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When Spotify became available, I immediately signed up for it, getting an ‘unlimited’ subscription first. Later I got premium after the unlimited subscription disappeared, but €9,99 really stings when you don’t have that much spare money to spend. I switched to Google Play Music a few months ago after I could get access via my job. I like both services and after using both for a while, I see both services have their own pros and cons.

Big Brother Google

One of the main cons for Google Play Music is that it is another Google service next to my YouTube and Gmail. They are collecting an awful lot of data this way. Spotify is a Swedish business and Sweden is part of the European Union. They collect data, too, in order to tailor suggestions to you, but it doesn’t seem as pervasive as Google.

Discoverability of new music

Both Spotify and Google Play Music have roughly the same music catalogue. It looks like both companies have roughly the same deals, although it looks like Spotify has more indie music. If you like to compile your own playlists, it doesn’t really matter which service you use. The difference is in curated playlists.

Both services have curated playlists you can pick, but somehow I like Spotify’s lists better. For instance, when it rains outside, Spotify will offer me a ‘Music for a Rainy Day’ playlist in the ‘Browse’ section. When I have to commute to work, they suggest a morning commute in the morning and an evening commute play list in the evening. The lists aren’t static, but change content from time to time. They also do a better job predicting what I like. This could be because I have been using Spotify for years versus Google Play Music for only a couple of months. For me, Spotify wins when looking at discoverability of new music.

Streaming Quality

When I use both services, Google Play Music stands out for streaming quality. When I set both services to ‘high quality’ and listened to the same song on, Google Play Music’s volume was consistently louder. I use Google Play Music Desktop Player on my computers and the Google Play Music apps on my mobile devices to listen. I noticed that songs do vary in loudness. Some songs in my playlist are very loud, for others I have to crank up the volume only to have my ears blown out when the next loud song is being played. I have an equalizer turned on in my Spotify app, so maybe it’s just something that’s not featured in my desktop app. I’m still finding my way around. Overall, Google Play Music offers a better experience in streaming quality for me.

Other options

Both services allow downloading songs for premium subscribers, which is a feature I rely heavily on because listen to music all the time. It’s a great way to save on mobile data costs as I never connect to public WiFi for security reasons.

Both offer lyrics. Spotify does on my Chromecast, Google does via Google Play Music Desktop Player. The price is also more or less the same. For Spotify, I could get a discount via my Internet Service Provider (XS4ALL), saving €1 per month. For Google Play Music, I’m on a family plan making it a lot cheaper. It seems to me that for most other functions both services are more or less the same.

And the winner is…

Both have their pros and cons and it really depends on what matters to you personally. If you are really worried about Google’s pervasive data collecting, Spotify is a lot nicer. On the other hand: as a EU customer I have legal customer protection and there is GDPR.

At the end I settled with Google Play Music because I’m on a family plan and find myself listening to the same playlists over and over again. I have 30 imported ones, I can play radio and like new songs if I really want to discover something new.

If I had to choose between Google Play Music and Spotify on a standalone plan, I probably would choose Spotify since it’s an EU business. The costs for premium are about the same and the curation of playlists is a bit better.