YouTube Music vs Spotify: Can Google even compete?

YouTube Music on smartphone stock photo 4

Services like Spotify and YouTube Music allow you to stream music, create playlists, discover new songs, and more. Although they all seem pretty much the same at first glance, there are a lot of differences between them. They may have different library sizes, offer extra content beyond music, feature different streaming qualities, and much more.

These differences matter and should be a major factor when deciding which streaming service to subscribe to. We’ll take a look at all the biggest ones in this post that will help you decide which of the two services comes out on top in the YouTube Music vs Spotify battle.

YouTube Music vs Spotify: Free plan limitations

Spotify menu on a smartphone on a bed of rocks

Both Spotify and YouTube Music have a free plan available, but the limits set in place by each provider are very different.

Spotify only allows you to choose the songs you want to play on specific playlists like the personalized Daily Mix. On others, you can only play tracks in shuffle mode, which is annoying. You can skip the songs you don’t like, but only six times per hour.

The audio quality is limited to 160kbps, and you can’t download songs for offline listening. Also, there are occasional ads that interrupt the listening experience.

YouTube Music’s free plan lets you play any song you want.

YouTube Music, on the other hand, allows you to pick and play any track you like, making it much more useful than Spotify in this regard. You can even skip tracks as many times you want on a free plan. However, the biggest disadvantage of Google’s streaming service is that once you turn off the screen on your phone, the music stops. And forget about browsing the web while listening to music: as soon as you close the app, the music cuts off. Spotify doesn’t have this limitation.

Just like its biggest rival, the free version of YouTube Music is also supported by ads and doesn’t allow you to download music to your phone. Audio quality is limited as well: you can stream at a maximum of 128kbps.

There’s no clear winner here, as the free plans offered by the streaming services are more different than alike. Which one is better comes down to the limitations that work best for you.

YouTube Music vs Spotify: Content

YouTube Premium Music Logo in App

Both Spotify and YouTube Music offer access to tens of millions of songs. Quality trumps quantity any day of the week, and there isn’t a big difference between the two in this area in my experience. All my favorite songs and artists are available on both platforms. Your mileage may vary, though, although likely not by much — especially if the artists you’re into are relatively popular and well-known.

The biggest difference between the two services in terms of content is that Spotify also gives you access to podcasts, while YouTube Music is focused on music videos.

Read next: Why I’m an avid Spotify user despite dubious audio quality

There are over a million podcast titles on Spotify. There’s a good chance the ones you’re listening to are available on the streaming service, regardless if they are popular or super-niche. This means that if you’re a Spotify user, you don’t need a separate app for podcasts anymore.

There are no podcasts on YouTube Music, but there are a lot of music videos, as one would expect. They are a big part of the service. A list of recommended and new videos frequently shows up on the front page, and you can also check out various charts including the top global 100 music videos.

Keep in mind that Spotify also has several videos, although they aren’t front and center like its competitor. The selection is limited to say the least and there’s no dedicated section where you could find videos. Instead, they usually pop up when searching for an artist or song.

Which of the two streaming services is a better fit for you when it comes to content comes down to what you value more. If you’re into videos, YouTube Music is the better option for you. But if podcasts are more of your thing, Spotify is more up your alley.

YouTube Music vs Spotify: Music discovery

OnePlus 7T music playback spotify

Credit: David Imel / Android Authority

Here’s where the gap between the two services gets bigger. In my experience, Spotify is much better for music discovery. It has the popular Discover Weekly playlist containing songs from artists and genres you’re listening to. A new one is released every Monday with 30 tracks. Additionally, the service also creates up to six daily mixes for you based on your listening habits.

The Swedish streaming service also has a ton of playlists for just about every genre and mood you can imagine. It’s easy to find what you’re looking for, regardless if you’re using the service on your phone or PC. What’s more, the app also has a lot of charts that list the most popular songs by country — there are more than 60 of them available.

Spotify has a lot more playlists than YouTube Music.

YouTube Music offers three personalized playlists. There’s the Discover Mix that gives you 50 lesser-known tracks every week, the New Release Mix that contains the most recent releases by your favorite artists, and Your Mix that’s full of songs by artists you’re into. No complaints here.

