Happy woman downloading music outdoors with laptop and headphones
January 26, 2017

Music streaming 101: Spotify, Apple Music, Google Music, Tidal

If you’ve been on the internet at any point in the last couple years, you've heard of Apple Music. Taylor Swift once called out the company for not paying artists for the first three months after the service launched.

Apple and its forthcoming streaming music service made headlines due to Taylor’s Tumblr musings, but is Apple Music the best choice for you music-listening pleasure? We decided to look into the four biggest music streaming services to help cut through the noise.

Spotify

Spotify is the biggest player in the music-streaming market right now, mostly because it was one of the first to use the “choose any song you want” system. Internet radio services like Pandora have existed for much longer, but they didn’t let users choose individual songs.

The service is simple—choose between a free version with advertisements, or pay $9.99 a month for an ad-free subscription (or $4.99 a month if you’re a student). You can search for whatever music you want, compile playlists, or listen to a radio station based on an artist or genre. Spotify recently introduced a family plan with six slots for $14.99 per month-- that's a great deal if you have multiple bassheads under one roof.

Spotify’s social features are a big draw for some people. Users can connect their Facebook accounts to Spotify and see their friends’ musical activity. You can send songs or playlists to anyone else in your network, making it extremely easy to share music between people. You can listen to Spotify in a web browser, through their desktop client, or on your tablet or mobile device.

Google Music

Google loves trying new things with their huge piles of cash, and while sometimes this is well-received, other times it falls flat. Google Music is the company’s attempt to leverage the Google Play Store into the streaming music market.

The company used to offer the standard streaming fare-- a free 30-day trial followed by a $9.99 monthly rate. However, as announced on the official Android blog, Google Music will now have a free, ad-supported version alongside the premium paid plan.

The service is similar to other players in the market—just choose your song and let it run. Google differentiated itself through acquiring Songza and integrating it into the Google Music platform. Songza is an internet radio service that allows users to choose playlists to fit a certain activity or mood instead of a musical genre or artist.

Google Music is a good choice for anyone already living within the Googlesphere. Unfortunately, there isn’t a desktop client, but the service works from a web browser, tablet, or any mobile device.

Apple Music

Apple music differs from the competition in that there is no free ad-supported version of the service. It is $9.99 per month with a free trial for the first three months. Things get interesting when considering their “family plan” service tier.

$14.99 per month provides family access for up to 6 accounts—something that would be around $60 if everyone signed up individually.

Apple also promises “increased integration between artists and consumers.” Exactly what this entails is yet to be seen.

We’ll have to wait and see—Apple usually isn’t the first to market with any of their products, but they’re good at refining and improving upon a previous concept. They already have a huge install base through iTunes and the Apple ID system which could be a big tipping point for the service’s success.

Tidal

Tidal is a streaming music service that was launched in October of 2014--backed by Jay-Z and other high-profile musical artists.

The streaming service offers much of the same as its competitors, but with a couple changes. Tidal focuses much of its marketing and brand philosophy on one thing—artists. The service lives on the idea that the music industry isn’t paying artists enough money for their work, so Tidal pays higher revenue percentages to musical artists.

Furthermore, Tidal offers high-quality lossless FLAC streaming for the audiophiles out there. Standard streaming clocks in at $9.99 per month and high-quality streaming is $19.99 per month. Users without expensive studio-grade headphones should skip the FLAC streaming, as you can’t tell a difference with low-quality headphones. Bummer.

Tidal’s reception has been lukewarm at best, citing high prices and collaboration between such high-power artists. It’s tough to hear people like Kanye West and Jay-Z complain about money when their mansions are getting in the way. Tidal is available through a web browser, desktop client, tablet, or mobile device.

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