Skip to content
Thoughtful, detailed coverage of everything Apple for 29 years
and the TidBITS Content Network for Apple professionals
Spotify on a Touch Bar

Photo by Willian Justen de Vasconcellos on Unsplash

29 comments

Postal Address Insanity: Why I Switched from Spotify to Apple Music

I can’t justify the price of a HomePod, but my wife and I have a mix of Amazon Echo and Google Home speakers in our house. The obvious choice for a music-streaming service seemed to be Spotify since it works on both platforms. Or at least it seemed that way until we ran into the baffling and user-hostile way Spotify handles home postal addresses. (I should have guessed something like this would happen after Adam Engst ran into an incomprehensible track limit on his account—see “The 10,000 Track Limit: Why I Switched from Spotify to Apple Music,” 30 August 2017.)

You don’t have to give Spotify a home address unless you sign up for a family plan. When you invite someone else to join your plan, they’re asked to enter their address. In this case, I had my wife set it up and, after I entered my address, I received this ominous warning:

Spotify's eery address warning

My techie warning bells went off. Apparently, Spotify requires address verification to try to ensure that all family members are in the same household, so presumably, those addresses need to be entered identically. Did my wife type out the word “bypass” in our address, or did she use an abbreviation? Did she put our box number on the first or second line? Wanting to make sure I got it right, I asked her to check the address format on her account.

A few minutes later, she told me she couldn’t find it. At first, I figured that she had just overlooked it. So I looked. And looked. She was right, there’s no way to see the address you entered. In fact, until recently, the only way to change the address associated with your account was to delete your account and create a new one. Now you merely have to cancel your subscription, wait for your account to revert to the free tier, and then re-subscribe. It’s still user-hostile, but now more in the sense of a “trespassers will be prosecuted” sign than planting landmines between the geraniums.

Hiding the address has caused all manner of headaches for subscribers.

Complaints from irate Spotify subscribers

I strongly suspect this is a scheme to make the music industry happy, but it’s user-hostile and does nothing to prevent users from sharing family plans across households. On the plus side, it’s better than it might have been—Spotify had the audacity to consider GPS verification for family accounts before it faced backlash. Apple must have better leverage with the record labels because location isn’t an issue for Apple Music. Plus, Apple Music now works with Alexa (see “Apple Music Arrives on Alexa,” 17 December 2018).

If you wish to use Spotify and might ever want to sign up for a family plan, I strongly recommend copying down the exact address you enter somewhere, or you can do what I did and switch to Apple Music because I refuse to play these stupid games.

Subscribe today so you don’t miss any TidBITS articles!

Every week you’ll get tech tips, in-depth reviews, and insightful news analysis for discerning Apple users. For 29 years, we’ve published professional, member-supported tech journalism that makes you smarter.

Registration confirmation will be emailed to you.

Comments About Postal Address Insanity: Why I Switched from Spotify to Apple Music

Notable Replies

  1. I’m struggling to think how such a dumb decision like this got signed off by Spotify management. If, as Josh suggests, this might have been done at the behest of the music industry, then those folks need to put down whatever it is they’re either drinking or toking!

  2. Based on my years in a large corporation, I’m willing to bet that this was essentially what you’d call a “diplomatic fiction” to make some music executive happy. It’s like how, in a past life, I came up with the idea to print legal documents on red paper to make them harder to copy, even though it was at best a mild inconvenience. But, it made some executive be able to say that he took precautions against unwanted copying (and I’m sure my neck would have been in the figurative noose if something happened). Likewise here, it was probably some music label executive insisting that family plans couldn’t be shared outside of a household, Spotify pushing back on that (since enforcing that would be even more user-hostile), and then some creative genius (and I really mean that) at Spotify coming up with this goofy compromise that let them move forward.

  3. Interesting, brief, and to the point. I shared it on FB. (I don’t use any music service ICYAW.)

  4. There are online APIs that standardize an address to the Postal Service “official version” - all caps, changing “Terrace” or “Terr” to “TER”, and the like. All that needs be done is for Spotify to apply that standardization to both the addresses before comparing them.

