To Spotify or to Apple Music, That’s the Question

in Musiclast month (edited)

One of the surprising evolutions in my online life is how late I was to the streaming party. For many years of my life I was always on the hunt for the latest, newest and shiniest webapp or startup. Like many I belonged to the “TechCrunch crowd”, pretty much since TC started. Before that there was Ars Technica and GigaOm.

Those were the hunting ground not only for the latest announcements but also for beta codes. Startups still launched in closed beta to build hype and a TechCrunch news article, with beta signup, was the golden grail for many. Also because the whole of Silicon Valley’s VCs used to read TechCrunch — although that may more have been for the gossip Michael Arrington also excelled at.

I remember when Spotify launched, of course, I signed up and tried it out. But I was an album collector and believed in local — or network — storage for my media. Back in those days Spotify still advertised the higher quality ogg vorbis music codec premium users had access to. Maybe it was my not too awesome earbuds then or maybe there just wasn’t the bandwidth where I lived or maybe I was just lazy, but soon I was back to listening to music in good old fashioned iTunes.

It would take several years before I finally caved in and joined the streaming revolution. That was mostly driven by Spotify offering a lower monthly price locally1 than the common $9.99 it charges in the First World.

I kept saving music locally though, because LTE in the Philippines stands for LifeTime EDGE connectivity. Both your nerves on edge and slow EDGE speed. Until this days the streaming dream often is impossible, especially in the capital.

Privacy Issues

Anybody who follows me on Twitter knows that #privacy is a common topic for me. While my earliest interest in #privacy started when I lived in Germany and occasionally attended Chaos Computer Club (CCC) meetings, privacy truly became an issue for me after spending several months as en Entrepreneur in Residence at one of the largest advertising agencies in the Philippines.

I was tasked with finishing the work on an almost completed CRM, as well as introducing new revenue streams. In their dinosaurial methods, I had to design a three years plan and present to the regional CDO. The internet had just turned the switch and became a giant data mining environment. Facebook had discovered the golden advertising grail and was selling it to corporations around the world. Google had removed “Do no evil” from its website and would soon introduce its one privacy policy for all Google products policy. Startups had discovered growth hacking and data mining. Lastly, the internet world was about to become “Mobile First”.

Some years earlier I had led the development of the then largest recipe search engine. Our team also had an interest in news aggregation. I recall that after the launch of the initial iPad model, I mentioned to them how we could use the device’s processing power to track how far users scrolled through news items, at which speed and whether they actually read them or not, and use all that data to tailor their homepage and news feed.

While at the agency my interest in data was a welcome discovery for them. Because I wasn’t that interested in CRMs, yet all clients wanted to know how to make use of it, I quickly discovered that they had no idea about mobile devices and their capabilities yet. Always wanting to stay ahead of the curve, I started to design models making use of a user’s location and location plus CRM would become my 3 years roadmap. This was several years before Facebook introduced Facebook WiFi, which requires 24/7 location access.

Surprisingly enough, the only person not too keen on the plan was the regional CDO. Which disappointed me slightly because from the few interactions we had I thought he was on top of his game and would immediately grasp where I was going and see the potential. Alas, that wasn’t how things went2.

I wasn’t one to let a setback set me back, but at the same time I knew my days at the agency were numbered. My initial contract was expiring and to this day I don’t know what I actually did there during those 8 months3. Months of intense work developing the 3 years plan, as well as several previous years with high focus on data mining, did lead to a “Eureka!” moment though. As I was counting down days towards the end of my contract, I started to realize how intrusive and negative data mining could be. Maybe one has to realize how powerful everything is before one truly grasps how harmful it can be.
And that, to be entirely honest, companies have no right to that data and definitely shouldn’t monetize it.

Soon I switched to DuckDuckGo and also ditched my Facebook account. The #takebackyourprivacy day had come for me.

Nowadays, in 2020, Twitter and Spotify are my only “vice”. While I do have an Android device for which no LineageOS build exists, I try to stay on top of its phoning home habits. Not just on Android. Combined with minimal social media use, my internet days are as clean as they can be without truly harming the experience4.

To Spotify or to Apple Music?

I don’t think I have much interest in ending my Twitter use. I don’t use the platform that often and I do also discover great reads via it. My constant Spotify use is starting to irk me though.

First of all, Spotify is probably the worst Android app I have installed. Aside from its daily redownloading playlists, the app has regular volume issues. It also loves crashing from time to time. At least once daily. And, Spotify is a “prediction factory”. Its homepage has turned rather stale for me and it has been long since I saw new playlists — obviously, tailored to my listening habits. The gazillion of playlists I have are all awesome but even a gazillion playlists quickly turns old and seems limiting.

At the same time, Apple Music, has become even cheaper than Spotify5. Both platforms carry a similar amount of music and artists. Both platforms love shoving me Filipino music in the homepage — which I don’t listen to — and both platforms send data home.

Yet, Apple Inc. is the one company whom I trust with my (anonymizes) data. While privacy was always a focus of Apple, Tim Cook’s Apple has made privacy a main selling point. And I can get behind how they use the data. It’s an acceptable level of evil.

