Spotify, it’s been fun, but it’s time to queue up that ‘sad indie’ playlist you’ve been craving for me to hear. I’m going to Apple Music.
I’ve been a Spotify Premium subscriber for over six years and have been with the service for a decade. But Spotify’s new redesign, which CEO Daniel Ek called “the biggest change to the platform since 2013,” is an experimental album that’s too far off for me.
The Spotify app’s redesigned home feed isn’t as bad as I feared. The TikTok-style vertical scrolling that confronts you when you tap ‘Music’ or ‘Podcasts & Shows’ has the slightly strained feel of a Coldplay stadium show. There are also hints of Instagram, Netflix and YouTube.
But this growing mess is only part of the reason I restarted my three-month free trial of Apple Music. Apart from the feeling that this is another instagram moment – when an app’s original purpose becomes the act of supporting eyeball monetization – the new Spotify is really an admission that its business model is broken.
It’s not the only streaming service with that problem. But with Spotify consistently ranking at the bottom of the league table for artist payouts, and features like the long-awaited Spotify HiFi further out than ever before, it’s time I plunged into the arms of Apple Music.
A New MTV Moment
An alternate explanation for my desire to leave the new Spotify, aside from being factually bad, is that I’m simply too old for it. Most Spotify users are 34 years old or younger (opens in a new tab) – and their younger fans are more interested in discovering visual music. That’s a little different from going to pitch black reproduction (opens in a new tab) listen to an album in complete darkness.
This struck me while reading Spotify CEO Daniel Ek’s interview with billboard (opens in a new tab)when asked to explain video-themed features like Canvas (the eight-second video loops you see in the background when a song plays) and even longer Spotify clips.
“It’s all about looking to younger consumers for inspiration,” Ek explained. “If you think about it, in the music industry, when we went from having radio to MTV, it was so much better and it allowed totally different artists to get a new way of communicating,” she added. In other words, criticizing the instagramification of music streaming apps only makes you sound like a 21st century equivalent of the buggles (opens in a new tab).
But while there’s an element of “it’s the kids that are wrong” from Principal Skinner to my Spotify outing, that’s not the whole story. My main issue with Spotify’s new direction isn’t just video broadcasting—after all, I grew up on MTV—but everything else, like podcasts and audiobooks, to create an attention-grabbing ball of “content.” Not to mention blood-sucking schemes like Discovery Mode, where artists can trade lower royalties for more exposure.
Simple menus, like finding an album, are now buried under a pile of recommendations and sponsored promotions. And that’s before we get to Spotify’s comparatively poor record when it comes to sound quality and artist payouts…
Why Apple Music?
Apple’s music streaming service is by no means a sparkling disco ball of perfection. Its recommendation engine, while much improved, is still not a patch on Spotify and I will miss my Discover Weekly playlist. I really want to try Spotify’s new AI DJ feature before I go, which has yet to be released in the UK.
But for someone who wants a simple music player, without “curated previews” and the constant background buzz of monetization, Apple Music and Tidal are extending their lead at the top of our guide for best music streaming services. Both offer CD-quality lossless Hi-Res audio and support spatial audio to help them deliver music in Dolby Atmos as well.
Far from pure sound quality, there’s also a refreshing simplicity to Apple Music. It doesn’t try to cram podcasts into the app, keeping the two separate. I like that, for the same reason I don’t want to go to a music festival to see the Pixies followed onstage by Ezra Klein quizzing a professor about the US election. Both are interesting, but they belong to different worlds.
I’ve just checked the digital fees per stream for our latest label (Trial Card, ie first two albums), for comparison: Spotify €0.00243 (dropped a bit for weird promo mode, but still low ) Apple: €0.00640 Tidal €0.00691 Amazon (Premium, not Prime) €0.00939August 1, 2022
Then there’s the thorny and hugely complex issue of artist payments. Spotify recently updated Loud and clear (opens in a new tab) The website, which breaks down the economics of music streaming, naturally leans in its favor. But the money Spotify pays out to rights holders (now nearly $40 billion since the streaming service began) doesn’t necessarily reflect what goes to the actual artists.
These fees depend on many factors, including where you stream music, but it’s been hard to ignore the breakdowns from some of my favorite artists, like Public Service Broadcasting (above), who consistently put Spotify on the lower end of the price scale. Payments.
This is backed by data from artists and record labels from the likes of digital music news (opens in a new tab), which claims that “Historically, Apple Music has paid artists much better than its streaming music rival, Spotify” and found that this was still the case last year. Despite Spotify’s newfound enthusiasm for helping artists set up digital merchandising tables, this is another step for Apple Music, along with the introduction of new features like Apple Music Classical.
To me, the recent release of Apple Music Classical, which subscribers will be able to download starting March 28, is a good example of the difference between Apple and the new Spotify.
You may never hear Bach in spatial audio, but I appreciate Apple using its financial clout to at least do something interesting in the music streaming space. Meanwhile, Spotify spent what seemed like hours on its transmission in event (opens in a new tab) bragging about video podcasts.
This doesn’t mean that Apple has figured out a way to make a simple music app sustainable; unlike Spotify, you can simply treat Apple Music as a loss leader for the iPhone.
The biggest problem is that no app, including Spotify, has yet found a way to make music streaming truly profitable. Spotify has only reported a profit once in its history and the main reason is that payments to music rights holders represent around 70% of your total income (opens in a new tab).
That’s why Spotify is understandably looking beyond music for some real money makers. a few years ago, Spotify CEO Daniel Ek predicted (opens in a new tab) that “more than 20% of all Spotify listening will be non-musical content.” That’s now paying off thanks to acquisitions like Gimlet (a podcast studio), Anchor (a podcasting platform), and Findaway (an audiobook service), plus a focus on video that conveniently earns better ad rates than audio. .
The problem for me is that this has made the new Spotify so bloated, confusing, and annoying that I’m jumping into Apple Music, taking all my playlists with me using an app like Houdini (opens in a new tab).
Maybe I’ll return to Spotify again one day, but an encore seems increasingly unlikely.