  5. Yeah, I’m familiar with that. Addresses can be surprisingly tricky business. I found a store location one time that had 7 different, totally valid addresses.

  6. Apple surpassed Spotify once again in the race for the most paid subscribers. They did overtake them about a year or so ago, but Spotify dropped its rates and also inked a deal in which a new premium Spotify subscriber gets an ad free premium subscription to Hulu, which juiced up the numbers of both services:

    https://share.qz.com/news/2372218/body/

    Except for reporting a barely minuscule profit this past quarter, Spotify has been hemorrhaging money since it started and predicted another big bloodbath for this fiscal year:

    https://venturebeat.com/2019/02/06/spotify-posts-second-consecutive-quarterly-profit-but-projects-big-losses-for-2019/

    If I remember correctly, they’ve eaten through well over half a billion $ to date, and the number of paying subscribers has been gradually dropping. This is in addition to having its arms persistently twisted by music companies and artists. No matter how good their ad sales division is, they cannot compete with the level of granularity, effective positioning and pricing of Facebook, Google and Amazon. So it’s no surprise Spotify is doing whatever it can think of to to increase subscription revenue.

  7. Wow. I bet whoever supplied you with all that red paper was happy.

    Sadly, music executives and common sense just don’t seem to mix. They seem to view the music buying (and streaming) public as their enemy most of the time.

  8. I recently cancelled my Spotify Premium subscription and moved to Apple Music. That was prompted by my growing frustration with Spotify’s Mac app, which (for me) has degraded in performance and reliability to the point where it makes iTunes look rock-solid. Thankfully, I was able to move the majority of my saved playlists, albums, etc. over with relative ease.

  9. That sounds like it might be an interesting howto article.

    Hopefully the same fate as Rdio will not befall AppleMusic/Spotify just after publication :slight_smile:

    f
  10. Spotify is a kids toy run like an online dating service. Apple Music is far more comprehensive and run like a real radio station. The density of it can make it a bit overwhelming at first, hence the sheep flock to the children’s toy.

  11. When I signed up for the family plan, I entered my address, and I happened to notice on the verification page that it had changed my address (let’s pretend it’s 1234 E. Any St.) into a European or Swedish format? Any St. E 1234

    I’ve had this happen before with European services, which seem to use rigid algorithms instead of the right address correction thing. I changed my address before approving it to the correct American style, and thus my family hasn’t had trouble signing up. If I hadn’t really paid attention in that step, I’d be having this trouble!

  12. I don’t want to defend anything Spotify does, but having implemented address verification/standardization on multiple ecommerce applications, I have a hard time believing any of these insane conspiracy theories about the music industry mandating any of this. It’s an incredibly common fraud combatting tactic and any company that’s not doing it is bleeding somewhere.

    Yes, there are commercial services which perform address verification and standardization. Without fail, they all use a common data source–the USPS–with their own layer of natural language parsing nonsense on top of that. If the USPS is wrong–and they very frequently are–then these services are going to be wrong as well. It can be insanely frustrating just how often seemingly common edge cases trip them up to the point of utter non-functionality and this can easily make one feel like maybe you don’t really need to be paying them anywhere near as much as you are. Given the number of requests I imagine Spotify would be sending through them on a monthly basis combined with the fact that they are not shipping physical goods anywhere it’s not difficult for me to imagine a department head saying “screw it, we’d rather deal with the support costs” and just going with a simple, braindead equality test. Not showing you what you’d entered before just sounds like a bad PM from General Assembly didn’t put much thought into their work more than an evil record company executive boogeyman who’s out to get you.

    And beyond that, I really don’t think a minor frustration in setting up a family plan warrants any amount of drama. If that’s the biggest problem you experience today then you’ve got a pretty good life.

  13. iminanallgirlgang

        May 11
    

    Not showing you what you’d entered before just sounds like a bad PM from General Assembly didn’t put much thought into their work more than an evil record company executive boogeyman who’s out to get you.

