After having spent grades six through twelve on Spotify, cultivating over 160 playlists of individual themes, emotions, and heartache, my niche little personalized playlist world was shattered when my mom's boyfriend announced he was getting Apple Music for us and my mom told me I needed to quit Spotify Premium. While I thought all my hard work was going to waste, the switch turned out to be a blessing in disguise- the perfect chance to start over, and better.
Spotify is Performative
Although I had caught on to Spotify's performative edge around sophomore year, when we all began titling playlists vague things like "melancholy skies" or "life is hard" in the hopes that that special someone would see us listening to it and notice we were sad and maybe even reach out. This behavior is instigated by the dreadful Friend Activity sidebar present on the computer app. The sidebar displays what song, artist, album or playlist the people you follow are or have been listening to most recently in chronological order. This not only breeds a performative atmosphere of wanting to listen to the most obscure artists in order to seem interesting, but also fosters a breach of privacy. So what if I want to listen to 80's pop classics for two hours straight? I know it won't look cool, but goddamn, I wanna sing along to some Beach Boys! There is an option to turn this feature off and hide yourself and what those you follow have been listening to, but curiosity killed the cat, and I do want to know what my friends have been listening to. This feature is nowhere to be found in Apple Music, and even just the premise of followers are not a big deal on the platform. Profiles can be private, and need to be requested to follow, and the whole ordeal feels a lot more intimate. It feels less like a social media site and more for just good ole' music.
Spotify's Evil Algorithm
Spotify's personalized playlist algorithms seem friendly at first. New music every week picked out just for you sounds like such a gift. But behind the scenes, Spotify has been suspected to create fake artists to fill up these playlists more easily and without having to pay royalties. Next time you hear a generic-sounding artist in your Discover Weekly, try googling them and find out if they have any actual substance to their name. The personalized algorithms are also dangerous for music production culture, as they incentivize artists to produce songs that fit the cookie-cutter hooks most listeners enjoy. If they create monotonous pop hits, they're more likely to be featured on listeners' personalized playlists and gain success. This cycle damages music culture as there is no creativity real thought being put into much new music being released.
Apple Music has a feature that stars all of the songs on an album that are more popular, which is a helpful tool to knowing which songs might be "the best" off an album. Along with this, Apple Music includes editor blurbs about certain albums in dramatic yet exciting descriptions, and prepares the listener for what kind of musical adventure they are about to hear. They also have some music videos included under some artists' pages that are always pretty and always easily accessible. The music videos can also be added to your library under their own subsection, so they are easy to find again to show your friends.
Artists > Single Songs
When having the itch to listen to a certain song on Spotify, I would search for it and listen, and then Spotify would shove a playlist down my throat of "Radio based on" whoever. While this feature can be nice if I want to feel a certain vibe that fits that song, I felt like I never knew what I was listening to during those playlists. Every song was by a different artist, and it was a whole lot easier to listen aimlessly. On Apple Music, I was jarred when I played a song and then there was nothing but silence afterwards. However, I've found that I became more inclined to play the whole album the song was on out of curiosity and simplicity. Doing this has made me feel a lot more connected to the artists than if I'd just listened to that one song. Apple Music pushes the listening of entire albums, which in turn I think bodes people to like more artists as opposed to just individual songs, a problem I felt I always had with Spotify.
Overall, I like Apple Music's features much more than Spotify's. While Spotify feels like a glass case that you present to your peers to be looked at and fawned over, Apple Music feels like it is meant to be listened to.