Jordan Gloor / How-To Geek
YouTube Music has a similar library and pricing to Spotify, as well as similar audio quality. Spotify wins on podcasts and music discovery, while YouTube Music has a cheaper family plan and a better free option without the restrictions that Spotify imposes.

Spotify may be the most popular music streaming service, but it’s not the only option. YouTube Music is an alternative worth considering, especially if you already rely on other Google services, but how does it compare to Spotify?

What Is Spotify?

Spotify is a streaming service that gives you unlimited access to its massive library of music and podcasts through its app. Regardless of what tier you have, you can do things like create playlists, find new music and podcasts recommended to you based on your listening habits, and see what your friends are listening to. There’s a Spotify app for Windows, Mac, Linux, iPhone, iPad, Android, and Kindle, and you can also use the web player in your browser or an app on your smart TV to listen to Spotify.

What Is YouTube Music?

YouTube Music is an audio streaming service that’s an extension of the popular YouTube video platform. Similar to Spotify, you get access to an expansive catalog of music (and, soon, podcasts) that you can use to make and share playlists and discover new artists. There’s a dedicated YouTube Music app for Android, iPhone, and iPad, and you can access it on your browser using the web player or through the regular YouTube app on many smart TVs.

What Do You Get for Free With Each Service?

Both Spotify and YouTube Music offer free and paid options that grant you access to most of their catalogs. That said, the experience and features you get with the free version differs greatly between both versions.

As you may expect, the main downside of the free version of either service is that they’re ad-supported. You’ll frequently have your listening interrupted regardless of which service you’re listening to. That’s not the only similarity between free versions, either.

Whether you choose the free version of Spotify or YouTube Music’s free option, the audio quality isn’t as high as you’d get with a paid subscription. Both services limit streams to 128kbps on the free version.

Spotify has some additional restrictions: You can’t choose songs from playlists or albums, but instead are limited to shuffling through songs. There are also limitations on how many songs you can skip on your mobile device.

YouTube Music lets you listen to any song you want and doesn’t limit skips. The only extra restriction is that you need to keep your screen on to keep the music playing.

YouTube Music and Spotify Subscription Costs Compared

Pricing Plan YouTube Music Spotify
Individual $9.99/month $9.99/month
Student $4.99/month $4.99/month
Family (up to six people) $14.99/month $15.99/month
Duo (two people) N/A $12.99/month
Annual $99/year N/A*

If you’re looking at moving up from the free tier, both Spotify and YouTube Music offer premium subscriptions at $9.99 per month. YouTube Music lets you save money with the annual plan, which costs $99 per year, bringing the monthly cost effectively down to $8.25. Spotify doesn’t officially offer the same plan, but there is a workaround that lets you get the same deal. Additionally, students get special pricing with either service, paying $4.99 per month for an individual subscription.

What if you’re planning on multiple listeners? YouTube Music offers a family plan for $14.99 per month for up to six people.

Spotify’s pricing works differently. The six-person family plan costs slightly more than YouTube Music’s at $15.99. On the other hand, Spotify also has a Duo plan for $12.99 per month. As the name implies, this plan is primarily meant for couples.

YouTube or Spotify: Which Sounds Better?

Neither YouTube Music nor Spotify are known for being the highest-quality streaming services. While some streaming services offer higher-quality streaming, this isn’t available on either service at the time of this writing.

Tidal, Apple Music, and Amazon Music Unlimited are just a few of the services that offer lossless and hi-res music. When it comes to sheer bitrate, Tidal beats the rest of the pack, and neither Spotify nor YouTube Music ranks particularly highly.

Technically, Spotify offers a higher bitrate than YouTube Music. With Spotify, you get streams up to 320kbps, while YouTube Music tops out at 256kbps. Even so, that difference is rarely going to be audible, so it’s largely a wash.

Spotify has announced a higher-quality tier, Spotify Hi-Fi, but the company has been quiet about when this tier may arrive.

Which Service Has the Bigger Music Library?

With Spotify’s popularity, you’d think it would have the largest library, but that’s not the case. In fact, neither of these services comes close to having the largest library.

Looking at our list of streaming services with the most songs, Spotify and YouTube don’t make the top five. Even excluding SoundCloud, which has a massive catalog but is a different type of streaming service, Apple Music, Amazon Music Unlimited, Tidal, and Deezer all have larger catalogs.

We’re just looking at music here, which doesn’t tell the whole story. Spotify offers a massive catalog of podcasts, some exclusive. While YouTube Music doesn’t currently offer podcasts, Google has announced that podcasts are coming to the service.

Music Discovery and Playlists

Spotify largely pioneered music discovery for streaming platforms with automated playlists like Discover Weekly and Release Radar. With that type of headstart, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Spotify’s discovery and smart playlist features are some of the best you’ll find.

The company has been smart about keeping fan-favorite features while steadily introducing new features. For example, one of Spotify’s newer additions is an AI DJ that builds upon those earlier smart playlists and even speaks to you in the process.

Looking at YouTube Music, it does enough, but only barely. You get a Discover Mix, which is more or less Spotify’s Discovery Weekly. You also get My Super Mix, which is similar, but more of a playlist of your top songs that is constantly rotating new songs in and out.

Other Important Differences Between YouTube Music and Spotify

One of the biggest issues that you need to consider if you’re considering switching music streaming services is where and how you listen. Spotify has been around long enough that it’s supported nearly everywhere. From your phone, to your TV, to your A/V receiver from 2015, it probably supports Spotify.

YouTube Music hasn’t been around as long, so it isn’t quite as compatible. Many devices support ChromeCast connectivity, which also makes listening to YouTube Music easier, but you still can’t expect YouTube Music to “just work” the way that Spotify does.

Podcasts in Spotify app

As mentioned earlier, Spotify has an advantage when it comes to podcasts, but it remains to be seen how long that will remain the case. While YouTube Music is planning to roll out podcasts, we don’t know about exclusives or just how vast the library will be. For now, Spotify still wins here.

Spotify vs. YouTube Music: Which Should You Use?

For the vast majority of people, Spotify is likely the better option compared to YouTube Music. If you’re looking for the equivalent for music, podcasts, and all things audio entertainment, Spotify has more to offer, at least for now.

Even if you don’t care about podcasts or use another app or service for them, Spotify’s music discovery features make it a better option for most people. Sure, the company’s competition is catching up, but Spotify is also adding new discovery and personalized playlist features all the time.

That doesn’t mean that YouTube Music isn’t a great option. If you use an Android phone, or you’re a heavy user of Google apps and services, YouTube Music will be a better fit for you. It also has a cheaper plan for larger families.

YouTube Music also has a better free product than Spotify. If you’re not planning on paying, go for YouTube Music. If you’re willing to pay but want to save as much as possible, take a look at our roundup of the cheapest music streaming services.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does Google Own Spotify?

No. Spotify is a publicly held company, but it has no ties to Google. Google owns YouTube and YouTube Music.

Is YouTube Music better than Spotify?

Neither YouTube Music nor Spotify is objectively better. Spotify has better music discovery features and podcasts, while YouTube Music has a better free option.

Can You Add YouTube Music Songs to Spotify?

There isn’t an official way to move songs from YouTube Music to Spotify. Several third-party options are available, but none of them are officially supported.

Profile Photo for Kris Wouk Kris Wouk
Kris Wouk is a freelance tech writer and musician with over 10 years of experience as a writer and a lifetime of experience as a gadget fan. He has also written for Digital Trends, MakeUseOf, Android Authority, and Sound Guys. At MakeUseOf, he was Section Editor in charge of the site's Mac coverage.
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