Apple Music vs. Spotify

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In all the time I’ve used Spotify, it has never crashed or closed unexpectedly. I have yet to experience an audio dropout. It’s rock solid and plays music flawlessly. Spotify is a frustration-free music streaming experience.

Searching for Music: Spotify Wins

Apple has some expertise when it comes to search. Macs have offered Spotlight for several years. Spotlight has also been folded into iOS. For the most part, Spotlight is simple, but it just works. Unfortunately, the search functionality in Apple Music leaves much to be desired. It functions best when searching for artists, but sometimes it doesn’t work at all. I tried to search for “Can”, the German art rock band. Apple Music returned every artist and song with the word “can”, but not the rock band. I looked over pages of search results, but still no Can. I ended up going to the For You screen, because I remembered that Apple Music recommended them. After scrolling through screen after screen of recommendations, I found their music.

Apple Music Can't Find Can

Filtering results can also be problematic. For example, I can type in “Ornette Coleman” and find the artist and albums. If I type in “Ornette Coleman the shape of jazz to come”, it returns nothing. Users are forced to do broad searches and manually comb through pages of search results. It’s not possible to search by genre. At best, you can scroll through the For You screen to find a genre-based playlist.

Apple Music is also poorly organized. Albums are not organized by date. They don’t show release dates on most of the screens. You might see the release date after drilling down into the album detail screen. Some artists don’t even have their albums on their artist screen. It took great efforts to find D.R.I.’s “Crossover”. Their artist screen only displayed a few compilations. From there, I clicked on a compilation, then clicked on the artist and it took me to another D.R.I. artist screen that had their albums.

Apple Music has dirty data. There are duplicate screens for artists that are dead ends. This, combined with poor search capabilities makes it a chore to find music. Apple Music doesn’t make it easy to find marginalized music. Pop fans might easily find what they’re looking for.

Spotify’s search functionality is fully capable. It returns artists, albums, songs and playlists matching the search criteria. That’s how searching is supposed to work. Users can also filter the search results further. This is usually unnecessary, as Spotify is well-organized. One can tap on an artist and quickly browse albums and top songs. I haven’t needed to use the search filter yet.

Spotify Search

Users can also search by genre. If you want to find “avant garde jazz” Spotify will find a playlist. From there, you can discover new artists and drill down into artists’ screens.

Spotify Search by Genre

Music is properly organized within Spotify. I am not seeing duplicate artist pages with dead ends. If I search for a jazz musician, I not only see their albums, but also any album they have played on. Jazz musicians have their own bands and also play in other groups. I spend far less time finding music in Spotify because it is organized. It takes human beings to do this.

As much as Apple boasts about human curation, they clearly haven’t done human quality assurance on their music data. There are about 30 million songs in their collection. It is completely possible to review this information. Apple Music looks like they just inserted automated data loads from various music publishers and used some algorithm to associate artists with albums and songs. It’s an unusable mess. Given the years they have had to clean up their iTunes music collection, it’s inexcusable. (continue…)

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