Earlier this year week in my app I got a “Similar to Lil Uzi Vert” recommendation, which again was a grab bag combination of YouTube Music official playlists (“I’m A Boss”), albums (Culture II
), and artist pages (Lil Yatchy). I’ve written a lot about YouTube Music before
and after its launch
and how generally I feel the product is a painful Spotify clone—also what happened to Tuma Basa anyone. Beyond the basic interface of the two apps, which look almost exactly the same YouTube Music’s issue is that it doesn’t know how it wants its users to consume music. Too many options are put in front of the user, where the elegance of Spotify is that one can just press play and go.
(Ironically this is also the best quality of YouTube’s controversial auto-play feature, which YouTube Music oddly didn’t build more centrally into the app.)
Now to circle back to Apple Music albums over-performing compared to Spotify. After looking at bit more at Spotify’s free app, which is again is a larger user based than paying American Spotify users, I can’t say I’m shocked at this fact any longer. Non-paying Spotify users couldn’t even play through an album in the correct sequence, since the free version is limited across the board to shuffle mode. That means there is over 30 million Spotify users who are effectively isolated into a Spotify or personal playlist only listening experience, unless they’re on their desktop.
Last decade in the 2000s when iPods were huge there was an idea that you could have thousands of songs in a single place and access all of these random MP3s, legal or not legal, but the burden of choice was on the music consumer not on the platform itself. Spotify, and Pandora it should be noted, offers the opposite. Instead there is access to all music but choice and ownership are disconnected. An successful artist on Spotify can be completely fan driven but the platform is design fairly well to AstroTurf and mask acts who may only have one song on a few major playlists but are positioned to be huge.
YouTube by comparison arrived in the iPod era, where the onus of consumption was on the user to know what they want and to seek it out and curate from there. YouTube Music finds a rather squishy middle ground because YouTube’s recommendation system is the best of any platform and yet the app isn’t centered on that system. Instead there is no center, because the app cannot decide if they’re catering towards super fans or people who’d rather just let the algorithm take them for a ride.