I only realised yesterday that I’ve pretty much completely stopped using Apple Music.
This wasn’t by design. About a month or so ago, I signed up to Spotify and TIDAL as part of a desire to expand my audio horizons and build my first ever audiophile setup.
The net result of this seems to be that I’ve inadvertently given Apple Music the cold shoulder. Admittedly, this is at the exact same time I’ve ditched my iPhone and Apple Watch, but I promise the two aren’t related.
After a bit of deliberation, I think I’ve worked out why Apple Music is no longer the default music app in my life.
The fundamental difference
At some stage, I’m going to undertake a more comprehensive review of Apple Music versus TIDAL and Spotify, but let’s get one thing straight – they’re all incredibly similar when it comes to the library of music on offer.
I genuinely don’t think that’s a differentiating factor for any music streaming platform. This is a surprise because I’d previously kept away from TIDAL due to an unfair assumption that it simply didn’t have enough music within its library.
As it turns out, that was incredibly shortsighted. The library on TIDAL is wonderfully deep. But so too is the Spotify library – and the one on offer from Apple Music. You can lose yourself for hours exploring.
But there’s something about Apple Music that somehow makes it feel less explorable.
I think this is because of the playlists on offer. I’ve realised that I simply prefer the playlists on both Spotify and TIDAL, and the way those platforms foster exploration.
That’s the fundamental difference between these two services and Apple Music.
Spotify’s crowning glory: user-generated playlists
One of Apple Music’s selling points is the fact that Apple has built a team tasked solely with creating playlists for its users.
Firstly, what a cool job! Secondly, it means we’re putting an awful lot of trust into this team to create an incredibly wide range of playlists for the multitude of genres and listening preferences out there.
But it isn’t just genres that dictate playlist curation; there’s mood, activity, and even the listener’s current task during that listening session. This is where Spotify scores really high for me.
Spotify also offers curated playlists from the platform’s team, just like Apple Music, but it places an even greater emphasis on user-generated playlists – and those are the playlists I turn to most often whenever I open the Spotify app.
I’m aware that you can create and share your own playlists on Apple Music, but Apple doesn’t appear to surface these playlists as readily as Spotify during searches.
Search for anything on Spotify and it’ll happily show you user-generated playlists alongside its own. Often, they’re the first results with which you’re presented, and I’m always amazed by how lovingly curated they are once you dive in.
You’ll rarely find a playlist on Spotify which isn’t several hours long. It’s both a great use of your time (you’ll spend far less time exhausting playlists) and indicative of an incredibly passionate user base. That’s inspiring.
TIDAL’s crowning glory: Master audio
My main reason for signing up to TIDAL was its focus on high-quality audio.
This comes in two forms: ‘HiFi’ and ‘Master’. The former is as close to CD quality as you’re likely to get, while the latter, in TIDAL’s own words, “is the only format that guarantees music fans that they are listening to the original master recording – exactly as the artist intended the track to sound.”.
In technical terms, that means you can enjoy completely uncompressed, lossless sound quality of up to 9216 kbps or 24-Bit / 192 kHz.
Grab a decent pair of headphones, an amp, and a DAC, and the difference is staggering. It’s such an engaging, wide, detailed sound, and neither Apple Music nor Spotify comes close (although the latter is in the process of developing its own high-quality audio streaming option).
It’s not cheap, granted (my subscription costs £19.99 per month). But I use it every single day while sitting at my desk, and I’m confident I’m getting my money’s worth.
However, for some reason, TIDAL’s user interface draws me far more deeply into their library than Apple Music. The aforementioned Master audio quality is regularly surfaced within TIDAL’s own playlists which provide collections of music based on artists, genres, and moods from their impressively large Master audio collection.
Everything feels premium in TIDAL; you feel a bit like you’re sifting through the music collection of a wealthy friend, and that has forced me to revisit numerous classics and discover new artists. It’s addictive.
Music as a productivity tool
There’s a reason I’ve become so reliant on playlists; they help me get stuff done – big time.
Right now, I’m listening to Spotify’s ‘This is Meditation Music Zone’ playlist which is the perfect accompaniment to an early morning writing session.
Throughout the day, I’ll switch between this kind of stuff and swirling, endless ambient tracks. Oh, and I’ve become completely addicted to movie themes as a soundtrack for my work, too.
I’ve found that the only way to indulge in this music is to have a large number of playlists on which to call at any given moment in time. Apple Music has never really scratched that itch for me.
In fact, Spotify and TIDAL have become such important tools for me that they’ll invariably make their way into future ‘apps I can’t live without’ articles.
With Apple Music, I always felt like I would quickly exhaust the options for ‘productivity music’. This invariably meant I’d listen to the same albums and playlists over and over again, which lessened my enjoyment of them and made the work itself less enjoyable, too.
By contrast, the mix of Spotify and TIDAL feels like an endless collection of playlists from which I can pick and choose throughout the day without ever hearing the same piece of music twice.
Are you and Apple Music finished, then?
Possibly. I genuinely haven’t used it for weeks. However, I’m acutely aware that most people stick with one platform when it comes to music.
If you’re an iPhone user, Apple Music generally makes sense – particularly if you’re firmly within their ecosystem across other devices, too. If you’re an audiophile, you may prefer to opt for TIDAL due to the platform’s big play on high-quality audio. If you’re a multi-computing platform kind of person or Android user, you’ve almost certainly got a Spotify account.
Being in the fortunate position to have access to all three, I can confidently say that Apple Music sits far behind the pack in terms of my priorities, and it needs to do something seriously impressive to bring me back.