I know that I could try out Apple Music for the next three months free. But I tend to be an extremist, meaning I’m all in or all out. YouTube Music being the perfect example of that. Despite having uploaded probably more than 60GB of albums to Play Music when the service launched — many which aren’t to be found on Spotify or Apple Music or YT Music — I don’t use the platform anymore because it’s a Google product. I don’t mind having a slightly worse experience if it means I’m not the product anymore.

Here I am, undecided.

 

To Spotify or to Apple Music, that’s the Question.


1 PHP 149/month, around $3/month
2 More than three years later Facebook introduced similar concepts with the launch of FB WiFi
3 In my last month I did lead the pitch and signing of a multiple years CRM development contract with a major fossil fuels company. I certainly returned a multiple of what I cost the agency. But it was an unsatisfying time.
4 It would be possible to take this to another level by blocking multiple Google and Amazon URLs on router level but that would make the internet rather unusable
5 PHP 129/month, around $2.6/month

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I’m an Apple Music user just because I’ve been an Apple user for many years. One of the best comparisons I’ve heard was the saying that Apple devices are like the parts of Voltron, the more of them you put together, the better they get! Apple Music has just always fit well in my little ecosystem and I have no complaints. Likewise I trust Apple privacy practices about as much as you possibly can with a megacorp.

The final argument for me would be the Homepod. They're awesome price quality wise and Apple keeps improving the firmware.

I'm a big fan of the Apple ecosystem (with the exception of Apple TV, a Mac Mini is much smarter). In fact, Apple Home is better (faster) with my connected lights than their own software!

Sadly enough, it seems Apple can't get FTC accreditation for the Homepod locally as we've never seen them in official reseller stores, on the website, and even the side importers don't carry them. Not even upon request!

Addendum: How are the playlist suggestions after some months? Does Apple Music keep suggesting new ones or does it get slightly stale?

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Super read.

Although I don't have the deep tech background as you, I sit at the same crossroads. I'm dithering around deleting Facebook (and it's associated apps). I don't use FB itself, really any more. Main drawback there is that family and friends use Messenger a lot - and that's not likely to change.

I am an Apple user, and - like you - more comfortable with their approach to privacy, so slowly moving all my stuff off Google Drive to iCloud. Dreading sorting my gmail account out, though!

Again, like you, I'm more comfortable with Twitter - though under no illusions that they are much better that other platforms.

I have been a Spotify user for years. And I find their recommendations/daily mixes really good. I genuinely like that feature. A lot. But every so often I feel the pull of Apple music, as I'm geeky enough to like the idea of having all my stuff in one ecosystem. I like the way Apple stuff slots together - I use aMac Mini, Macbook Air and have an iPhone - and when MacOS/iOS/iCloud slots together across devices, it's lovely. But from a music aspect - yeah, Spotify has my history and 'knows' me. And (though this may be because I'm familiar with it), it just feel more natural to use 'in-app'

And there's another twist for me. I make music. I'm firmly in the 'small-artist' bracket. Self-release, small audience which, if I'm being honest, is probably mainly other musicians. But Folk generally seem to like my stuff.

And it's received wisdom that Spotify is a 'must-have'. At least that's the biggest audience, and therefore it's accepted that we have to release to it and (although this makes me chuckle) subscribe and use the app so I can at least grab the links so I can tweet about them! So, I'm sort of bound to it. Good job I like it!

Having said that - I'm not convinced it is a must-have. As a small artist, I'm currently re-evaluating what I need and what I need to do to get my music out there, and maybe grow a little. Still need to think a bit more about some stuff, and join some threads together, but I'll be sharing this stuff on Hive when I have, if anyone is interested. ;-)

Thanks for your awesome comment. The pull of slightly better privacy, in a smooth ecosystem, is indeed strong.

As an artist I think it should be ok to opt for privacy but also have the Spotify for Artists app. It isn’t because you submit your music that you also have to be their product as user. I think one can combine both.

While I can not recommend the Messenger app — IMHO using the website in Brave is “safer” if only for chatting — same applies there if your family uses it as main communication method. What’s the alternative? Whatsapp? FB is merging all three messengers (FB, IG, WA). ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

I did bite the bullet though when I jumped and I switched to Signal (and Slack). Surprisingly enough some followed. I now have less noisy family and core friends chat. :)

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The choices soon boil down to what compromises you are willing to make, I guess.

And, as such, the decisions made around private use will probably differ from this made around my music. The goals are different, so different compromises will be made.

I must admit - I'd not thought about using messenger in Brave. I am a Brave user, and - to be honest - most of the stuff that gets posted to messenger isn't time critical - it doesn't need to be on my mobile. Folk can still SMS/call for anything urgent. (Or use Signal, indeed)

More food for thought. This is A Good Thing - cheers!

The Messenger app will still fingerprint your device. Once connected it has access to your MAC address and also triangulation via cell towers and even WiFi routers (assuming most are not configured to send a fake location).

With Brave Shields and fingerprint protection, messenger doesn't get access to those and can not fingerprint your device. Unless you explicitly allow it.

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