    I just referred back to the previous posts in this thread, and I didn’t get the impression that any record company boogeyman was “out to get” any Spotify subscriber. A post did imply that the record companies are squeezing Spotify to goose their subscription revenues so that could pay them more. In fact, artists, labels and music publishers have been at war with Spotify over many issues regarding increasing compensation as well as copyright violations, and they consider Spotify the boogeyman. Here’s just one of their recent settlements, and there have been many:

    https://techcrunch.com/2018/12/20/spotify-settles-the-1-6b-copyright-lawsuit-filed-by-music-publisher-wixen/

    And Spotify is most definitely, and aggressively, putting the squeeze on family plans:

    Looks Like Spotify’s Crackdown On Family Plan Abusers Is Working:

    https://www.digitalmusicnews.com/2018/10/25/latest-spotify-subscriptions-growth-cirp/

    “At the end of Q2 2018, only 35% of Premium users paid for an individual account. 24% subscribed to a Family plan. Breaking down the costs of 6 individual subscriptions, the company loses up to $44.95 a month on every Family plan.”

    And beyond that, I really don’t think a minor frustration in setting up a family plan warrants any amount of drama. If that’s the biggest problem you experience today then you’ve got a pretty good life.

    Since I have been involved in the publishing and entertainment industries for decades, even more than I have been a user of Apple goods and services, I am very interested in hearing about any sort of relevant drama. In my previous post, I posted a link to an article about Spotify’s quarterly earnings statement, which ends with “Spotify said it expects to post a loss of between $228 million and $410 million in 2019.” I also quoted another article about Apple once again exceeded Spotify in paid subscriptions even though Apple doesn’t discount subs and Spotify does.

  14. The USPS normalization discussion is fascinating. I ran a business almost 20 years ago that used that API; in my experience it was rock solid.

    The Apple family plan is even better than you said. I signed up individually when a client did, so I could show her the ropes. Decided to keep it because it’s the only working method of syncing iTunes to my Android. (Several apps say they do. They lie.)

    It occurred to me that her family plan had open slots and maybe I could free ride hers, but before I did that I checked for iCloud ramifications. Turns out: the TOS doesn’t say adding me to her “family” isn’t allowed. It’s totally kosher. Technically, Josh and his wife could save $15 a month by becoming Engsts in the eyes of Apple Music.

  15. I think this is because Apple, one of the most profitable companies in the world, doesn’t need to make a whole lot of money off of Music. They primarily need it to sell more hardware and services, and to lock people in to the Apple ecosystem. The fact that Apple pays more per play and strictly polices copyrights make artists, labels and publishers hate them a whole lot less than Spotify:

    Apple Is The Big Winner In Spotify’s Battle Against Songwriters Rate Hike

    https://variety.com/2019/music/news/spotify-rate-hike-apple-real-winner-1203183647/

    (The article also discusses how artists hate Spotify’s family and student rates.)

    Apple just needs Music to not loose much. Like iTunes, which established iPod on the map and helped sell a lot more Macs, it is estimated that it’s a little profitable. Going forward, it has built a solid ground for Apple News+, as well as for their upcoming TV and games subscription services.

  16. My business uses a UPS store box. Many web sites come back at me saying basically.

    You entered: 3355 Any Street - Suite 443#245

    USPS thinks: 3355-443 Suite 245 (Or something similar.)

    Is better. Want to use the USPS version?

    NO! NO! NO!

    It can get old.

    David

  17. Then there are those of us with homes in 2 different states. Of course we’re a bit used to it as we run into “is this credit card billed to NC or TX” when asked to enter the billing address.

  18. USPS works fine for me when I enter the suite/apartment/… into the second address line field, as long as there is such a field (which usually is the case). A web site that expects US addresses for USPS verification but don’t allow a second address line doesn’t understand USPS addressing.

  19. …as long as all their customers live in the US, of course.

  20. From their web site “Spotify USA, Inc. provides the Spotify service to users in the United States.” So indeed, all the customers of Spotify USA live in the US.

  21. I use the 2nd line. And really. UPS stores and the USPS can’t figure this out. I mean how many of these are there? 1000? 10,000?

