As a music lover, you’ve got plenty of streaming services to choose from, and Spotify and TIDAL are among some of the most popular.
Streaming services are not created equal, however, and while some services offer hi-fi music and exclusive content, others do not. And this is just one factor that may play a part in choosing the right service for you.
Here we’ll look at the differences between TIDAL and Spotify and compare the two to help you find the best.
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TIDAL Vs. Spotify – Music Discovery
Both Spotify and TIDAL offer robust music discovery features to help you find more great music you will love. And their offerings are quite competitive.
Both services let you browse by genre, mood, activity, and other factors, and both services give you access to a Radio feature that helps you find music that’s like what you’re already listening to.
As well, both services utilize algorithms to better understand your taste in music and make recommendations, though their method differs a little.
Spotify offers Spotify’s Discover Weekly playlist feature, which is updated every week. If you wish, these mixes can be saved as a playlist for later listening.
Spotify comes with additional music discovery features, like:
- The “Release Radar” playlist, which also updates weekly. This playlist gathers all the latest releases from the artists you follow.
- Up to six “Daily Mix” playlists, which include songs you’ve been listening to lately and similar songs.
- Static playlists like the “Your Time Capsule” playlist.
- The “Discover Weekly” feature, which recommends songs from artists and genres you listen to.
Meanwhile, TIDAL will create up to eight “My Mix” playlists based on the genres you listen to and save them to “My Collection.” This feature is like Spotify’s “Daily Mix” playlists.
Here are some additional areas that are worth comparing:
TIDAL has the “TIDAL Rising” feature, which lets you see which artists are increasing in popularity. These artists have been chosen by TIDAL’s curators. If you want to keep tabs on who might be the next emerging star, you will love “TIDAL Rising.”
On the other hand, Spotify has a “Charts” tab for convenient viewing. This feature lets you see the top songs from across the world, along with information on where the track came from. You can also see whether a track is new, up-trending, or down-trending.
Both TIDAL and Spotify have editorial playlists that are updated frequently and ongoingly. That said, Spotify offers considerably more than TIDAL, with more genre-, mood-, and activity-based playlists. These playlists also help lesser-known artists grow their following.
Music Discovery – Overall
Music discovery is personal. Some people love stumbling across new songs and artists. Others don’t care that much about finding new music.
Additionally, most users have experienced “bad” music discovery features, which recommend jazz artists when they primarily listen to metal.
Both Spotify and TIDAL do a better job than most, however, even if they don’t always get it right.
For example, while I do love 80s metal, like Van Halen, Whitesnake, and Def Leppard, I don’t like just anything. I’m dubious that I will ever be much of a Poison or Warrant fan (though stranger things have happened). And sometimes the algorithms will put suggestions like that in front of my face.
But if not for music discovery, I would not have been turned onto King’s X, Saraya, and Winger. These have been very worthwhile discoveries for me.
You can’t always count on the algorithm to find you what you want. But in my experience, it’s still worthwhile.
And if you care about music discovery, then Spotify comes out on top of TIDAL.
Media Library & Exclusive Content – How TIDAL & Spotify Compare
As of this writing, Spotify has a library consisting of about 82 million tracks (with roughly 40,000 being added daily), while TIDAL’s library features more than 100 million tracks.
TIDAL is also home to exclusive releases. These releases eventually do find their way onto other platforms, but it usually takes months before they appear on other platforms.
There are some other categories worth comparing. Let’s look at…
You can find some podcasts on TIDAL, but most have been curated and focus on storytelling and specific aspects of artist discovery, the creative process, the connection between music and culture, and so on. So, their podcast focus is relatively selective.
Meanwhile, Spotify offers access to over four million podcasts. And while their podcast-specific controls can’t compare to the top podcast apps, Spotify does have some relevant controls like a speed adjuster and a sleep timer.