Google’s service also allows you to browse playlists by mood or genre, but the problem is that the selection is limited. You get way more playlists with Spotify. For example, Spotify offers 54 hip-hop playlists, while YouTube Music only has 12 of them. Those who are into Dance and Electronic music can select from 81 playlists on Spotify and just 17 on YouTube Music. There are also almost twice as many moods and genres available to browse through on Spotify compared to Google’s streaming service.


YouTube Music also doesn’t have any charts with the best songs by country, which is a feature I really like. It lets me see how the taste in music differs from region to region. Another issue is that you can only browse music by genre or mood on the mobile app — this feature isn’t supported on the web for some reason.

I’m not saying that YouTube Music is bad at music discovery. There are a few mixes available as well as a few playlists, which most people will likely be happy with. However, Spotify just does it way better. With that in mind, this round definitely goes to the Swedish streaming giant.

YouTube Music vs Spotify: Pricing and plans

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We’ve already talked about the free plans and their limitations in the first section of this post, so now let’s take a closer look at the premium plans the two services offer.

Spotify and YouTube Music have the exact same plans and prices in the US. A monthly subscription will set you back $9.99, or $4.99 if you’re a student. You can also get a family plan that supports up to six accounts for $14.99.

Read next: Tidal vs Spotify: Which one is the better option for you?

However, Google also offers a YouTube Premium subscription that will appeal to those who love watching YouTube videos. The subscription costs just $2 more per month — $11.99 — and includes YouTube Music and an ad-free YouTube experience. You can also download YouTube videos and take advantage of background play, which means that a video’s audio won’t stop playing if you close the app or turn off the screen of your phone.

Spotify, on the other hand, offers a Premium Duo plan primarily aimed at couples. However, the plan is available in a limited number of markets for now, excluding the US.

YouTube Music vs Spotify: Other differences

Spotify menu on a smartphone in a person's hand

There are a number of other small differences between the two services as well. For example, Spotify has better social features than its competitor. In addition to sharing songs on social media, you can check out exactly what your friends are listening to. It’s a great way to discover new music.

You can also see how many monthly listeners a certain artist has as well as how many followers playlists have. This can be used for comparison purposes, allowing you to figure out which artists/playlists are popular among Spotify users.

YouTube Music also lets you share tracks on social media and allows you to see how many subscribers each artist has. But you can’t see what your friends are listening to or how popular a certain playlist is.

Spotify offers a lot more features than its rival.

Spotify also has a bunch of other extra features you won’t find on its competitor. There’s a sleep timer available that will stop playing music after a specified amount of time. Then there’s the crossfade feature that lets you create a seamless transition between songs, and gapless mode that tries to eliminate the pause after one song ends and a new one starts.

Spotify also works with Google Maps. This means you can play, pause, or skip tracks without leaving the app while having navigation turned on. There’s even Windows app available, which you don’t get with YouTube Music.

YouTube Music vs Spotify: And the winner is…


Overall, Spotify is the superior service. It’s better for discovering new music, has more playlists, offers stronger social features, and gives you access to loads of podcasts. The app is also packed with useful features including crossfade. However, that doesn’t mean it’s a better option for everyone.

There are still reasons to choose YouTube Music over Spotify. If you love watching music videos, Google’s service is right up your alley. It’s also a great option for those who want to get rid of YouTube ads, although that will require an extra $2 per month. These are the two main selling points of YouTube Music right now, but if they aren’t super important to you, I’d suggest you subscribe to Spotify.

If you don’t want to spend money and are satisfied with a free plan, YouTube Music is a great choice. Especially if you’re using it on a computer. You can play any song you like and skip as many times you want. But if you want to browse the web on your mobile device while listening to music or turn off the display to save battery life, Spotify is a better option. As already mentioned, there’s no winner when it comes to the free plan, so you’ll have to base your decision on the limitations you can more easily live with.

Keep in mind that both services offer a free trial for their premium service. YouTube Music can be used for a month for free, while Spotify lets you use all of its features for three months without spending a dime. So if you’re still on the fence regarding which one to go with, test them out both first to see which one you like better.

These are the main differences between YouTube Music and Spotify, although there are a few other smaller ones as well. Perhaps you realized you value sound quality more than you thought; in that case, be sure to turn your attention to Tidal HiFi or Amazon Music HD.

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