Nothing embodies the rapid evolution of digital music as much as Apple’s boast that the launch of the iPod would put 1,000 songs in your pocket. The modern music listener demands that their digital music has the majority of songs ever recorded, for an affordable monthly fee, on any device, and on demand.
While many services claim to offer exclusive features, many will have catalogs that offer pretty much the same features. As such, the streaming service that offers the perfect mix of recommendations, number of songs, elegance, range and quality will survive 2016. Let’s review six of the frontrunners to see which one stands the best chance?
Released in 2000, Pandora is one of the oldest streaming services on the market. Offering a better user experience through recommendations of unexplored music according to their listening history, Pandora is a leading light in streaming technology due to inventing the Music Genome Project. But Pandora fell behind due to some issues with licencing restrictions that would not allow you to replay a song, a catalog of only about a million songs, poor social integration and the inability to play songs on demand.
However, while the platform has lost a lot of its allure, it still has pros that will ensure it remains relevant in 2016. It offers a free with ads version and a premium Pandora One option that is without the many ads. Pandora One is quite affordable at $3.99 a month and has a sound quality of 192Kbps. It comes with music recommendations from the Music Genome Project that is available on most devices. Pandora is still the best bet when you intend to use a streaming service for a party since it can keep the music playing with minimal intervention even at the free, non-subscription levels.
Pandora’s biggest downside is that it’s only available in Australia, New Zealand and the United States; though users in other countries who registered with a US Zip can still listen to the service while outside the three countries. It’s recent acquisition of Rdio, which was accessible in 60 countries, could result in a future expansion of Pandora’s availability.
Google Play Music
It is the ideal music streaming service if you use the Google Play store frequently. With 35 million songs in its catalog, it has nearly as many songs as its competitors, Spotify and Tidal. But what sets it apart from the competition is that you can download and upload songs to the service, thereby using it as a digital locker allowing you to play songs on demand.
Furthermore, with the exponential growth in Android devices, you can access the service from multiple devices, even iOS though on a limited scale. It’s best sound quality is 320Kbps, which makes it’s MP3s significantly superior to Sony’s AACs that have significantly lower bitrates. It comes with a free three-month trial and costs $10 a month after that. The subscription is inclusive of YouTube Red that gives you background play and ad free YouTube videos.
Google Play Music is currently available in the 63 countries, covering most of North America, South America, Europe, northern Asia and Australia.
Tidal is one of the best music streaming services to watch in 2016 due to its new approach to music streaming. It is a proponent of equal and fair pay for musicians. Recently bought by Jay-Z, its aim is to realign the music streaming industry by making artists the owners.
Tidal offers the best audio quality of all streaming services at 320Kbps high-quality FLAC files for all songs in its catalog. One of its most outstanding features is the short articles and videos that inform and entertain listeners about studios, producers, artists, and music genres. Additionally, it offers expertly curated playlists by different artists and producers.
However, the service does not have any free options. The cheapest audio subscriptions start at $10 a month, while the high-resolution content starts at $20 a month. Though it does not offer any free subscriptions, Tidal is totally worth the money as it has high fidelity music, 75,000 music videos, 40 million songs and no ads. The only con is its poor integration with social networks.
Tidal is currently available in the 46 countries scattered across North America, South America, Europe, Asia and Australia.
With a 30 million-song catalog and $0 price tag, nothing beats Spotify as one of the most popular means of streaming whatever music you like whenever you want it. Integration with Facebook and Twitter makes it easy to find out what your friends are listening to. Moreover, you could easily switch to private mode that takes you offline and have nobody know what you have been listening to.
One issue with Spotify is that it fails to offer recommendations on what you should listen to. While its curated playlists are excellent, the radio station is not at the same standard. Though it does offer high-quality streaming at 320Kbps for Android, iOS and desktop.
Spotify does offer a Premium version for $10 a month that is ad free and offers the same music. It may be worth paying for Premium to avoid annoying interruptions from commercials. Additionally, Spotify allows users to upload any songs that are missing in the catalog, so the platform is likely to grow organically in 2016.
Spotify is currently available in 59 countries, covering most of the Americas, western Europe, Australia, and Southeast Asia.
The newest entrant to music streaming, Apple Music, launched in July of 2015. The service is experiencing exponential growth in subscriptions rivalling Spotify and Pandora, the current market leaders. Apple Music also features a radio station called Beats1 that is always on, curated playlists made by retired music journalists and a mix of curated music. But its best-selling point is that its playlists draw from Apple’s massive catalog of 26 million songs.
Apple Music could be one of the winners of streaming music in 2016 since it offers a pretentious yet edgy feel while delivering on what it promises. Furthermore, the free three-month trial (that rises to $10 a month after expiration) has seen over 11 million people sign up for the service since its launch.
Probably Apple Music’s biggest advantage is that it is currently available in 113 countries, across Africa, the Middle East and India, Asia Pacific, Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, and the United States and Canada.
How to Stream from Geo-Blocked Countries
One of the disadvantages of the streaming services is that they are not all available in every country and some countries have yet to be reached by any of them. If you find yourself in a country that does not support streaming, a Virtual Private Network (VPN) could come in handy. With a VPN, you would simply change your location to a country that your service supports and instantly get access to all of your streaming services.
Overall we’d have to go with Spotify, Apple Music and Google Play Music as having the best chances of making it in 2016. Tidal is quite good, so do not count it out yet. Pandora has longevity on its side but is highly unlikely to be making big waves this year.
So what is your favorite? Which one do you think will outlast all the others and be the top dog in the music streaming industry? Join the conversation below.