Spotify even accepts podcasts from independent publishers. If you don’t see your friend’s podcast on Spotify, you should maybe tell them about a service like Blubrry, which will walk them through the process of submitting their podcast to Spotify for consideration.
It’s only natural that Spotify would take an interest in expanding its content offerings into audiobooks. Its treatment of audiobook content isn’t the same as music, however, as users are required to purchase audiobooks to listen to them, just as they would with a popular service like Audible.
In that sense, it could be said that Spotify is more of a distributor of audiobooks than an audiobook “platform.”
You can also find and listen to audiobooks on TIDAL, but their selection is limited compared to Spotify’s.
TIDAL is home to over 600,000 videos, and many of these videos aren’t published elsewhere either, as many remain exclusive to TIDAL. You can watch music videos, live performances, documentaries, and even films on TIDAL.
Spotify doesn’t have a robust exclusive video content library like TIDAL, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t any video content on their platform. Many of their ads are accompanied by videos, and video podcasts have recently become a significant fixture on their platform.
Media Library – Overall
Spotify is poised to become a dominant force in audio content, with one of the biggest libraries of music, podcast, and audiobook content of any streaming service.
You can find podcasts and audiobooks on TIDAL too, but their selection is certainly more limited.
Meanwhile, TIDAL does have a bigger audio library than Spotify, and their video content (much of it exclusive) is one of the biggest if not the biggest.
Of course, TIDAL has also had more of an urban focus from the beginning, so if you’re not into genres like hip-hop, trap, R&B, and soul, the exclusive content may not hold the same appeal.
For audio content, Spotify comes out on top. But for a mix of audio and video content, TIDAL is the clear winner.
Audio Quality – TIDAL & Spotify Showdown
Upon its launch, TIDAL pushed itself as a high-fidelity / high-quality audio streaming service. In some ways, this is what separates it from an array of other services.
That said, TIDAL’s user base is considerably smaller than Spotify’s, so it remains to be seen whether this is important to consumers. It is important to a fraction of consumers, though – that much is verifiable.
Either way, if you want better-quality audio, then TIDAL is the clear winner. TIDAL’s HiFi Plus plan comes with four streaming quality settings, including Normal, High, HiFi, and Master Quality Authenticated (MQA).
Normal is a good setting for anyone looking to throttle the amount of data being transferred, as you can experience a slowdown on weaker connections. If you have a solid Wi-Fi connection, though, there’s no reason not to use HiFi or MQA settings.
The High setting uses 320 kbps AAC files, while the HiFi setting uses CD-quality lossless FLAC files at 44.1 kHz / 16 bit, and the MQA setting upscales to 96 kHz / 24-bit FLAC or WAV files. If a track is labeled MQA or TIDAL, it has been authenticated by the artist. Unfortunately, not all songs are available in MQA.
Listening to HiFi or MQA settings may not make much of a difference if you are using earbuds. It’s recommended that you listen on a pair of high-quality headphones or speakers designed for listening to music.
Spotify has at least been toying with the idea of a HiFi service, but so far, that hasn’t gone anywhere. When and if it finally does arrive, it is purported to offer CD-quality audio. This is probably a smart move on Spotify’s part, as they are competing with other high-quality alternatives too, including TIDAL, Amazon HD, and Apple Music.
The maximum quality you can expect to hear on Spotify is 320 kbps Ogg Vorbis.
Dolby Atmos & Sony 360 Reality Audio
With a TIDAL HiFi Plus subscription, you can access surround sound audio.
First, there are tracks mixed in Dolby Atmos. Listeners can enjoy surround sound music on their TV, home audio setups, or even their headphones. To find Dolby Atmos content on TIDAL, all you need to do is navigate to “Explore” and scroll down until you see Dolby Atmos.
Second, there’s a Sony 360 Reality Audio simulated surround sound option. This technology places multiple virtual speakers around you. Compatible tracks can be found in the “Explore” section as well.
