Gone are the days of a simple CD. The music industry has been pushed to evolve along with technology, creating a plethora of options for listening experiences. I’ve had experience with multiple music outlets and here’s what I’ve learned: amongst the competition, each has its perks and drawbacks.
Spotify has mastered the social sharing of music in the digital space. It is very easy for me to browse through the artists that my friends have been listening to. I can even check out my favorite artist’s favorite artist. There are even public playlists for practically every event. Attending a roller skating party? There’s a playlist for that. Having a “hipster barbecue”? There’s a playlist for that too—a very good one at that.
Their free version is convenient and has basically all the perks their premium service has, as long as you’re connected to Wi-Fi and don’t mind an advertisement every 15 minutes or so. As a college student, Spotify’s commitment to providing an affordable premium price for students by providing a 50-percent discount is incredibly appealing. I happily splurge on the student discount premium fee every month and am a huge fan of their mobile app, which is very convenient for car rides and workouts.
There’s not much bad to say about the user experience with Spotify. The only complaint I have is about their computer app, which occasionally flakes for no apparent reason and won’t start working until I uninstall and reinstall it multiple times.
While the user experience is convenient and enjoyable, they’ve had some very public disputes about their method of paying artists. Because of this, you may not be able to find your favorite artist on the platform, i.e. Taylor Swift.
Apple Music was released in June of this year and rivals the likes of Spotify. It has a beautiful interface that is completely compatible with Apple devices and seamlessly incorporates user’s existing iTunes files. Apple’s successful business relationships with iTunes and artists is evident in Apple Music as well. Users can find mostly every artist’s music available to stream on the service.
Apple Music understands the listening experience. Its suggested playlists have the perfect mixture between familiar tracks, pulling from popular, well-known albums and lesser known artists alike. Users can sample the service on a three-month free trial. After that, the service costs $9.99/month or $14.99/month for the family plan, which allows up to six separate users.
Apple Music’s first faux-pas, especially when compared directly to Spotify, is the lack of a free version beyond the three-month trial, as well as offering no student discount. While Apple is planning to offer the service on multiple platforms, including Android, it is currently only available on a computer and on iOS.
I find Pandora’s stations to be impressive, as they always satisfy the mood I’m going for while listening. They’ve introduced me to some great new music. Their paid version is just $4.99/month and removes advertisements. Their free version is very usable, with the only downside being their advertisements, which aren’t too disruptive.
While the advertisements aren’t intrusive, they are repetitive. Pandora’s radio format denies users the option of choice. Users can pick a song or artist to build a station around, but they can’t pick a specific song they may have had stuck in their head all day and are dying to hear.
For fans of EDM, Soundcloud is definitely the best way to explore new music of the genre. Since it allows users to directly upload their music, there are unique, high quality, original and remixed songs available on Soundcloud that may not be available elsewhere, making it the Mecca of electronica. They recently introduced advertisements to the service, but they are limited and far from intrusive for the listener.
Soundcloud’s interface is not as user friendly as Spotify or Apple Music. They don’t have a computer app, and while they have a mobile app, it is undependable and often has bugs that cause it to shut down. Soundcloud doesn’t offer suggestions, a feature that has grown to be an ever popular resource through other streaming sources.
I’m a huge fan of watching music videos. Youtube, being the video streaming site it is, serves as a wonderful platform for artists to share their visual vision of their music in a way that no other site can support. Youtube also has an amazing search algorithm. I never struggle to find obscure songs, which can be an issue with some other sites.
Although I know a lot of people use Youtube as their main source of music, it is designed to support videos, not music. This especially becomes an issue when the listener has to hear advertisements between every 3-minute song.
Youtube also lends its contents to the risk of online piracy. Sites like youtubetoMp3.com make it easy for any slightly computer savvy listener to illegally pull the music from the video and save it as a MP3 file on their own computer.
I spent a semester interning at a local radio station and was surprised by the community’s involvement with the station. Local radio does something for listeners that big streaming companies can’t. They can provide the global hits with a personal touch of community, whether it be snippets of local news, involvement in community events or contests for an upcoming concert in town. Like Pandora, radio is a way to listen to music that you don’t know, making it a great source to discover new music.
Advertisements. Traditional radio is by far the worst offender when it comes to reoccurring and disruptive advertisements. Not only are they frequent, but they are often corny and annoying. Also, stations tend to over-play songs, making a song that you once treasured a mainstream travesty. (Uptown Funk, anyone?)
By Allie Hahn, Account Executive