The news of Neil Young leaving Spotify because of Joe Rogan's podcast didn't affect me at all. Until, that is, I started to think about its implications going forward.
Here's the short-hand version of the story: Joe Rogan brings on a wide variety of guests, and those guests sometimes say things that aren't factually correct, and Rogan doesn't always shut them down. Young, after noticing a group of doctors petitioning Spotify, gave his record label (and the big green streaming machine) an ultimatum: either Rogan's podcast goes or my music walks.
Spotify, which had reportedly invested more than $100 million into its deal to make The Joe Rogan Experience an exclusive to its service, did not side with Young.
And then Joni Mitchell (opens in new tab), other music rights holders (opens in new tab) began to remove their music (opens in new tab), and I realized it was time to delete the Spotify app from my phone. And, surprise, it has nothing to do with Joe Rogan himself, the views expressed on his podcast or Neil Young's music either.
Spotify's new problem is about trust
Spotify is likely doing all it can right now to make sure nobody else leaves its service, whether it's because of Joe Rogan's views or anything else. In the end, the function of a streaming music service is to serve all the music you want. It's the implicit promise that Spotify and its clones were founded on.
And right now, Spotify is reminding me a lot of YouTube TV. While YouTube TV, a live TV streaming service, is one of the best cable TV alternatives, it suffered content and platform issues throughout 2021.
Whether it was the entire YouTube TV on Roku debacle or how it almost lost NBCUniversal-owned channels and actually lost Disney-owned channels for part of a weekend, YouTube TV felt like a car whose engine wouldn't always start right. It felt like I would log into work looking for the latest piece of YouTube TV drama to cover, as if I was a TMZ reporter looking for news about Pete Davidson's latest breakup or partner.
And at this point, sticking with Spotify feels like rolling that dice daily. And, sure, I could leave when the music of an artist I care about disappears, but I don't want to wait, because the more time I spend only on Spotify, the more I'm investing in building playlists I can't just copy and paste into Apple Music (my other preferred service). At the very least, Spotify has made its content policies publicly available.
Oh, and because I've got two other reasons to prefer Apple Music.
I just want music, and Apple Music respects that
Sure, Spotify has its highly-shareable Wrapped recaps at the end of the year. And I really wish Apple would just copy the homework a bit better next time, but the Apple Music app is better for me in one key way: it has no podcasts.
Now, don't get me wrong. I love podcasts. I've even written about some of my favorites in our best podcasts list. At the same time, though? I already use one of the best podcast apps with Overcast, which is far cleaner and more elegant and fully-featured than Spotify's attempts at pushing podcasts is.
I get it, Spotify. You care a lot about podcasts, and you know people love them. But as I've tweeted (opens in new tab) before, I don't want a podcast app in my music app. Forcing that integration wastes whole sections of an already already-crowded user interface.
hey @Spotify — i will never want to listen to podcasts in your app. not only are you bad at it, but @OvercastFM is so much better. Let us turn podcasts off on your home screen.January 20, 2022
Apple knows better from its iTunes days, and it split Podcasts (and TV and movies) out into its own separate app (which is fine for most, but not my favorite). This means the Apple Music app is just for music, which is the experience I want.
Spotify still doesn't let me bring my own music either
Then there's the "one more thing" of it all. The feature that makes Apple Music something I've paid for even when I'm playing around with Spotify (if all other things are equal, Wrapped is still cooler than Apple's own year in review).
The big Apple Music feature I still love is the iCloud Music Library, a cloud storage service that integrates your own MP3s into your Apple Music account. In an era where not all music is even licensed for streaming services, Apple's option for you to upload your own stuff to listen to anywhere is a huge differential.
That said, a warning provided by friends: back up your originals. A friend tells me Apple Music once replaced their copies with different versions, changing out a studio release for a live album. I've never had that happen personally, and just double-checked that the Fiona Apple album I mention below doesn't have that issue.
There aren't a ton of unlicensed albums I spin a lot — Girl Talk's "All Day," Frank Ocean's "Nostalgia, Ultra" and the leaked version of Fiona Apple's "Extraordinary Machines" are the first few to come to mind — but Spotfiy doesn't have any of those albums. And as a collector I take some comfort in knowing that I'm not stuck to just the music we're all "renting" as a part of our monthly tithe.
And at the end of the day, it's all about the music. Not the podcasts, not the drama. But if I'm paying for a service for music, I want that music to be kept as a priority.