Since its inception, I’ve been a proud and outspoken Spotify supporter. As soon as they launched, I signed up. As soon as they offered ad-free listening and mobile compatibility, I was handing them my debit card. Every playlist I’ve ever shared has been based on a Spotify playlist. Having given over $1,000 to Spotify over the last six years, I’m now being tempted to abandon it all… for Google Play Music.
Over the holidays, we watched a ton of YouTube and listened to a ton of music. My brother, super-tech-gadget-wizard who loves Google, kept making little side comments every time we’d queue up a video or play a song.
“We wouldn’t be watching these ads if you used Google Play Music – just sayin’.”
“You could get unlimited streaming for you and five of your closest friends for $15/month – just sayin’.”
“If you connected your Google Home to Google Play Music, you could just tell it to play a video on the TV and it would play without you lifting a finger – just sayin’.”
Okay, Josh, thanks. We get it. Google Play Music has features that deserve my Spotify-wired attention, especially because the prices and services are virtually the same.
…But are they?
Let me clarify: with Spotify, I pay $14.99 per month for my partner and I to both have access to ad-free streaming on our laptops and mobile phones. With Google Play Music, I would pay $14.99 per month for… my partner… and I… you get it. The two services are more alike than they are different, but the few differences between them may sway you one way or the other, depending on your listening habits.
Spotify vs. Google Play Music: Who is the Queen of the Stream?
A lot of things are the same, but a lot of things are really different. Let’s start with the basic features of each service.
Google Play Music Features
|Purchase, stream, or upload music & podcasts to your library with option to download for offline streaming||Stream music & podcasts with option to download for offline streaming|
|Playback: up to 320 kbps MP3 files
*Saves uploaded files as MP3 regardless of file type (300MB/song)
|Playback: up to 320 kbps OGG files|
|50,000 offline songs & mobile downloads||3,333 allowed offline songs & mobile downloads|
|2-4 months free before $9.99/month||1 month free before $9.99/month|
|Suggests artists related to selected favorites||Suggests new artists, creates curated Daily Mix playlists, and integrates Last.fm for song tracking|
|Web player, non-Google open source desktop player, mobile player app, and Google Chrome app available||Web player, desktop player, and mobile player app available|
|Uses Google Sound Search to identify songs via mobile audio recordings||Integrates with Shazam! to instantly add songs to playlists|
|Includes subscription to YouTube Red for ad-free YouTube||Integrates with Instagram stories, Tumblr, and other social networks|
|Individual Premium: $9.99/mo.
Family package: $14.99/mo. for 6
Users must all live in the same country
|Basic Use: Free
Individual Premium Unlimited: $9.99/mo.
Student Premium: $4.99/mo. (+ Hulu!)
Family package: $14.99/mo. for 6 people
Users must all live at same address
Each service has millions and millions of songs available, including podcasts, that can be streamed from nearly anywhere. The price for each service is also pretty much identical. Each streaming music service has a single-user package and a family package, but there are some sneaky little differences in there…
Finding Discounts Wherever You Can
Spotify lets you connect two people to your account for a $5 discount and Google Play allows you to connect five extra people for a $5 discount, too… But the only requirements for Google Play Music’s family plan is that everyone on the account live in the same country. Not at the same address like Spotify requires… just within the same country. They’re doing us broke folks a reeeeeeal solid here. As someone who has her entire family on her Hulu plan in four different locations, this feature sways me quite a bit.
But Spotify is gunning for us poor people, too. Unlike Google, Spotify has a free plan that gives you nearly all of the benefits of a premium plan, but with a few limitations. As a Spotify Free user, you can’t listen to some new releases for a couple of weeks, and when you listen to anything, you’ll have to deal with advertisements. They’ve also allowed mobile streaming which, if you’re an oldschool subscriber like me, you know that used to be reserved for paying customers only. In fact, mobile streaming is the whole reason I signed up in the first place! Now… it’s free.
