Having been a Spotify subscriber for a few years now, I’ve created a few playlists, in particular a list of my favourite tunes from my formative years right up until last week, or at least the ones that exist on Spotify anyway. This currently sits at 821 tracks and spans several decades, genres, and varying levels of popularity, and seems like a good candidate for testing this migration process.
Considering that Spotify’s non-announcement was done by Algoriddim, specifically about their djay software, let’s look at the options there, specifically TIDAL and SoundCloud. So let’s push this and some other playlists through the migration machines and see what mess comes out the other end.
Migrating to SoundCloud
Before we start, it’s important to talk about preconceptions and expectations. For me, SoundCloud has always been about user content — mashups, remixes, mixtapes etc. But it does seem that a growing number of artists are also in there as well.
First thing to note — migrating to SoundCloud in Find My Music and Soundiiz is patchy, especially the bigger the playlist. Soundiiz paused at around 136 tracks and just sat there, but a playlist appeared around five minutes later. It did however only manage 497 out of 821 tracks, and that was tested numerous times. Tune My Music did a little better, matching 581 tracks, but failed to actually populate the playlist it created. It did work with smaller ones though.
A second test of a much bigger Hip Hop playlist yielded the same result, stopping at 497 tracks. This obviously indicated a repeatable bug, but I found it weird that I couldn’t find anything online that shows this as an issue. So switching from Safari to Chrome and running the same tests yielded a different result i.e the same 497 tracks being pumped into several duplicates of the same playlist that only stopped once I’d entirely disconnected Soundiiz from SoundCloud. Let’s just say that SoundCloud seems somewhat migration hostile for longer playlists via any service.
In terms of matching, well SoundCloud doesn’t have the broadest selection of official artists. It’s a service built largely by end users uploading their own work, and mixes/remixes of others. So when it can’t match the Spotify release with an official one on SoundCloud, it’ll probably give you a user uploaded match, or just give a best guess, such as a karaoke version or a cover.
Overall however, migrating to SoundCloud is hit and miss in either service, and doesn’t match anywhere near as well as TIDAL, but will give you access to things that TIDAL can’t.
Migrating to TIDAL
Given the roots (Jay Z owns it and the US stars who were rolled out at the launch event), and subsequent online feeling seeming to indicate that it was good for Hip Hop, I had very low expectations of the success of converting some of the more obscure 70s punk tracks in my playlist.
But I couldn’t have been more surprised.
TIDAL migration was quicker than SoundCloud with a significantly better hit to miss ration on finding matches. Tune My Music did well, and only missed 10 tracks, 5 of which were missing in Spotify since I originally added them. Soundiiz did pretty well — it gave 37 errors, which goes to show that successful migration is likely to be more down to the search algorithms than anything else, especially as a bit of post-migration manual matching gave me most of the missing tracks.
It does do some weird things like matching New Order’s “Confusion” to a track of the same name but by a completely different artist. And it occasionally picks the wrong track on an album too. You’ll also need to check for tracks that converted over, but aren’t available on TIDAL. Some will be easy to see (greyed out), while others will probably kick you in the nuts when you try to drop it into a mix.
But broadly speaking, it’s a pretty solid migration experience, and way better than SoundCloud in this respect. All in all, this was a considerably better experience than I had expected.
A DIRECT COMPARISON
Seems like the easiest thing to do is a head to head comparison between SoundCloud and TIDAL. Having pushed three short playlists of what I would call popular tracks in each genre through Tune My Music and Soundiiz, I stuck with the former because it seems to be the most consistent with the best results. Selecting three short lists, these are the results. Firstly SoundCloud:
And now TIDAL:
So in the whole scheme of things, not a huge amount of difference in reported success rates. As expected, TIDAL edges it. But it’s only when you look at the actual migrated playlists that you see the fundamental differences between each platform.
The very nature of TIDAL is that all tracks are licensed from the labels and artists. So you know (once you’ve sorted out any migration glitches) that the tracks are legitimate, are correctly named, and will appear in search results and sort properly. And importantly, the right artists are getting paid.
With SoundCloud however, the migration is messy. Yes, it may well do a reasonable job at track matching and delivering what you had on Spotify, but the source of that track isn’t guaranteed to be the original artist. My short House list went all over the place, often to DJ’s uploads who used the track in a mix. My Hip Hop list in particular barely touched original artists, and usually ended up as cropped tracks featuring in a mix.
As a side note on TIDAL – the “M” icon next to a track name means master i.e the reason to pay an extra tenner a month for the best sound quality. Out of the 1053 tracks I converted, only 19 were master quality — just 1.8%. I’m sure this figure varies depending on newness or artist popularity. But you could just save yourself some money because only a fraction of your playlists would benefit from it.
An important thing to point out here — this process only transfers your playlists from one service to another. So you’re going to need to reanalyse to get the waveforms, BPM, beat grids, and key. And then you’ll need to add cues and loops, and any metadata all over again. Sorry people — this process gets you part of the way there, but there’s still a way to go.
When reading about Spotify deciding that the DJ scene wasn’t for them anymore, the world must have felt like it ended for some djay users. But my tests show that it’s more of a fork in the road than the end of it.
The moral of this story is that SoundCloud won’t replace Spotify. It struggled to work with longer playlists and lacks the accuracy and completeness. But you get access to all that user-created content, and may locate music that… how can I put this… other platforms haven’t licensed.
TIDAL however gives you a better chance of a more complete migration. In tests with Tune My Music and Soundizz, it worked every time (with different hit/miss results), but gave me a result that left me with perhaps 2-5% of tracks either missing or in need of replacing. This will however vary for users, depending on the genres they play.
In light of Corvid 19, now seems like the ideal time for Spotify-dependent DJs to migrate their playlists to another platform. You don’t have a choice really, so make that move in this down time, so that you can iron out any transfer glitches and get used to the brave new world that other streaming platforms offer. Trust me — you don’t want to be doing this the night before a gig, unless you prefer to start from scratch.
Equally, his could be an ideal time to learn from this experience, and perhaps work out if streaming should be your main platform at all.
The Bottom Line
Bringing this all back round to the point of the article — parting Spotify is such sweet sorrow, but out of TIDAL and SoundCloud, TIDAL offers the smoothest and most complete migration experience, and you get video in the subscription deal too.