Streaming culture has decisively taken over India as well. Tech has ensured that we no longer need to visit music stores or purchase individual songs or albums from platforms like iTunes. Instead, we have music streaming apps with vast library of songs. Thanks to machine learning algorithms, these apps offer personalised playlists and music collections for all our different moods. There are numerous such services existing and it becomes difficult to decide which one to choose and pay a subscription fee for. The release of Spotify, and YouTube Music within a month of each other in India has changed the music streaming market in the country for good, and we have more choices than ever. Here is a breakdown of the good and bad of each of the popular apps – Spotify, YouTube Music and Amazon Music to help you make an informed decision.
One of the oldest music streaming apps around, Spotify was launched in October 2008 by a team at Spotify AB in Stockholm, Sweden, a company founded by Daniel Ek. It was released in various countries before launching in India on 28th February 2019.
The YouTube Music app was unveiled in October 2015 and launched in November of the same year. This app was developed by YouTube, the popular subsidiary of Google. With its launch in India in early March 2019, this music streaming app is now available in 43 countries.
This music streaming service was launched in 2012 as Prime Music, and a subsequent Amazon Music Unlimited with a promise of a much larger song collection, was released in October 2016 by the Amazon.com team. Prime Music was launched in India around a year back, but Amazon Music Unlimited has not entered the Indian scenario as yet.
Pricing and features
Unlike most of its counterparts, Spotify has a free version which doesn’t expire after a designated trial period. It offers access to its entire library on your devices, but it comes with many limitations. The annoying advertisements which pop up now and then, the lower audio quality and no access to offline music are some of them.
Upgrading to Spotify Premium is an option worth considering, priced at ₹ 119 per month, available after a 30-day free trial. It offers the paid version for different durations, the only music streaming app to do so. The pricing is:
- ₹ 13 for one day,
- ₹ 39 for a week,
- ₹ 119 per month,
- ₹ 399 for three months,
- ₹ 719 for 6 months and
- ₹ 1189 for a year.
- There is also a student subscription available, for a flat 50% discount. Offline music storage, high quality streaming, unlimited skips and ad free music are some accompanying benefits.
There are two ways to access YouTube Music – one is to sign up for it at ₹ 99 per month, and the other is to subscribe to the YouTube Premium version at ₹ 129 per month. The premium version gives you access to ad-free YouTube videos and Originals in addition to YouTube Music. This app plays every video on YouTube categorized as “music”, meaning all the coves and remixes are available on the app.
Perhaps the best feature of the app is that you can switch to “audio-only” playback and do your work while still listening to music on YouTube. The offline download option is also available to YouTube Premium subscribers. There is a one-month free trial of YouTube Music Premium available before you shell out any money, allowing you to check out its features before committing.
There are two tiers to Amazon Music – Prime Music and the newer, better Amazon Music Unlimited. Prime Music is available for ‘free’ to Amazon Prime members, whose membership fee is ₹ 999 per year. This app comes with only 2 million songs, which may seem like a large number but falls well short when compared to Spotify’s 30 million + songs. The fee seems steep for a music app with little variety, but it’s not to be forgotten that Prime videos and other benefits like quicker Amazon shipping, along with ad-free music streaming, unlimited skips and the offline download feature makes it very economical.
The Amazon Music Unlimited app is an upgrade of Prime Music, costing an additional $ 7.99 per month or $ 79 per year for Amazon Prime users and $ 99 per year for non-subscribers of Amazon Prime. The only difference from Prime Music being the much larger music library, making it comparable with Spotify. Unfortunately, the Amazon Music Unlimited version hasn’t been launched in India yet.
Tracks and quality
Spotify delivers more than 35 million songs, all available in the free as well as the premium version. There is no download or offline listening feature in the free version, but the Premium version allows users to download up to 3,333 songs in a maximum of 3 devices. These songs are available offline for a period of 30 days, after which they have to be downloaded again.
This app is sophisticated enough when it comes to streaming quality, and has three different quality ratings – ‘Normal’ at 96 Kbps, ‘High’ at 160 Kbps and ‘Extreme’ at 320 Kbps. With the free version, only the ‘Normal’ quality is available, but Premium subscribers can choose the quality they want. It also has an ‘Automatic’ setting, which changes the quality according to the internet speed, the minimum quality being 96 Kbps.
