Note: Here’s a guest post from Caroline at Culture Coverage.
In a world of free music, not all streaming services are created equal.
Between premium subscriber systems and free platforms with limitless libraries, there are a lot of options that can cloud a music lover’s desktop and not provide any real advantages. For these five industry leaders, however, it can be a different story. To figure out the future of streaming, check out this list of what’s up and what’s worth a listen.
As the behemoth winner of the streaming music world, Spotify started out just like any other digital age streaming startup, but it’s as much about what critics would consider faults as it is about its apparent successes; the truth is, everything is working for it. The easy-to-use interface, the completely free use of its music catalogue and mobile listening features make it perfect for all ages. Customizable playlists, radio stations, and great social features that mean easy sharing—it’s easy to see why Spotify is top dog in a world of free music. From customized Discover Weekly playlists tailored to your likes and cool features like the one that matches your songs to your running pace, this service is one that only gets better.
While the streaming service isn’t free (and therefore a huge negative), Apple is the leader in everything else tech related, which gives the service strong staying power even if it’s had slow success since debuting in 2015. With only 15 million followers since it launched, Apple Music has been rumored to be acquiring Jay-Z’s TIDAL, which is predicted to be a smart business move. While it may have only 4.2 million subscribers, the clout TIDAL has with big musicians like Kanye West and Rihanna is suspected to boost the listener experience and advantages of subscribing to the Apple Music service.
YouTube is the uncontested largest music streaming music service around with over a billion monthly visitors, and since it launched YouTube Red, it’s finally available without pesky ads. YouTube also leads in the music category by allowing users to search concert tapes, music videos, live recordings, and a plethora of uploaded work ranging from wedding videos to covers. While sifting through all the noise can be a drawback, the lyric video revolution and payout to artists means this globally unifying music source isn’t going anywhere soon.
With 80 million active users, Pandora gets away with having a limited number of skips for one reason: it’s the best way to discover new music. With personalized radio station features and the opportunity to use the app across multiple platforms, the music service has a great price, and it’s perfect for customized listening. While the geographical limitations on this one are a little archaic (though nothing a Virtual Private Network can’t fix), and it’s not your best option when you’re looking for a specific song, it’s free level is one that can’t be beat. The ever-updating and shifting song selection also make it a road tripper’s go-to.
A hotbed for indie artists, remixes, and the Next Big Thing, SoundCloud is still free, though this could change in the next year with its execs looking for a buyer. In the meantime, it offers something none of the other streaming services can. With raw mixes, unreleased EPs and fresh demos, this platform is where untested, undiscovered and underground artists flex their chops, which means it has serious staying power for listeners who want something outside of the commercialized music industry. Plus, there are options for sharing privately with friends or on social media; and with SoundCloud Go, you can listen anywhere.
From on-the-go to at-home listening, these five streaming services are providing the bulk of the industry’s listening platforms, and for 2016, they’re the masters of their trade. What’s next for the 2017 leaders? Only time—and the ear—will tell.
About Me: Caroline is a music junkie and streaming service lover, uploading any and all of the available service apps to her phone to continue her hunt for the next best one. Currently leaning toward the platforms that let her take the music with her, she’s open to being persuaded if you feel like leaving a comment and pointing her in the right direction.