Why YouTube Music Tops Spotify Discover Weekly

Nearly six months after its launch, Google's latest music streaming bid is flexing its muscles. 

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Remember MP3’s?

The compressed music files already seem like a relic compared to the world of streaming audio. Even vinyl records, with all their hipster cachet, seem more reliable. But I stay attached to my collection of MP3s for one big reason — recordings of live performances.

Often the best examples of an artist’s music come in the form of live bootlegs, which you can’t find on streaming services that offer recorded albums as well as officially sanctioned live releases.

It’s for this same reason that I’ve come to love YouTube Music’s predictive software over the likes of Spotify’s Discover Weekly.

The more than 70 million Spotify users out there are likely familiar with the popular aggregation service, which compiles a list of 30 songs personalized to the user’s tastes based on past listening history and tries to suggest new finds.

Far fewer people are likely familiar with the November launch of YouTube Music, despite the more than 1 billion users already watching content on the company’s original video streaming service. The new app focuses on the company’s music offerings from major label music videos to independent productions and delivers personalized playlists — in video or audio-only form — based off listening habits. YouTube Red subscribers get added perks such as no ads and offline downloads as well, much like Spotify Premium subscribers.

YouTube Music is able to connect some deeply personal lines that make for a more robust experience. And in the fight for algorithm-based music selection, it’s the details in the data that make for those brief moments of pure spark.

Musician D'Angelo (L) plays a private concert at a media event announcing updates to the music streaming application Spotify on May 20, 2015 in New York City.

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More Music Matters

While Spotify has an enormous pool of studio recordings, it can’t compete with the vault of fan videos, live performances shot from the crowd, and late-night show appearances that are frequently consumed by YouTube’s global audience.

Admittedly, I don’t use Spotify for all my music needs, for that I generally turn to Google Play Music, an imitation Spotify competitor that comes with a YouTube Red subscription and vice versa, because of the service’s free MP3 integration. If I did use Spotify all the time the software would undoubtedly work better for me as it would collect more information about my specific tastes.

Even with my limited usage of the free tier, Discover Weekly comes up with some pretty great, if not often repetitive, picks. It’s just that YouTube Music is so much more personal.

Super early U.S. adopters of Spotify have data stretching back to 2011, and even then it was a slow start. Whereas YouTube launched in 2005 and was bought by Google in 2006, largely because it was an instant hit. When I wasn’t buying MP3’s off iTunes I was watching music on YouTube.

That means at least once a week while using YouTube Music, my heart stops because the app unearths a live version of a song that I once ran on repeat.

Even if it’s not so forgotten in my mind, I much prefer Bonnie Raitt’s live version of “Love Has No Pride” alongside Crosby, Stills & Nash at the 2009 Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame ceremony to any other recorded version out there. YouTube knows that, and Spotify doesn’t.

Sharing Is Caring

I’ve never come across a Spotify embed and thought, “Great, this will be easy and painless.” No, every time it can’t seem to decide whether to play from the web player or the Spotify app I don’t have launched from my computer.

Music blogs, for better or worse, are still where I get most of my music recommendations and they all default to YouTube videos when they can, only turning to Spotify embeds when Soundcloud isn’t an option either.

So I often look up new songs, give them a play or ten, and then forget about the single until the full album comes out later in the year. But YouTube Music remembers the ones I put on repeat and allows them to resurface when I play my personalized playlist.

There’s also just far more data YouTube can draw from, largely because of its ubiquitous adoption across the internet. This allows the trending tab to really catch currently popular and growing artists in the same space, and feels much more up to pace than Spotify’s U.S. and Global Charts list, which basically just mirror the Billboard Hot 100.

More data equals better results every time, and thanks to YouTube’s shareability and its longevity, it has Spotify beat. Thankfully, with so many choices in music streaming nowadays, both options are free, so long as you don’t mind some ads.