data.

  • Audio options from 96 kbps to 320 kbps.

  • Bit of a deeper listening experience.

  • Higher quality audio overall.

Neither Spotify nor YouTube Music offers a bad listening experience, with each streaming service providing high-quality audio that should please most casual listeners. Audio on YouTube Music does seem to strengthen dialog in songs, while Spotify tends to place a stronger emphasis on instruments and bass with an overall deeper presentation. These aren’t necessarily positive or negative observations, but they may explain why some users prefer one platform over the other.

On the technical side of things, YouTube Music and Spotify each offer 128 kbps and 160 kbps audio, respectively, as the default preference for free users, with high-quality 256 kbps and 320 kbps music streams available to paid subscribers. For those looking to save on data, YouTube Music does provide a 48 kbps low option, while Spotify offers 96 kbps as an alternative.

Free Features: YouTube Music Has Enticing Features for Free Users

YouTube Music
  • Access to full library of songs.

  • Ads will play every few songs.

  • Music will stop playing when app is minimized.

  • No offline listening.

  • You can skip ads after five seconds.

  • Listen to music in various modes.

  • Skip as many songs as you want.

  • Full Spotify library is available.

  • Support for multitasking.

  • Music still plays when screen is off.

  • Offline listening not supported.

  • Occasional ads.

  • You can't skip ads.

  • Limits playback to specific playlists.

  • Skip six songs per hour.

The free options for Spotify and YouTube Music are similar to one another, with full access granted to their song libraries. The two major trade-offs for using each service free are the occasional ad in between tracks and the inability to download music for listening when offline.

With YouTube Music, you can skip an ad after five seconds and skip as many songs as you like. With Spotify, you can't skip ads, and you can only skip six songs an hour. Neither free offering lets you download songs, but YouTube Music lets you listen in various modes, including playlists, shuffle mode, and queues. Spotify, on the other hand, limits playback to specific playlists.

The main deciding factor when it comes to the free music options—and this may be a deal-breaker for many—is the ability to multitask. Spotify's apps will continue playing audio when you switch to another app or turn off your device's screen, but YouTube Music will stop unless you're using the web player. With YouTube Music on devices other than the web player, you need to keep your device's screen turned on at all times with the app showing. Not only does this limit what you can do with your device, but it can also drain your battery significantly.

Cost Comparison: Lots of Music Streaming Plans Available

YouTube Music
  • Free option is available.

  • YouTube Music Premium for $9.99 a month.

  • $14.99 a month YouTube Music Premium Family Plan.

  • $11.99 YouTube Premium includes YouTube Music Premium.

  • Student plan is $4.99 monthly.

  • Free option available.

  • Spotify Premium for $9.99 a month.

  • $15.99 a month Spotify Premium Family Plan.

  • $4.99 Spotify Student Plan available.

  • $12.99 a month for Spotify Premium Duo (two accounts).

YouTube Music’s free option may be enough for some, but those wanting to multitask on their smartphone or tablet will definitely want to upgrade to one of its paid options.

For $9.99 a month, you'll unlock the YouTube Music Premium service and all of its added benefits mentioned above, but it’s worth noting that the YouTube Premium service, which also covers the main YouTube app, is just $11.99. If you want to also remove ads when watching regular YouTube videos, you may as well pay the two extra dollars.

Conversely, if you already pay for YouTube Premium, you actually already have YouTube Music Premium as part of your membership.

YouTube Music app on iPhone.

Spotify's free membership will also be enough for most people, and unlike the free YouTube Music option, Spotify lets you use other apps simultaneously on all devices. For an ad-free and superior audio experience, the $9.99 a month Spotify Premium subscription is a reasonably good value and equal to the YouTube Music equivalent. Spotify Premium's Family Play also offers access to Spotify Kids.

Both services let students access $4.99 student plans, but Spotify sweetens the deal with student access to Hulu and Showtime.

Music for Gamers: Spotify Knows Its Gaming Audience

YouTube Music
  • Available on consoles as part of the main YouTube app.

  • Bland user experience in the YouTube app.

  • Can’t use on consoles while playing a game.

  • No built-in support for Discord.

  • Can be used while playing games on Xbox and PlayStation.

  • Integrated well with Discord.

  • Not available on the Nintendo Switch.

  • Lots of gaming podcasts.

Streaming music is heavily associated with gaming nowadays, and Spotify is the clear choice for anyone who wants to listen to some tunes while playing video games.

Spotify has dedicated apps for the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 consoles, both of which support multitasking, so you can stream music and play a game at the same time. Spotify is also heavily supported on Discord, the chat app massively popular with gamers, and can display what Spotify songs you’re listening to in addition to connecting to a variety of chatbots.

YouTube Music, on the other hand, has no integration with Discord and can only be accessed from within the main YouTube app on Xbox, PlayStation, and Nintendo consoles. In addition, no multitasking is supported, which means that if you want to listen to or watch YouTube Music on your console, you won’t be able to do anything else.

The YouTube console experience is also rather bland and boring compared to Spotify’s, which features dynamic backgrounds that change color, display facts, and looks fantastic on a TV screen when you have friends over.

App and Device Support: Spotify Beats YouTube Music in Apps and Services

YouTube Music
  • Can connect to Google Assistant-powered devices.

  • Works with Sonos speakers.

  • Accessible on mobile devices, smart TVs, and consoles.

  • Supports Bluetooth, Chromecast, and Google-cast.

  • Works with Waze, Android Auto, and Apple CarPlay.

  • Apple Watch and Android-based watch support.

  • Quality apps on mobile, consoles, and Apple Watch.

  • Full support for Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and numerous car systems.

  • Supports Sonos, Bose, and almost every other speaker available.

  • Works with Fitbit and Garmin fitness trackers.

  • Integration with Tinder, Bumble, Google Maps, and more apps.

Spotify has a significant head start on YouTube Music when it comes to device support, with a dedicated app on almost every device imaginable. From cars and video game consoles to Fitbit trackers and smart TVs, you’re almost guaranteed Spotify support straight out of the box.

YouTube Music has come a long way in device support, adding support for Apple Watches, smart displays, smart speakers, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, casting, and more. Still, you'll need to rely on the main YouTube app for playing music on non-Android smart TVs.

Final Verdict: Spotify vs. YouTube Music

The YouTube Music streaming service has a lot of appeal for those already invested in the Google ecosystem, especially those with an active YouTube Premium subscription that unlocks the entire YouTube Music Premium plan for free. If you’re on a budget and already paying for YouTube Premium, it would be hard to recommend paying the Spotify price when you already have access to YouTube Music. Another bonus for true music lovers: YouTube Music allows you to upload new tracks and offers a broad selection of covers, remixes, and unique song versions.

It is hard to argue against the Spotify streaming alternative, though, with its inclusion of podcasts and its wider range of support and integrations. The Spotify library is just as big as the YouTube song collection when it comes to tunes, and if you’re planning on streaming music on your gaming console, Spotify is, without a doubt, the clear choice.

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