While we hear dubious rumors of hacking your way to surround sound with Spotify, it is not something they specifically offer currently.
Audio Quality – Overall
If you want higher-quality audio, then TIDAL beats Spotify.
Streaming Service Social Feature Comparison
Listening to music used to be a social activity. But just because people are more independent now than they ever were doesn’t mean you’re forced to listen to music alone. You can take advantage of a streaming service’s social features to enjoy more music with your friends and network at large.
Spotify tends to come out on top in this category. They have a Friend Activity section you can use to view what your friends are listening to, along with relevant album or playlist information. To be fair, this feature is only available with the desktop version of Spotify and not the mobile version.
Linking your Spotify account to Facebook (and encouraging your friends to do the same) is the easiest way to enjoy more of Spotify’s social features. You can save playlists created by your friends to your library and even create collaborative playlists that allow you and your friends to add and remove songs freely.
Of course, some may prefer to keep their activity private. If so, you can disable activity sharing altogether and even make your playlists private if needed.
Spotify has some basic sharing features as well. You can either copy a link to a track, album, or playlist and paste it to social media or embed an audio player on your blog.
Sharing to social media currently appears to have a diminished focus on the desktop app, but with the mobile app, you can easily share to Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, messaging apps, SMS/text, and other destinations depending on what apps you have installed on your smartphone.
Spotify Blend is another fun feature for friends. It will create a shared playlist based on your interests and that of your friends. It will draw from songs you’re already listening to and even recommend songs you might like.
TIDAL does not have a strong social focus. The main thing you can do with TIDAL is share tracks on your social media profiles.
Social Features – Overall
If social features are important to you, then you will likely enjoy what Spotify has to offer more. The most TIDAL has to offer is social sharing.
Extra Features Available On Spotify & TIDAL
In exploring whether to purchase a Spotify or TIDAL subscription, you might be interested in learning what extra or special features each offers. In this section, we’ll look at what you can expect from both.
Local File Playback
Some of us have been listening to music on our computers for a long time (remember Winamp?) and have a huge collection of MP3s stored on our hard drives and external drives from the CD-ripping and file-sharing days.
Spotify allows for local file playback, so you don’t need to download another music or audio player to handle your MP3s.
TIDAL doesn’t allow for local file playback, though you can transfer your music library and playlists from another platform using a third-party service.
As for downloading and offline listening, both Spotify and TIDAL offer this feature. Of course, if you plan to use TIDAL, you’ll want to keep an eye on the size of your downloads. Lossless FLAC files, for example, can take up a lot of hard drive space.
Easy Car Integration
Spotify and TIDAL both boast compatibility with Android Auto and Apple Carplay. Assuming your vehicle supports these features, you’re all set. While both Android Auto and Apple Carplay do make it easier to navigate and browse music, you should not use them while driving.
Furthermore, Spotify can integrate with Waze and Google Maps, while TIDAL can integrate with Waze.
Spotify users look forward to Spotify Wrapped every December. This infographic-based presentation shows visualizations of your listening habits for the year, including total time spent listening to music, which artist you listened to most, where your favorite artists are located, and so on.
Your end-of-year stats can be shared with your social media followers, something plenty of Spotify users enjoy doing each year.
TIDAL also has an end-of-year recap known as My Rewind which is quite similar to Spotify’s.
Extra Features – Overall
In terms of extra features, both Spotify and TIDAL are essentially on par with each other. That said, if you’d like to take advantage of local file playback, you may enjoy Spotify more.
Free Trials – TIDAL Vs. Spotify
This is probably one of the biggest differences between TIDAL and Spotify.
While TIDAL does have a 30-day free trial, it’s clear their goal is to acquire you as a paid subscriber. Because of that, they restrict access to their platform unless you sign up for their 30-day trial, at minimum.
Considering their exclusive content library and initiatives supporting artists (more on this later), however, it makes sense that TIDAL wouldn’t want just anyone freely listening to media on their platform.