With Google, you can’t access the vast majority of their library without a paid account. In fact, wihtout my free trial access, I can only listen to songs that I’ve uploaded. All of my playlists are empty!
In addition to the free plan, Spotify has a Student Premium Plan that might really change the game. They’ve partnered up with Hulu to offer students both services – Hulu Plus and Spotify Premium – for only $4.99 per month. That is an absolute steal for two services that I consider mandatory. Isn’t it nice to watch two gigantic companies join forces to accommodate our low-income pals?
But there’s a Google Play counterpart to this dual-service offer. Remember how Google owns YouTube? Well, that means your Google Play Music subscription also gets you a free YouTube Red subscription and an ad-free YouTube experience. If you’re a major YouTube watcher like me, that’s a big deal! Plus, YouTube is coming up with some pretty hyped-up original content lately, and it may be worth checking out if you’ve never tried it before.
Still unsure? Fear not, because both services are all over the “free x months of service!” thing. Spotify has a 1-2 month free trial depending on the time of promotion, and Google Play will give you 2-4 months of free membership before asking you for real money. Hell, try them both at the same time and cancel the one you like least for exactly $0 investment!
Google Play Music: Cons
|Sleek, well-designed apps that are easy to navigate and consistent across platforms||Doesn’t pick up where you left off when you reopen the app, no cross-platform communication|
|Social integration: on the desktop app, you can see what your friends are listening to||No social integration whatsoever|
|Home media integration (Xbox, PS4, Smart TVs)||Needs Chromecast in order to play on TVs or consoles|
|Integrated Last.fm scrobbling (very important for music nerds)||You have to use a Chrome extension to get your music to post to Last.fm. It works, but it’s an extra step and an extra extension in your browser|
|Exclusive content, i.e. Spotify Sessions, live performances, and exclusive releases||No original content produced|
|Option to use phone as a “remote” when streaming through another device||Has no idea how to operate with multiple instances of Google Play Music open, my phone can’t talk to my computer, etc.|
|Student plan is half price and includes Hulu||No free plan, can’t access music without subscription|
|Sharing music is aesthetically pleasing and allows instant listening from many platforms|
|Allows you to follow friends on Spotify to see playlists & recent favorites||Can’t follow friends on the Google Play Platform|
|Get access to tour dates & band merch from artist’s Spotify page (often verified)|
Spotify vs. Google Play: Managing Your Music
Now let’s talk about your music library in each streaming service. There is a huge difference in the services provided when it comes to maintaining your personal music library. Spotify obviously lets you create playlists from their extensive library until you’re blue in the face. Google Play Music does the same thing, but they have a huge bonus feature: they let you upload your own music files – precisely 50,000 of them.
That means that your ripped vinyl albums, indie mixtapes, recordings of your BFF’s open mic comedy show, or even your buddy’s latest musical experiment can make it into your official music library. From there, you can add them to playlists, share them with friends & family, and listen to them across all of your devices!
Spotify provides the highly coveted Daily Mix playlists which offer music recommendations based on your listening history. They’re each called “Daily Mix” with a consecutive number attached, but by looking at each one, you can tell that there is a common thread between all of the additions. Spotify also has playlists defined by genre. They have vague, simple names like “All the Feels,” “Summer,” or “Have a Great Day!” Not super helpful, but new music discovery is always at your fingertips if you’re willing to hunt. Basically, Spotify’s genre playlists are like the TJ Maxx of new music; if you’re willing to dig, there’s bound to be some good stuff in there.
As far as playlists go, Google Play seems to rely almost solely on the music you listened to in the previous session while Spotify uses its obviously extensive system of metrics to recommend songs you’ll actually like to hear. It’s like having a Pandora station for your life. It’s a huge value to consumers to be able to throw on a playlist they didn’t make and know it’s going to be good.
