Battle of the music streaming services: which one reigns supreme?

Tiffany Kye

Aesthetic appeal, convenient navigation, or accessibility to videos – which is the chief component when determining the superiority of a music streaming service?

The variation between people’s prioritization of such factors fuels an ongoing debate between users of Youtube, Spotify, and Apple Music who claim their preference to surpass that of others. Despite reasonable arguments from every user, Spotify prevails with its exclusive features: personalized music recommendations for each user, a vast range of podcasts, collaborative playlists, and curated discovery services.

According to, “Spotify is currently the world’s most popular audio streaming subscription service with 381 million users, including 172 million subscribers, across 184 markets.” On the other hand, Business of Apps reports that Apple Music was estimated to have around 98 million users in 2021, and The Verge publicizes Google’s September 2021 announcement that it had “50 million users subscribed to or trying YouTube Music and YouTube Premium. This seems to mark a continued trend in people looking to make the jump from the free versions of YouTube and YouTube Music, even as more services are competing in the space.” 

The numbers speak for themselves, ranking the three music services in order of popularity: Spotify first, followed by Apple Music, then by Youtube Music.

As a convert from Apple Music to Spotify, my first impression of Spotify was that it was far too complex. I disliked that playlists and podcasts would appear when I searched for songs, and missed the simple layout of Apple Music. However, after about a week of adjusting to the layout of Spotify and deciphering the filters that facilitated my navigation of the app, I realized that I preferred Spotify over Apple Music, and finally understood why Spotify was so widely praised by millions of users. 

What I had previously criticized to be complicated, I now view to be versatile: Spotify’s wide array of songs and public access to playlists published by other users has allowed me to discover my all-time favorite songs, and the listening activity allows me to stay up-to-date with what my friends are listening to. The unparalleled social and discovery-oriented attributes on Spotify make it stand out over Apple Music and YouTube – Spotify is not only a music streaming service, but also an outlet for discovery and public engagement.

The opinions of others should not be invalidated, especially when it comes to the debate between users of music streaming services, as one’s opinion is based on their own tastes and preferences; as these tastes and preferences are bound to vary for each user, the contrasting arguments between different users are inevitable. With this being said, users defending the supremacy of Apple Music and YouTube are understandable, as supported by multiple news sources. 

According to CNET, “YouTube Music allows users to upload new tracks to its online music locker, too. Instead of playlists, YouTube Music offers well-curated radio stations which play endlessly and are updated often.” Furthermore, SoundGuys claims that “Apple Music is a better option than Spotify Premium simply because it currently offers high-resolution streaming.” They proceed to explain that those who avidly use “Apple devices in their daily life” will “appreciate Apple Music’s familiar UI design language, Siri support, and automatic synchronization across Apple devices.”

It takes time to adjust to new environments, new habits, and new people, and the music streaming industry is no different. Critics of Spotify are simply in need of adjustment: as Spotify’s layout differs completely from those of Apple Music and YouTube from its dark background to its sophisticated search engine, it may take some time to feel comfortable navigating the app. However, after this period of adjustment, Spotify offers a broad selection of interesting elements to discover, hence being proclaimed by millions of users as the superior music streaming service.

The debate about the best music streaming service is ongoing, and will grow even greater with the growth of the music industry and rise of new streaming services. Today, Spotify is the most popular music streaming service, followed by Apple Music and YouTube Music – with its distinctive features and outlet for ceaseless discovery of music, Spotify will continue to dominate the music streaming industry for years to come.