Spotify does not have a free trial. But they do have Spotify Free, which allows for near restriction-free use of their platform for as long as you wish.
Free users are subject to ads, skip limits, and online-only listening. And if you’re using Spotify Free on your smartphone, you will be put on permanent shuffle mode (which means you can’t choose what songs you want to listen to).
Of course, Spotify makes the Free experience about as annoying as possible to try to move you towards Premium as quickly as possible, so either way, the goal is still to acquire you as a customer.
But if you want free access to music and podcast content, you may enjoy Spotify more than TIDAL.
Spotify & TIDAL Pricing Differences
Spotify has five pricing tiers if you include Spotify Free. They are as follows:
- Spotify Free: Free with ads, skip restrictions, no offline listening, and forced shuffle on the mobile app.
- Spotify Premium Individual: $10.99 per month.
- Spotify Premium Duo: $14.99 per month.
- Spotify Premium Family: $16.99 per month.
- Spotify Premium Student: $5.99 per month.
TIDAL has two basic pricing plans. While they do have a 30-day trial, it’s different from Spotify Free, and it comes with any plan you purchase, so we have not included it here (we addressed this earlier under Free Trials). Here are TIDAL’s pricing plans:
- TIDAL HiFi: $10.99 per month for 16-bit / 44.1 kHz sound quality.
- TIDAL HiFi Plus: $19.99 per month for 24-bit / 192 kHz sound quality.
TIDAL also offers a Family plan from $16.99 per month, and a Student plan from 50% off.
While Spotify doesn’t have a plan costing upwards of $19.99, TIDAL and Spotify’s pricing differences are minor and maybe even negligible.
Essentially, if you want to listen to higher-quality audio, you will pay for it.
What Other Music Streaming Services Are There & Are They Any Good?
In addition to Spotify and TIDAL, some of the most popular music streaming services include:
- Apple Music
- Amazon Music
- Google Play Music
And this is still just a small sampling of the many Digital Streaming Platforms (DSPs) that exist.
Music streaming services have had some time to establish themselves, which means that most services are starting to look like each other, even if their functionality differs somewhat.
Still, some services, like Pandora, are geographically restricted and are not accessible outside of the US. Some services, like TIDAL, put a greater emphasis on exclusive content. Some services, like Gaana, primarily serve India. There are other differences – subtle and not-so-subtle – if you go looking for them.
Most if not all music streaming services bring something to the table. After all, even free services like have been around for a long time, and they do get the job done in the absence of better alternatives.
If the music streaming service you’re considering has a free trial, then why not give it a go? This should give you a good idea whether you like it or not.
Can Independent Artists Distribute Their Music To Spotify, TIDAL & Other Streaming Services?
Some services used to allow direct uploads, including Spotify, but this is becoming increasingly rare.
Fortunately, artists can distribute their music to all major services at the same time for a modest fee, using a music distribution service like CD Baby, TuneCore, DistroKid, Ditto Music, or ReverbNation, among others.
As a listener, you can find independent music on most if not all major streaming services (all you need to do is search for it). If you don’t see your independent musician friends there, then you should probably tell them about music distribution services!
It needs to be said, however, that music distributors do not promote artists, though they may offer marketing services as an add-on. What this means is that independent artists must market themselves if they hope to get any kind of visibility, especially on streaming platforms.
Support your favorite independent artists today by finding their music on Spotify or TIDAL and by adding them to a playlist.
TIDAL Vs. Spotify – Which Does More For Artists?
Many music fans like to do what they can to support their favorite artists, including local and independent acts.
If you fall into this category, you might be wondering whether TIDAL or Spotify is better for artists.
Given that Spotify has about 220 million users, and TIDAL has about 6.7 million, it’s hard to offer a sober view of the matter. Because of the way streaming works, user numbers and revenue do factor heavily into what a service can do for artists.
