With physical sales continuing to decline year on year, streaming services have rapidly expanded to fill the void vacated by the CD. In return for a monthly fee (or none at all), streaming services present customers with the ability to listen to pretty much any music ever created, as much, or as little, as they like. Some services, for a limited time only, possess the exclusive rights to albums – meaning they are literally the only place you can listen to your favourite artist’s latest release. It is no surprise then, that music streaming services have become so popular. But with such a proliferation of music streaming services to pick from, which one offers the best listening experience?
Apple’s assault on the music streaming industry has been relentless. By stockpiling a bevy of exclusives from some of the world’s most popular and in-demand artists, Apple Music has been able to eat into Spotify’s stranglehold on paid streaming. Is there much to Apple Music beyond the exclusives though?
A good deal of Apple Music’s strength also lies in the quality of its weekly, personalised playlists. Comprised of a favourites mix, a chill mix, and a new music mix, the ‘For You’ selections are invariably great. The 24 hour Beats radio, hosted by prominent names in the world of music like Zane Lowe and Ebro Darden, is equally strong.
Where Apple Music falls down is through its ‘connect’ tab, which is a poor and under-utilised proto-social network that is close to redundant. The service is set to slow down on the exclusives that compelled so many users to subscribe in the first place, and the surge of investment into video isn’t likely to change the service for the better for music lovers. Add to that the complication of Apple Music only existing within iTunes on PC, and there are some areas for improvement and refinement.
Spotify is the original streaming service. And it is in part thanks to this status that it has become the largest paid streaming service. Impressively, it has over twice as many subscribers as its nearest competitor Apple Music. But are Spotify’s 50 million paying subscribers indicative of quality?
For the most part, yes. Like its competitors, it gives users access to millions of tracks and playlists, as well as its own radio offering. As users consume more and more music, Spotify will also get better and better at understanding your taste and suggesting suitable recommendations. What differentiates Spotify from the rest is the ability to see what your friends are listening to, which is further bolstered by Spotify’s integration into Facebook. And what fun is music without friends to share it with?
The negatives of Spotify are few are far between. A lack of lyrics is one. On Apple Music, lyrics are provided for close to every song. On Spotify, not so much.
Despite Soundcloud posting losses in the tens of millions mark recently, it remains one of, if not the biggest streaming service, with approximately 175 million active monthly users. Unlike the likes of Spotify or Apple Music, Soundcloud does not have an extensive catalogue of music from the most popular artists and is instead mostly reliant on upcoming artists electing to use the platform to publish their music.
Because of this, the diversity of music Soundcloud offers is unrivalled. The emphasis on community is infinitely more apparent on Soundcloud than with any of its competitors. User feedback is rife, as it pops up at each second of a playing song, and the capability for artists to follow each other, repost and like each other’s songs further fosters the sense of community. Soundcloud does not however have the same collection of playlists that make Apple Music and Spotify so popular.