Locked up and perplexed on which album to listen to next to pass the time? There is an application for that.
Now, more than ever, it’s time to consider joining a music streaming service like Spotify or one of its competitors. More than 300 million people worldwide have a paid music subscription.
Even if you have a massive record collection at home, there’s a chance you’ll be looking for something else to listen to by the time the coronavirus quarantine ends. Also, you cannot take your record collection outside for your daily walk, run, or bike ride.
Convenience is the main reason to sign up for one of these services, which usually cost between $8 and $15 per month. Having over 50 million songs at the touch of a phone screen (the number Spotify and Apple Music both claim) is as easy as it gets.
Discovering new music is another big plus. Most of these services have algorithm programs that direct listeners to other artists and songs based on what you already choose to play. Friends, experts, and complete strangers can also point you to new beats through the apps.
Of course, there are also disadvantages. Audio quality is diminished when streamed over the internet, although some services such as Amazon Music Unlimited now offer “HD” options for better sound at a higher monthly fee.
There’s also the touchy subject of how little these companies pay to artists and their record labels. On average, Spotify distributes between $0.006 and $0.0084 per stream, for example; so maybe 80 cents goes to the artist if a thousand people stream a song a month. This misery has many altruistic music fans forgoing paid subscriptions.
Minneapolis-based Patrick Werle knows the case against Spotify, but he always pays the price — then he buys downloads or physical albums from user-friendly Bandcamp.com when he discovers new music he wants to own.
“I’m paying the monthly fee for this, so at least I’m contributing something,” said Werle, who is particularly fond of Spotify’s “Fans Like Too” recommendations.
Cody Clark, also from Minneapolis, often uses free streaming site SoundCloud for smaller independent artists, but recently switched to a paid Spotify subscription for mainstream acts after a competitor insulted his tastes.
“I never went back to Pandora after hearing Poison on the Slayer Station!” Clark complained. “Disagree. Never.”
Here are some options if you’re finally giving in to the music subscription trend, or if you’ve already signed up but are looking for a new service.
Overall, it’s generally easier to use Apple or Amazon services if you already use their devices, like an iPhone or Echo (though Spotify can also be channeled through either). However, most music fans are pickier than that.
Monthly fee: $9.99 individual, $14.99 family.
Pros: It’s the most ubiquitous of the bunch, making it easy to share music with friends and giving it the industry clout to have perhaps the deepest catalog of music. Its app features are also generally the most user-friendly.
Cons: It’s most widely derided by musicians and record labels for its attempts to reduce its already low royalty payments. Not among the best in audio quality either.
Monthly fee: $9.99 individual, $14.99 family.
Pros: If you’re an Apple addict, it syncs better with your other devices. Also features an in-depth music catalog and access to other Apple Inc. features, such as the new Beastie Boys documentary. Many users rave about its algorithmic recommendations and playlists.
Cons: Syncing with non-Apple devices can be problematic.
Amazon Music Unlimited
Monthly fee: $7.99 individual or $14.99 family for Prime members, $9.99 for non-members. There is also a $79 annual option.
Pros: A great deal if you’re already a Prime member. Easily syncs with Echo devices. Also offers Amazon HD with higher audio quality for around $5 more per month.
Cons: The catalog isn’t quite as deep, but only the most die-hard music fans are likely to notice that. Amazon’s overall business practices have also been a big source of debate lately.
Monthly fee: $9.99, or $19.99 for “premium” option with CD-quality audio.
Pros: Co-founded by rapper Jay-Z, considered the most artist-friendly company. It also offers superior audio quality to the aforementioned services, even at its basic level.
Cons: A catalog not as deep.
Monthly fee: $11.99.
Pros: Essentially a replacement for Google Play, it syncs well with YouTube and Google searches and is geared more towards music videos and concert clips.
Cons: It’s still a bit clunky and not well established yet.
More hi-fi news
Pros: The new classic-oriented services Deezer, Qobuz and Primephonic offer better quality sound for a little more monthly fee (about $15).
Cons: Their catalogs of music still lack depth, and there’s no clear forerunner in this area yet, so it’s unclear who will last.
Pros: You can still call music for free through YouTube, SoundCloud, Bandcamp, iHeartMedia, and even Spotify, Amazon, and Pandora have free options. Most radio stations can also be streamed for free.
Cons: Listening to ads is usually required. Song selections are often limited and disorganized.