That said, TIDAL is often thought to be the more supportive of the two services, for the following reasons:
- Spotify pays about $0.003 per stream, while TIDAL pays about $0.008 per stream.
- TIDAL offers more information on each release or track, with in-depth credits. Metadata is a big discussion in the music industry, though, and Spotify will likely be adding more in this regard.
- TIDAL provides exclusive content to its subscribers. With a TIDAL X program, users can access concert tickets, live streams, live shows, meet and greets, and other opportunities. Kanye West, for example, put on a Yeezy fashion show for 500 lucky TIDAL subscribers.
- The TIDAL Rising program helps promote emerging artists through playlists. Artists who’ve been chosen can also get professional photos, receive tour support, and even be placed on TIDAL’s front page.
Spotify, however, does have artist playlists and a Concerts tab. They also let artists record exclusive singles in their studios.
In this discussion, too, we can’t overlook Spotify’s stated mission, which is to give a million artists the opportunity to live off their art.
Without getting into a lengthy discourse on this, I’ve done the math, and Spotify has a long way to go to get to freeing a million artists with their current model. If they continue to innovate and create new opportunities, the dream could certainly be realized sooner.
Streaming royalties simply do not amount to much for the small majority, but of course, artists do appreciate having some passive income rather than none.
Is Streaming Good For Artists?
Artists who are counting on streaming royalties are often disappointed to find that the road to making a living on royalties alone is a long one that can appear daunting and even unattainable.
While recording and making an income from home is an option for artists here in the Internet age, artists who want to pursue this path would do well to investigate other income streams as well – merchandise, custom beats, and especially music licensing and placements.
More traditional artists who are counting on live performance and merchandise for their income can also benefit from streaming, though royalties usually won’t amount to more than a bit of “mailbox money” on the side.
Streaming is good for artists who see it as an extension of their marketing, rather than as the product. There are plenty of opportunities to be discovered by listening to audiences, and increasing one’s monthly listener count is simply a matter of staying consistent with one’s promotional efforts.
Streaming doesn’t generally work out for artists who are merely looking at it as a money-making opportunity, because for most it isn’t that.
But like it or hate it, artists are effectively stuck with streaming, as it is the main way people consume music today. The best thing career-minded artists can do is figure out how to make it a part of their strategy rather than cursing the darkness.
Spotify Vs TIDAL, The Verdict
There is no doubt that both TIDAL and Spotify are among the best streaming services available. But because streaming services aren’t created equal, there are some notable differences between the two.
The main difference is that TIDAL tends to put the listening experience first. They offer options for higher-quality audio, they are essentially ad-free (though 100% paid outside of their 30-day trial), and they go to great lengths to secure exclusive content for fans. Audiophiles may not be satisfied with anything else!
Of course, quality audio is great for those with quality headphones or speakers, stereo systems, audio setups, etc. but will not make much of a difference for users who typically listen to music on computer speakers or earbuds.
Meanwhile, Spotify puts music discovery and social features first, offering more algorithm-based playlists and song recommendations, curated playlists, and so on. TIDAL doesn’t have much by way of social features yet.
This could also speak to the more sinister side of Spotify, which is that they make Spotify Free as uncomfortable an experience as possible so users will upgrade. But some users don’t mind and don’t even take Spotify up on a free month (sometimes up to three months) of Premium.
Spotify, of course, doesn’t offer much by way of high-quality audio yet. There is a noticeable difference between their Free and Premium plans, but there is nothing for HiFi fans at present.
As for pricing, both Spotify and TIDAL are effectively on equal footing. TIDAL has one slightly more expensive plan, but that’s because they offer hi-fi audio.
If you want to listen to better-quality audio, then TIDAL is a great choice. If you want to discover more music, then you will probably enjoy Spotify more.
TIDAL and Spotify are quite competitive, so the ideal choice will depend on your needs. But you shouldn’t be disappointed with either if you factor the above into your decision-making process.