There actually aren’t any curated playlists offered by Google Play Music. Weird, right? The only discoverable music coming from Google Play are Top Charts and New Releases. But, if you go out of your way to improve your recommendations (accessible through the “Settings” menu in the phone app), you can tell Google Play Music what genres you like, and it will ask you to pick your favorite bands and musicians from a literally endless list of options. After that, you’ll get some playlists with recommendations with a little more interest, like “Produced by [someone you selected],” “Uplifting Pop Motivation,” and the ever-intriguing crust punk playlist, “BAD PARTY.”
Is Your Music Antisocial?
While Google Play Music might seem like it’s taking the lead, take pause because the social arena is where Spotify really starts to displays its prowess. With integration with Instagram, Facebook, and tons of other social networks including my favorite music tracker, Last.fm, it leaves Google in the dust. All Google interfaces with is… Google.
Sharing music with friends through Google Drive just doesn’t have the same appeal as instantly sharing a song to Tumblr with beautiful formatting and instant listening options. Even the Waze app has its own Spotify button! You can also hold your phone up while any song is playing to use the integrated Spotify x Shazam! capability to identify it immediately. Google has a similar service, but with less of a reputation for accuracy.
Google Play Music: Pros
|Google Chrome integration: aesthetically pleasing app that minimizes # of browser windows||Spotify Chrome app only redirects to their web player|
|Free YouTube Red subscription: no ads on YouTube & access to YouTube exclusive shows||Only people who live in your house can be added to your account|
|Add up to 6 people to your account, and everyone gets unlimited access||No ability to upload your own files|
|Integrates with Chromecast and Google Home to wire your entire home with on-demand music (10 device limit)|
|Can’t find something? Upload your own music files and have streaming access to them across all devices|
|Buy music right from within the app & keep it in your library|
Spotify vs. Google Play: Interface
These two apps are so similar, but they couldn’t look more different. Spotify opted for a dark, edgy effect with deep black with white and lime green accents while Google Play Music is, like the other Google products, colorful, modular and bright.
Each app offers bottom navigation to throw you between your own library, a tab to explore new music, a tab to search, and a home button. On the homepage of each, you’ll find music recommendations based on your listening history, but Spotify takes it a few steps further by curating daily playlists, separated by genre, full of songs you’ve listened to multiple times alongside brand new music from bands you’ve never heard before.
Google has nice, big, colorful images, which is a huge contrast to Spotify’s dark, compact design, but it limits the way you move around the app. For the most part, the apps have the same interface features with one exception: the way that Spotify displays information is irrefutably better than Google Play.
You can see from these screenshots of both apps from my phone (shout-out to The Echo-Friendly!) that you get way more information from the Spotify screens than the Google play screens. The only area where this isn’t true is on the radio screen (seen above). Otherwise, there’s no scrolling required to navigate Spotify’s Library panel, but with Google, you get to see one, maybe two options before you need to scroll down. The Browse panel, for instance, only shows new releases, and you only see one release before having to scroll down. Stoplights don’t provide a lot of time to change up your music, you know? The more efficient the navigation is, the better (and safer) (and smarter).
Spotify vs. Google Play: Conclusion
Ugh. I liked writing this up until the conclusion. These two services are both excellent, and their respective strengths are really strong while their weaknesses are really just slightly lower-ranked strengths.
Spotify has the advantage of time, which brings not only brings a massive number of users, but also opportunities to improve based on user feedback. Google, on the other hand, has really obvious advantages (technology, cash money, etc.) but, like its semi-failed social network Google+, not a lot of people are using their service because other, bigger, more vetted services exist already. Google loves to slide into a trend late and kind of flail around until it figures things out… But is it worth the wait?
Basically, I think it boils down to this: if you’re into some pretty mainstream music and do a lot of social media song sharing, etc., then Spotify is probably right for you. Now, if you’re a musician or music collector and you consume a decent amount of indie content and whatnot, then you might appreciate Google Play Music’s flexible library system and YouTube Red subscription.
Have you tried Google Play Music after using Spotify, or vice versa? What’s your opinion on the value of each?
The post Is Ditching Spotify for Google Play Music Worth It? appeared first on Broke and Beautiful.