This service is younger than the competition, so the number of songs in its library is unknown, but as it integrates the Google Play Music songs, the count is well over 40 million. This is not including the staggering quantity of music available on YouTube, including remixes, covers and live recordings, which will increase the count to over 100 million. It allows unlimited downloads, tempered only by the storage space in your device. The only catch is that everything has to be downloaded again after 30 days. YouTube Music is also known to generate offline mixtapes based on your viewing of YouTube as well as YouTube Music.
The audio quality in YouTube Music is limited to 128 Kbps, much lower than Spotify’s 320 Kbps. In poor network conditions, this quality reduces even further, to as low as 64 Kbps. There is no option to improve the quality in the app’s settings. Higher quality streaming as well as the quality swapping feature are both impending.
Amazon Prime Music, which is the only one available in India as of March 2019, has 2 million songs in its library, as opposed to Unlimited, which has 40 million songs. There is no download limit on the songs from Amazon Music, and the download can be in any device authorised for your account. There is a limit to the devices you can download the music in, which is 10. The maximum quality of music on Amazon Music is 256 Kbps, but it supports multiple bitrates.
One of the most popular features of Spotify is its “Discover Weekly”, a playlist curated according to your taste based on what you listened to in the past week. The two-hour long playlist is released every Monday, and it’s very intuitive. Unfortunately, though, this feature is not available in India yet. Another great thing is its Running feature, which changes the tempo of the song based on your speed of running. The tempo can also be manually changed, but the automatic change is intuitive enough.
YouTube Music’s recommendations change depending on the time of the day and are based on your listening habits. They are extremely intuitive, and the playlists formed through this app are by far the best because it far surpasses any other app when it comes to library size. Obscure songs aren’t hard to find on this app, and if you’re into covers or remixes, their recommendations will suit you best.
Amazon Prime Music as well as its Unlimited version base their recommendations on your Amazon purchase history and reviews. It might be a bit irrelevant if you buy gifts for people with different music tastes, or if you don’t buy much from Amazon at all. Prime Playlists is another feature offered by the apps, which can be filtered by picking a mood or genre.
Design and UI
Spotify has a simple home screen layout, which is quite user-friendly. Its home page is long and is content heavy, including things like “Made for You”, “Recently Played”, “More Like”, etc to help you find music without having to navigate too much. It also has an interesting section – concerts near you, which contains a list of gigs close to your location. The menu is bit complex, but it offers many ways to find and discover music.
The home screen is very similar to that of Spotify, tailored towards your artist choices and made for you to be able to find recommended playlists and videos instantly. The best feature is, perhaps, the staggering number of tracks available on this platform, which you’ll be hard-pressed to find anywhere else.
This has a dark background and a picture lead style, and is debatably the best in design. The tabs are probably too many, but the simplicity of the app and its navigation is stunning. It supports Alexa voice control in the app, and is the only service to do so.
Video and Radio
Spotify and YouTube Music both provide music videos and allow you to create video playlists, while Amazon Music doesn’t currently have that feature. YouTube is unparalleled when it comes to videos, because everything related to music that is available on YouTube can be viewed through YouTube Music as video content. Spotify and Amazon Music (both versions) provide radio services, while it is not a feature that has been introduced on YouTube Music yet. Spotify has an excellent choice of radio channels available, offering themed radio channels as well as artist radio channels, and several genre of stations to choose from.
All the apps are excellent, and although YouTube Music is the newest in market, it makes up for some of its faults through its vast collection. Amazon Prime Music is the only one available in India, and with its smaller music library, Amazon can’t really compete with the other two unless it launches Amazon Music Unlimited soon. In terms of the cost, Amazon Prime Music definitely offers the most value for money, and Spotify and YouTube Music are quite similar in price. Spotify, being old, is arguably the most experienced too, and it is the best in terms of audio quality and features. The only downside is that its most popular feature – Discover Weekly is not available in India yet. YouTube Music is very new in comparison, but it’s rising fast in terms of popularity and rank. If it works out its kinks, it has the potential to beat even the old and experienced Spotify, because after all, it has the biggest music library!