YouTube Music vs. Spotify

The growth experienced by Spotify in recent years has been both rapid and industry-leading. The service now has millions of subscribers across the world. By including its popular free membership base, Spotify totals increase to a whopping 271 million listeners. Spotify may lead the world in users, but YouTube Music also has plenty of members, with half of all Americans using it for music and music videos. YouTube Music has some obvious benefits going for it. For one, it’s an extension of the most popular online video platform in the world. YouTube reports 126 million subscribers per month. To put YouTube’s music capabilities in perspective, YouTube’s top partner channel in 2019 was Universal Music Group, a music label with over 50 million unique subscribers.

Spotify and YouTube Music both have outstanding free membership plans and experience-enhancing features. We’ll parse through what sets them apart by taking a closer look at how they compare when it comes to elements such as sound quality and available content. 

Compare YouTube Music and Spotify plans 

Both YouTube Music and Spotify have competitive price structures, discount offerings and user-friendly free versions. 

YouTube MusicSpotify
Price$9.99/mo.$9.99/mo.
Student plan$4.99/mo.$4.99/mo.
Family plan$14.99/mo.$14.99/mo
Free trial length1 month3 months
Number of songs30 million+50 million+
Highest sound quality256 kbps320 kbps
Free plan availableYesYes

Which streaming service has the right experience for you?

While Spotify has popular artists from around the world in its extensive 50 million song catalog, YouTube Music is hardly lacking with its own constantly-growing collection of 30 million tracks. YouTube Music also offers amateur covers, clips from concerts, mashups and off-label tracks you won’t find anywhere else. 

User experience 

Spotify sports an aesthetically pleasing interface across its desktop and mobile apps, with green complimenting a black background. Each app has an easy-to-use menu with sideways scrolling playlists. YouTube Music’s apps have a sleek, dark background that makes YouTube’s signature red pop. You can link and share preferences between your regular and YouTube Music accounts to boost your overall experience. 

App usage

Like its popular video app, YouTube Music maintains apps that are compatible with desktops, mobile devices and smart TVs. The YouTube Music app even comes preinstalled in Android 10 devices. The Spotify app is offered across the same span of devices as YouTube Music — it’s been downloaded  500 million times. 

Device compatibility

Spotify: 

  • Android and iOS
  • Audio Streamers
  • Car Audio 
  • Fire TV
  • Google Chromecast
  • Hi-Fi
  • Nvidia Shield
  • PlayStation 4 
  • Roku
  • Smart Speakers
  • Smart TVs 
  • Wearables
  • Xbox One

YouTube Music: 

  • Android and iOS
  • Fire TV
  • Google Chromecast
  • PlayStation 4 
  • Roku
  • Smart Speakers
  • Smart TVs
  • Xbox One

Personalization 

If you’ve already signed up for YouTube, you can open a YouTube Music account through your linked profile. In fact, everything you do in one app is reflected in the other. YouTube Music regularly prompts you to choose your favorite artists. The service uses your likes and listening behavior to suggest new music. Spotify shares these personalization features. You enhance your music discovery capabilities by liking, sharing and interacting with artists, tracks and playlists.

The YouTube Music algorithm may not be as strong as Spotify’s, but it has two useful discovery features — Offline mixtape and Your Mixtape. Users and streaming aficionados can’t get enough of Spotify’s track recommendation expertise. This algorithmic-competence makes Spotify’s Daily Mixes effective in selecting tracks you’ll probably like that you’ve never heard before. 

On both the Spotify and YouTube Music apps, you can access your settings in the top right corner of your screen. With Spotify, you can reach the settings menu by clicking on the gear icon. YouTube Music’s icon is your profile avatar, which is the same for both desktop and mobile apps. To access Spotify’s settings from your desktop, click the downward-pointing arrow next to your profile at the top of your screen. 

Extras 

Chances are your favorite music will be available on both Spotify and YouTube Music, but there are a few outlier artists and tracks that only appear in Spotify’s larger catalog. Although because of YouTube Music’s close association with YouTube, the service features more fan-made music and experimental tunes, which may appeal to music junkies out there. Spotify’s premium plan provides new music to its listeners two weeks before it drops on its free version. YouTube Music takes full advantage of its visual strengths by playing available music videos simultaneously as songs stream. 

Students can save a bit of money by signing up for Spotify’s student plan bundle. For just $4.99/mo., students receive access to Spotify, Hulu and Showtime. 

YouTube has an upgraded service tier — YouTube Premium — which provides ad-free music and video content for $11.99/mo. The plan lets you save content for offline watching and listening.

Disadvantages

YouTube Music’s main advantage over Spotify is its mobile app’s free version. With Spotify’s mobile free version, you’re limited to shuffling albums and playlists to get to the song you like — or, you can settle for only selecting songs from Spotify’s recommended discovery playlists. YouTube Music’s free version lets you listen to what you want, when you want. The main disadvantage of YouTube Music, however, is its sound quality. YouTube Music’s highest sound quality tops out at 256 kbps, whereas Spotify puts out a superior 320 kbps. 

The takeaway 

Anyone who doesn’t want to pay for a premium account will find a friend in Spotify and YouTube Music’s free plans. If sound quality isn’t a problem for you, YouTube Music offers a great option with features similar to those provided by Spotify while delivering tracks that aren’t carried by any other streaming service. Anyone who already has an account with YouTube may also want to give YouTube Music a try first. However, if you’re looking for an industry-leading service with industry-leading algorithm-based discovery features, Spotify might be the better choice.  

Zack Kulm

Zack Kulm is a writer and contributor of soda.com. He covers a variety of topics from entertainment and gaming technologies to pop culture commentary. Kulm received a degree in English from Penn State University and Film Studies from Pittsburgh Filmmakers Institute. He also produces award-winning documentaries.