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Music streaming apps have changed our lives for the better. Here’s the down low on how to decide which one will fit you best.
If you were born after 1995 you might not remember a galaxy far far away, a time before Apple Music, and YouTube, but we’ve come a long way since crowding around the radio, eagerly awaiting the newest releases. On-demand streaming services first appeared on the worldwide radar via Pandora in 2000, and thereafter made way for Soundcloud in 2007. Spotify then crashed into our lives in 2008 and life as we knew it changed. If you’re a music fan, we’re living in some exciting times, with so many streaming apps the music world is your oyster. Picking the right music streaming app doesn’t need to be a complicated business– with free to download apps and over 30 million songs on offer, we’ll help you figure out which questions you should be asking when deciding which music streaming app fits you best.
Q1: How Will You Stream Your Music?
Unless you’ve recently arrived from another planet, you’re bound to own some sort of smartphone. Most music streaming apps will be compatible with ioS, Android, Blackberry and Windows phone, and allow you to listen via your computer and desktop. Some streaming apps however perform better than others via desktop. If you tend to listen to your music at work with your desktop computer for example, the popular app Spotify is a great option and is available on Sony’s PlayStation 4, Sonos hi-fis and through Google’s Chromecast and Amazon’s Fire TV, while its mobile app plays nicely with Apple TV too.
If you’re very much wedded in Apple’s ecosystem and plan to stream music on your iPhone, iPad etc, Apple’s own music streaming service Apple Music is an obvious choice. However, there are many other apps that sync well with iOS, including Spotify and Soundcloud. For Android users, Soundcloud, Google Play Music or iHeartRadio are also well-integrated apps.
Q2: Do You Want Access to Video Content?
If you’ve got your heart set on video content, Spotify can’t help you. But the video giant YouTube, (more often known for the latest baby goat-jumping-antics), has recently rolled out YouTube Red, a monthly subscription that allows you to view your favorite artists video content without advertisements interrupting your viewing sessions. Watch as many music videos as you’d like, including viewing content offline. Another option for those who favor video content is Tidal, a streaming service first launched by music mogul Jay-Z. It's the only app to offer ‘high-fidelity’ music, a high-quality sound reproduction, reminiscent of the vinyl & CD. It’s also full of new and popular music video content by the likes of Jay Z, Beyoncé, Macklemore, and other A-listers.
Q3: How Much Are You Willing to Pay?
If you’re a real music lover but afraid of monthly mounting fees there are some free options for music streaming apps that won’t break your bank. Most apps will allow you a free trial period typically lasting from 1 week to 1 month but Apple Music has just offered a full 3-month free trial service. Spotify and Google Play will let you listen for free but not without advertisements in between tracks – if you want to get rid of the ad’s you can always upgrade to premium.
One of the best apps for your money is iHeartRadio, a radio-style streaming app that’s free to download on most devices, and has over 15 million songs on its database. Unusual for a free app, it also allows you to create your custom radio station and playlist for easier access the next time you log into your account. Probably the best thing about this free app is the absence of pesky advertisements. One drawback? It’s currently only available in the US, Australia and New Zealand. Soundcloud is another free app which has the direct advantage of exposing new independent artists, and also allows you to connect with a community of music fans. Follow your friends and bands, add songs to your favorites, and create playlists. Although not completely free, Amazon Prime Music is a cheap option if you already have Amazon Prime, at $7.99 per month you can get approx 1.4 million tracks and it automatically integrates everything you’ve already bought through Amazon including digital downloads and CDs.
Q4: Do You Want to Stream or Store Your Music?
If you already have a sizeable collection of your own music but still want to continue streaming via apps, Google Play Music, Amazon Music, and Spotify will let you both listen to streaming music from their catalogs and upload and play your personal music collection.
This means that the apps search your own personal collection for music you’ve already purchased and allow you to upload your collection manually. It’s a good compromise if you’ve amassed a huge collection over the years but still want to access music you’ve not purchased. Spotify also offers an option for offline listening which is a fantastic if you’re an avid traveller but don’t have enough storage space to store millions of songs
Q5: Is Your App User-Friendly ?
For music addicts, a friendly interface is crucial when pouring over millions of new titles and albums. The Swedish on-demand music app, Spotify has a uniquely Scandinavian user interface with clean user intuitive features. It allows you to scroll easily up and down through playlists and has a simple play button to listen to songs. Both the desktop and mobile applications are easy to use. Another user-friendly app Soundcloud, allows users to easily embed music players on the internet, making them the go-to choice for bloggers, who can insert a clean, customizable music stream/player into a post.
Q6: How Easy is it to Discover New Music?
With each on-demand music app you can access a whole array of music genres, but not all apps can retrieve music from independent or emerging artists. The streaming music app Slacker, uses a highly engaged community of music fans to build pre-created stations, which can vary from new music, genre essentials and an artist's best work - it’s a great way to discover new music.
If you are looking to discover the next-big indie artist, no other music streaming app can compete with Soundcloud. This tool features exclusive mashups and unreleased music from new artists, and DJs that won’t be available on other apps. Since it’s free for musicians and artists to upload their new music, it's the right app to discover new content that won't be available on other services. Spotify offers a 'Discover Weekly' feature, which looks at your pre existing music preferences and assembles a playlist of similar music which it then presents to you at the beginning of the week.
If you are a music junkie, your chosen music streaming app will play a big part in your life and it’s important the app fits your lifestyle like a glove. The apps on this superlist are the creme of the crop and as the market explodes with competition, these apps will continue to ‘up’ their game–so ask yourself the right questions and make an informed decision before you download The One.