Why Is It So Hard to Choose a Streaming Service?

 

Okay, I know I’m a bit of a dinosaur when it comes music. I still buy albums on release day, and even got into purchasing vinyls recently. I do understand the thrill and convenience of buying digital albums, and even how it’s cheaper for artists to go that route. I just like the feeling of holding a physical album in my hand. But times are changing…

People are openly not purchasing music anymore. From a consumer standpoint, it makes sense. I have been using streaming services for the better part of 5 years, and I can’t really pinpoint an absolute favorite.

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My go-to service is Apple Music because it’s literally thrown in your face if you own an Apple product. If there’s one thing they do better than any other service, it’s Beats Radio. My favorites artists, like The Internet and Run The Jewels, have their own stations that they curate. Even the shows without artists have great variety. You can add songs to your library as they stream as well. They dabbled in temporary exclusives for a while, like Chance the Rapper and Frank Ocean, but other things seem lacking.

The playlists aren’t really that good when you look at their close competitors. It’s nice that there are selections for people that show interest in an artist. The problem is they don’t do a good job at introducing you to artists that are similar stylistically. Apple tends to favor throwing the big names at you instead. Not to mention the confusion about how you can listen to and download songs you bought on iTunes.

 

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That bring us to Spotify. While they have the worst looking UI to me, they get the playlists right. I haven’t used Spotify in about a year and a half, but the Discover Weekly playlist always introduced me to new music I’ve never heard. They seem to pull from songs and acts you stream a lot and pull together an hour’s worth of music based on that. If you’re a fan of Neo Soul and lyrical hip hop they pull from groups from that ilk and I literally only had one “bad” playlist from this. Spotify also had a music commentary for albums as well. I remember listening to Tenacious D do a commentary for Rize of the Fenix, as well as Robin Thicke and Marsha Ambrosius for their albums. It was refreshing to hear an artist’s head space while creating a song that you love to listen to.

Around the time I stopped using Spotify, they were dropping exclusive podcasts, and starting to dabble in video. I was already fully vested in Apple Music by the time these rolled out, so I didn’t get to see if they actually did anything with it. I do know when it comes to exclusives, the competition was mastering it.

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The reigning champ of exclusive content, has to be Tidal. If you want to stream mega stars like BeyoncĂ©’s catalog, you can only get it there. It was the only place to listen to Kanye and Jay Z. Tidal is hands downs the most improved streaming client out there. The mobile player has become cleaner, and the desktop client does a great job of putting content related to what you actually listen to. Not to mention, the video production and concerts are second to none.

My main draws to Tidal are the sound quality and how they include liner notes. It’s for the dinosaurs that like to see how albums were recorded, produced and written. The sound quality is CD quality. It’s harder to explain, but it’s easier to just hear it. If you want to save money but support the streaming service with the highest artist payout, and quality, you can’t go wrong with Tidal. The main drawbacks are it’s limited by the devices you can play it on, and how the Now Playing list never seems to clear itself.

I’m obsessive enough to have multiple streaming services for the different things they have to offer. Apple Music is the go-to because it’s preinstalled on your iPhone as the default music player, as well as being rolled into iTunes on MacBooks. It has lots of great radio shows which is the main strength. Spotify is available on more devices since it’s now on Xbox and PS4, on top of all the traditional places you stream music. It has the biggest user base with the best playlists in my opinion. And Tidal is the jack of all trades, with concert discounts and loads of content, but the most expensive to go with. They have the best exclusives overall, but it’s been having to shake the negative connotations that were stuck to it in it’s early days.

It’s hard to recommend one definitely, but if you’re a cord cutter, go with Tidal. It gives the most bang for your buck with shows and tons of exclusive songs. If you want multiple accounts at a low price, go with Apple Music. You can get 6 accounts for $15 dollars and it has compelling enough content to justify it. If you want to play your music on any and everything, go with Spotify. It’s the easiest to apply a college discount to and it’s been around long enough for people to have a lot of playlists created on there.

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