You know what they say: different strokes for different folks. Just because Kanye chose Tidal doesn’t mean you should too. Picking a streaming service is like settling down for life—you’ve got to know what you’re getting into.
free trials and tribulations and too much data usage, we’ve broken down the three musketeers of music streaming for you. So go on and pick your poison.
Apple’s playing catchup. Since getting in on the streaming game this past July, Apple Music’s started out by delivering personalized content, curated playlists, Beats 1 radio and Connect, not to mention exclusives like Taylor Swift’s ‘1989’ world tour documentary and the ‘Hotline Bling’ music video (which may or may not have let Drake down).
Is overwhelming the new aesthetic? Apple Music is pure eye–candy on the surface, but once you start digging, it’s hard to see where one feature ends and the next begins.
In ‘For You,’ you’ll also find recommended albums and playlists like ‘A–List Indie’ and ‘Intro to…’, where Apple Music might try to introduce you to Beach House after your 5+ years of fandom. Um, thanks, but no thanks. Another slight problem: If a playlist just fourteen songs long can hold you over, then God bless you. Me, on the other hand, I like to see a lot more on deck. There’s so much good music to discover out there, and it’s Apple Music’s job as a streaming service to bring it.
There’s also ‘Beats 1’, the unique–to–streaming 24/7 worldwide radio show hosted by Zane Lowe that apparently hasn’t found its calling just yet. Granted, the station showcases song debuts left and right and brings on some big ticket names in the process, but what’s unclear is just how many people are tuning in. If anything, I’d listen to WQHS. You know, camaraderie…
Finally, there’s ‘Connect,’ which is a social–esque network for following musicians and tastemakers, as well as a space to talk about music—TBD with who. Besides, there’s already an app for that, and @street’s already there.
Granted, Apple Music just launched in July, so we’ll cut them some slack. No doubt there’s so much potential here, and being native to the iPhone, Apple Music could be making more headway very soon. Here’s hoping they clean up good.
Bottom line: Whether you’re an easy listener, you don’t consume much music or you have to have your Taylor Swift and/or Chance the Rapper, Apple Music just might be your match.
Price: Free 3-month trial, then $9.99/month.
Pros: Beats 1. Connect. For You. Taylor Swift. Plus, it’s pretty. Not to mention it perfectly matches your iPhone.
Cons: Confusing AF.
Verdict: For the happy–go–lucky listener.
The leader of the pack, Spotify’s been around as early as 2005 in the valiant effort to fight music piracy. Despite coming under fire for just that from the likes of Taylor Swift, they’ve nearly mastered the streaming game in every other aspect. At first glance, Spotify’s jam–packed with features: Discover Weekly, Spotify Running, Genius, Shows, Spotify Party and infinite mood/genre playlists.
Since Apple Music’s got the whole native–to–the–most–popular–mobile–device thing going, Spotify has a lot of work to do to hold on to their lead. Their loaded lineup of features aims to lock out competitors by being there for you at every waking and non–waking moment (hello,sleep playlists). You'll never run out of the endless playlists for your mood, your activity and your time of day (I’m into this one, this one and this one).
Running matches the beat to your feet, Party gets your guests pumped, raving and then winding down, Genius gives you behind the scenes access to your favorite songs and, perhaps best of all, Discover Weekly has revolutionized Mondays forever. Waking up on the worst day of the week to 30 brand new songs curated just for you just might be the best feeling ever.
Spotify’s biggest strength is clearly discovery, and with that, they’ve successfully occupied my MWF schedule (Mondays–Discover Weekly, Wednesdays–Fresh Finds, Fridays–New Music Friday and Weekend Buzz). However, this massive music catalog is too big to take on by yourself, so it’s definitely daunting to the easy listener.
Bottom line: Spotify’s only business is streaming, and luckily, they do it really well. If you need more than Top 40 and frat DJs for your music discovery fix, it’s time you make your move on Spotify.
Price: Free with ads. Premium: Free 1–month trial, then $4.99/month for students and $9.99/month otherwise.
Pros: Discover Weekly. Infinite playlists. Genius / Behind the Lyrics. Spotify Running. Spotify Party. Should we keep going?
Cons: No Taylor Swift, which I’m not so sure is a bad thing.
Verdict: For the “music person.”
While it’s unclear what Jay–Z’s going for with his high–profile service Tidal, it seems to be working for now. What originally set out to be “artists first” and a ticket to high fidelity or ‘lossless’ sound quality now looks like it's killing the exclusivity game.
Despite the fact that Tidal doesn’t care about you, it’s a surprisingly great experience with a super–sleek UI and extreme user–friendliness. All the exclusive content and the idea that Jay–Z is looking out for you make up for the glaring lack of a just–for–you situation, so don’t expect any personalized recommendations anytime soon. If Jay–Z gets his way, Tidal Discovery and Tidal Rising will be all you need to stay in the know. Plus, being the only platform streaming Kanye’s T.L.O.P, Rihanna’s Anti and Beyonce’s bombshell ‘Formation’ certainly doesn’t hurt its street cred.
Bottom line: There’s not much pulling listeners away from Apple Music or Spotify except the biggest names in music on lockdown.TBD if this will be enough to keep Tidal swimming.
Price: Free 1–month trial. Then either ‘Standard’ for $9.99/month, or ‘Hi–Fi/Lossless’ for $19.99/month.
Pros: How else would you listen to the hot mess that is T.L.O.P?
Cons: Again, Tidal doesn't care about you.
Verdict: For the person who listens to hip–hop/rap 99% of the time and/or buys into shit like this.
Whatever you decide, do yourself (and your wallet) a solid and don’t pay for lossless Tidal. Chances are you don’t even know what that means (Ed. note: Even after all this research, I still don’t). And even if you do know, chances are you can’t hear the difference—these guys couldn’t.
So there you have it, ladies and gents. Happy streaming!
Oh, and follow @34st-music on Spotify.