To Spotify or to Apple Music, That’s the Question

One of the surprising evolutions in my online life is how late I was to the streaming party. For many years of my life I was always on the hunt for the latest, newest and shiniest webapp or startup. Like many I belonged to the “TechCrunch crowd”, pretty much since TC started. Before that there was Ars Technica and GigaOm.

Those were the hunting ground not only for the latest announcements but also for beta codes. Startups still launched in closed beta to build hype and a TechCrunch news article, with beta signup, was the golden grail for many. Also because the whole of Silicon Valley’s VCs used to read TechCrunch — although that may more have been for the gossip Michael Arrington also excelled at.

I remember when Spotify launched, of course, I signed up and tried it out. But I was an album collector and believed in local — or network — storage for my media. Back in those days Spotify still advertised the higher quality ogg vorbis music codec premium users had access to. Maybe it was my not too awesome earbuds then or maybe there just wasn’t the bandwidth where I lived or maybe I was just lazy, but soon I was back to listening to music in good old fashioned iTunes.

It would take several years before I finally caved in and joined the streaming revolution. That was mostly driven by Spotify offering a lower monthly price locally1 than the common $9.99 it charges in the First World.

I kept saving music locally though, because LTE in the Philippines stands for LifeTime EDGE connectivity. Both your nerves on edge and slow EDGE speed. Until this days the streaming dream often is impossible, especially in the capital.

Privacy Issues

Anybody who follows me on Twitter knows that #privacy is a common topic for me. While my earliest interest in #privacy started when I lived in Germany and occasionally attended Chaos Computer Club (CCC) meetings, privacy truly became an issue for me after spending several months as en Entrepreneur in Residence at one of the largest advertising agencies in the Philippines.

I was tasked with finishing the work on an almost completed CRM, as well as introducing new revenue streams. In their dinosaurial methods, I had to design a three years plan and present to the regional CDO. The internet had just turned the switch and became a giant data mining environment. Facebook had discovered the golden advertising grail and was selling it to corporations around the world. Google had removed “Do no evil” from its website and would soon introduce its one privacy policy for all Google products policy. Startups had discovered growth hacking and data mining. Lastly, the internet world was about to become “Mobile First”.

Some years earlier I had led the development of the then largest recipe search engine. Our team also had an interest in news aggregation. I recall that after the launch of the initial iPad model, I mentioned to them how we could use the device’s processing power to track how far users scrolled through news items, at which speed and whether they actually read them or not, and use all that data to tailor their homepage and news feed.

While at the agency my interest in data was a welcome discovery for them. Because I wasn’t that interested in CRMs, yet all clients wanted to know how to make use of it, I quickly discovered that they had no idea about mobile devices and their capabilities yet. Always wanting to stay ahead of the curve, I started to design models making use of a user’s location and location plus CRM would become my 3 years roadmap. This was several years before Facebook introduced Facebook WiFi, which requires 24/7 location access.

Surprisingly enough, the only person not too keen on the plan was the regional CDO. Which disappointed me slightly because from the few interactions we had I thought he was on top of his game and would immediately grasp where I was going and see the potential. Alas, that wasn’t how things went2.

I wasn’t one to let a setback set me back, but at the same time I knew my days at the agency were numbered. My initial contract was expiring and to this day I don’t know what I actually did there during those 8 months3. Months of intense work developing the 3 years plan, as well as several previous years with high focus on data mining, did lead to a “Eureka!” moment though. As I was counting down days towards the end of my contract, I started to realize how intrusive and negative data mining could be. Maybe one has to realize how powerful everything is before one truly grasps how harmful it can be.
And that, to be entirely honest, companies have no right to that data and definitely shouldn’t monetize it.

Soon I switched to DuckDuckGo and also ditched my Facebook account. The #takebackyourprivacy day had come for me.

Nowadays, in 2020, Twitter and Spotify are my only “vice”. While I do have an Android device for which no LineageOS build exists, I try to stay on top of its phoning home habits. Not just on Android. Combined with minimal social media use, my internet days are as clean as they can be without truly harming the experience4.

To Spotify or to Apple Music?

I don’t think I have much interest in ending my Twitter use. I don’t use the platform that often and I do also discover great reads via it. My constant Spotify use is starting to irk me though.

First of all, Spotify is probably the worst Android app I have installed. Aside from its daily redownloading playlists, the app has regular volume issues. It also loves crashing from time to time. At least once daily. And, Spotify is a “prediction factory”. Its homepage has turned rather stale for me and it has been long since I saw new playlists — obviously, tailored to my listening habits. The gazillion of playlists I have are all awesome but even a gazillion playlists quickly turns old and seems limiting.

At the same time, Apple Music, has become even cheaper than Spotify5. Both platforms carry a similar amount of music and artists. Both platforms love shoving me Filipino music in the homepage — which I don’t listen to — and both platforms send data home.

Yet, Apple Inc. is the one company whom I trust with my (anonymizes) data. While privacy was always a focus of Apple, Tim Cook’s Apple has made privacy a main selling point. And I can get behind how they use the data. It’s an acceptable level of evil.

I know that I could try out Apple Music for the next three months free. But I tend to be an extremist, meaning I’m all in or all out. YouTube Music being the perfect example of that. Despite having uploaded probably more than 60GB of albums to Play Music when the service launched — many which aren’t to be found on Spotify or Apple Music or YT Music — I don’t use the platform anymore because it’s a Google product. I don’t mind having a slightly worse experience if it means I’m not the product anymore.

Here I am, undecided.


To Spotify or to Apple Music, that’s the Question.

1 PHP 149/month, around $3/month
2 More than three years later Facebook introduced similar concepts with the launch of FB WiFi
3 In my last month I did lead the pitch and signing of a multiple years CRM development contract with a major fossil fuels company. I certainly returned a multiple of what I cost the agency. But it was an unsatisfying time.
4 It would be possible to take this to another level by blocking multiple Google and Amazon URLs on router level but that would make the internet rather unusable
5 PHP 129/month, around $2.6/month