  22. GV

    My wife and I upgraded to a Spotify family plan around six months ago. I had a couple of basic questions regarding the feasibility of seeding my wife’s new account with the music from my long-time Spotify account. We were hoping to begin with the same artist and music lists, since we listen to the same music on devices in different rooms of the house.

    Long story short, I got all kinds of wrong information. . . Initially Spotify replied “No Problem.” The attitude of the first so-called “customer support” rep was very laid back and the slang he used when communicating with us gave me the impression that he was barely out of his teenage years. (I’m 64 and my wife is 72.) Normally I couldn’t care less about something like that. . . But combined with the wrong information and the fact that getting straight answers wound up requiring no fewer than 3 different reps over the course of two days, it became a maddening experience.

    Another time I had my Spotify account closed because of a problem on their end. One day out of the blue I received an email informing me that Spotify was sorry to see me go and that was that! Since my account was closed, I could not communicate directly with Spotify. I wound up creating a new account and getting the mess resolved took several days (fortunately all my music preferences were retrieved) and the same level of miscommunication I experienced the other time I needed help.

    I think that it is time to take a good look at Apple’s music plans. . . I’ve haven’t been happy paying the monthly fee to Spotify since the family plan debacle. Hearing that transferring my Spotify music preferences to Apple is relatively easy is all that I needed to hear. . . Thanks for the heads-up.

  23. This problem has been familiar to me (outside the US), but unfortunately Apple Music is not a real alternative since it will entirely mess up my carefully tagged music library, irrespective of what you tell it to. So for me, it’s unusable.

  24. I think one of the key reasons why Apple can afford to be less restrictive with Apple Music is that in order to add somebody to your Apple Music family plan, you have to add them to your entire Family Plan, which not only lets them share your Apple Music subscription, but also iCloud Storage, iTunes and App Store purchase history, and your credit card billing profile — meaning that any purchases they make from the iTunes Store or App Store get billed to your credit card.

    With features like that in place, people are far less likely to share their Apple Music family plan with anybody who isn’t a very close family member or friend, and in fact a friend of mine won’t even share it with his adult sister who lives in the same household with him, as of course they keep all of their finances separate, so naturally he doesn’t want to have to deal with her purchases going to his credit card (and she doesn’t want to have to deal with the only workaround — buying iTunes gift cards or pre-loading her account with her own money).

  25. Sounds similar to what you have to do for FedEx or UPS to deliver to a US Post Office box.
    You have to use the physical STREET address of the US Post Office where you get your mail followed by “Unit x…” (where “x…” is the box number) and the correct zip code as sometimes USPS boxes have their own zip code.

  26. Let me start by stating that I dumped Apple Music because of its absurd music choices of playlists and music suggestions. After more than a year I decided the learning curve was long past its expiration date and the experience just wasn’t worth the expense of a subscription anymore. I have been using Spotify’s free version for a few months now and I can tell you that the music lists it offers me are not just accurate but spot on (pun intended). It pains me to hear about the troubles with Spotify. I thought I finally found a decent music service.
    Well! Back to cd’s and radio then…

  27. My experience way back when was that Spotify did a better job of recommending music than Apple as well. What I’ve “discovered,” however, is that I prefer the “Play my music” command to Siri, which shuffles through my music library. That way I only get music I like. I wish I could get Apple Music to play “jazz in my library” or “80s rock in my library” but that seems beyond it.

    (I gave up on Spotify because of its 10,000 track limit, as Josh mentioned in an aside in the article.)

  28. Thanks for the Siri tip.
    I will have to get my music back into iTunes. When I abandoned Apple Music I seem to have lost a number of music tracks that were mine. Another nuisance is the repetitive pop up from iTunes that keeps asking my password for my iTunes music library. No matter what I try, it keeps popping up. Any suggestion to kill this permanently?

  29. iTunes shouldn’t keep asking for the password. My guess is that it’s storing the password in Keychain Access; could something be preventing that from happening?

    As far as iTunes losing things, there are a bunch of reasons that can happen, and it depends a bit on where the tracks came from: ripped from CD, purchased from the iTunes Store, or just added from Apple Music.

Join the discussion in the TidBITS Discourse forum

Participants