Streaming music isn’t as straight forward as the early days, where you had to either pick Pandora or Spotify. Now Spotify, Rdio, Amazon Music, Google Music, YouTube, Tidal, Beats, Pandora, iTunes Radio, and a few smaller ones are all options. A lot plays into what draws me to each service, and I’ve given each of these services a spin the past few months. I’ve installed and uninstalled streaming services on my phone to try to pick which service would win my subscription.
The prices of the services vary from service to service, but most come in at $10 a month. These include Spotify, Rdio, Google Music/YouTube, Tidal, Beats. The ones that are price differently are Amazon Music which is bundled into Amazon Prime. Pandora is only $4 a month because buying in only removes ads, and iTunes Radio is $25 a month. The iTunes Radio fee also include iTunes Match which uploads all your music to the cloud so you can stream your music anywhere. The Google Music/Youtube streaming service is only $10 a month, but you get the most value for your dollar. Google Music is millions of on-demand songs with radio and the ability to upload your current music library and the ability to buy songs you cannot stream. On top of that you buy into YouTube Key which gets you ad free music videos no extra cost.
The biggest music library to stream is still Spotify, but Google Music and Youtube combined dwarfs that. Amazon Music is included in my $100 a year Prime subscriptions but has a small library of songs available to stream. Rdio, Beats, and Tidal are nice but still doesn’t have as many songs and albums as Spotify. iTunes Radio comes with my iPhone and only cost $25 a year which is convenient and fairly cheap, and Pandora is only $4 a month.However I like have control over what songs plays and what artist are included in a playlist.
Price isn’t a major reason when it comes down to choosing. They are all priced similar and offer a large library of music to stream. However Google is the best value if you want to use YouTube and Google Music in conjunction.
Winner: Google Music/Youtube
Design and Usability
From each service I always hated how they looked and how many problems I ran into. The bugs I met normally resulted from the service needing to verify the subscription or going from airplane mode to being back online. I wanted to stray away from services like Pandora, iTunes Radio, and other online radio services because they need a constant internet connection. This is not only a big data hog, but I’m not always connected to a fast enough connection to stream music. The biggest feature I love about Amazon Music, Rdio, Spotify, Tidal, Beats, and Google Music is the ability to download albums, playlist, and select songs for offline play. They all have clunky UI’s that make the app run slow on most smartphones. The one upside to iTunes Radio though is it starts auto-playing even if the app is closed, which Spotify or Google Music cannot do on my iPhone. iTunes radio also just works and doesn’t require in extra work, but downside is it’s only on my iPhone and machine with iTunes. iTunes can be a cumbersome piece of software, but most of the time it just works.
Winner: iTunes Radio
Beats music curates awesome playlist for you, iTunes Radio works with your iPhone, Google Music offers Youtube, and Spotify has some cool new features that were just released today. The app will now pick what songs it should play based on how fast and how long your running. The app is also the first to add podcast support right into the app. Until now I had to use another app for my podcast, and that could cause issues and just make a mess for me. Beats playlist feature does appeal to me because I do like to pick what songs are playing, I also enjoy listening to new artist and discover new music. Spotify does have a discover section and creates great playlist. Beats Music playlist curated playlist are awesome and all but they don’t always live up to their hype. Spotify using real people and building playlist and sharing them is the best possible way to foster music discovery. Spotify always works with a lot of cars and with a lot of home speakers. This means you’ll have a lot of places to play your music right off the bat.
There wasn’t one clear winner that I choose above, but I always go back to using Spotify. It’s not because it’s not because it’s the best value, but the music discovery and the fact everyone is on it. I can share playlist with friends, and see what my friends are listening too. Spotify is like a social network where you must have a critical mass of users to share, explore, and create playlist and share music with like-minded folks.
At $10 a month with Radio, Podcast, and unlimited streaming music it’s a deal you cannot beat. Spotify has the largest streaming library, but still lacks big players like Taylor Swift, Jay Z, and others which can become annoying but it’s that big of a deal in the end. As more artist realize this is where music is heading they’ll want to keep all their songs and music on each service so fans won’t be made the music is on Spotify or Amazon Music or even Rdio.
While I’m picking Spotify, I still want to hear how you listen to music in the comments below!