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 the removal of 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.

  • No support for podcasts.

  • App support is still lacking for consoles and watches.

  • The Free YouTube Music player can’t multitask.

  • YouTube Music Premium included with YouTube Premium.

  • Huge selection of songs to choose from.

  • High-quality audio.

  • Impressive growing 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 out 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, which means that Spotify is clearly the better option for mobile users and gamers who don’t want to pay for the upgrade. Spotify is also the default winner when it comes to podcasts since YouTube Music offers no support for that medium at all.

YouTube Music is in no way a bad music streaming service, but Spotify is clearly in the lead in many ways. However, this may change as Google adds more features and refinements to the YouTube Music service and apps.

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 offer 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 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 Normal 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 is Very Limiting 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.

  • Full Spotify library is available.

  • Support for multi-tasking.

  • Music still plays when screen is off.

  • Offline listening not supported.

  • Occasional ads.

The free options for Spotify and YouTube Music are fairly similar to one another with full access being 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.

The main deciding factor when it comes to the free music options, and this will likely be a deal-breaker for many, is the ability to multi-task. Spotify’s apps will continue playing audio when you switch to another app or turn off your device’s screen but YouTube Music will simply stop. With YouTube Music, 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.

  • Free option available.

  • Spotify Premium for $9.99 a month.

  • $14.99 a month YouTube Premium Family Plan.

  • $4.99 Spotify Student Plan available.

  • $12.99 a month Spotify Premium and Hulu bundle option.

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

$9.99 a month will 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 will pay the two extra dollars and hit two streaming birds with one stone.

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, lets you use other apps at the same time. For an ad-free and superior audio experience, the $9.99 a month Spotify Premium subscription is fairly good value and is equal to the YouTube Music equivalent.

Students are also able to use the $4.99 Student Plan, which includes both Spotify Premium and a Basic Hulu membership. Adults interested in the bonus Hulu membership can pay $12.99 a month to get it alongside the Spotify Premium benefits.

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 which is massively popular with gamers, and can display what Spotify songs you’re listening to in addition to connecting to a variety of chat bots.

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. 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, displays 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 via YouTube app on mobile, smart TVs, and consoles.

  • Supports Bluetooth, Chromecast, and Google-cast.

  • Android Auto and Apple CarPlay integration.

  • No Apple 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.

  • 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 on the other hand only has dedicated apps on iOS and Android devices and relies on the main YouTube app for playing music everywhere else. YouTube Music isn’t available on the Apple Watch or Fitbit yet and integration with third-party apps is nowhere near that of Spotify’s.

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 which unlocks the entire YouTube Music Premium plan for free. If you’re on a budget and you’re already paying for YouTube Premium, it would be hard to recommend paying the Spotify price when you already have access to YouTube Music.

It is hard to argue against the Spotify streaming alternative though with its inclusion of podcasts, which bring more to the experience, and its undeniably wider range of support for smart devices, apps, and services. The Spotify library is just as big as the YouTube songs collection when it comes to tunes and, if you’re planning on streaming music on your gaming console or smart watch, Spotify is without a doubt the clear choice.

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