Music Streaming Services: What are Your Options?

Photo by TechCrunch

Choosing to pay for music is optional, at the end of the day. Websites such as YouTube offer a wide selection of free music. Most music streaming services have a free alternative to the paid version, but they often restrict you from getting the most out of your music cravings. A handful of common restrictions would generally be limited stream time, streaming offline unavailable, advertisements, not being able to skip and shuffle through music, etc. On the other hand, choosing to pay for a premium music subscription has its many benefits. Offline playing and ad-free streaming are two of the most significant conveniences of paid subscriptions.

There is an abundance of different music streaming services to choose from. Top music streaming services such as Apple Music and Spotify both have paid membership options as well as free ones. The question that has been heavily debated in recent years is what is the best music streaming service/ app out in the market? Before you go and sign up for a membership you should, without a doubt, look at the price, check if there are any promotions such as student discounts/ family plans, and find out what the rules or restrictions there are within the service.

According to Business Insider‘s Christian De Looper, “Spotify is the best music streaming service for most people but Apple Music, Tidal, Amazon Music Unlimited and YouTube Music are also great options, depending on your needs.”

While Spotify might be the most popular music streaming service, does that mean it is going to be the best option for everyone?

This graph from Martin Armstrong’s article on The World’s Most Popular Music Streaming Services (Feb 13, 2020) displays the world’s most popular music streaming services as of November 2019. Spotify claims the throne for the most popular music service with over 100 million subscribers. Photo by Statista.

When multiple WCI students were asked what their go-to music streaming service was, many of the responses were the same. Out of the 15 students that were polled, including members of FJORD’s staff, 12 said Spotify and three said Apple Music.

Grade 12 Christine H said, “I listen to Spotify Premium. It’s a lot more convenient for me because the service picks songs that I might like for me. I find it way better than Apple Music.”

Kaylee A, a fifth-year student who has been loyal to Spotify for over four years, said, “I began using [Spotify] to find new songs that I haven’t heard before. I continue to use it for the playlists it has and at this point (over the past four years) I’ve built a large collection of my own playlists. The user interface is very friendly, and I love the daily mixes it curates for me as well as the top songs from 20xx playlist.”

Indigo S, another fifth-year student who listens to music quite frequently also said, “I prefer Spotify out of all the music streaming services as it works across Android and Apple platforms. In addition, you can also sign in to your account from laptops and other such devices. I also enjoy it as it’s relatively inexpensive to have multiple people on with a family plan.”

Janie T, a student in grade 12 simply shared, “I personally choose Spotify for its quality and exclusives.”

Another factor that drives people towards a specific music streaming service is the artist payout/payment rate. Mr. Bishop, who teaches communication technology courses at WCI, and who supports the Tech Team with school productions, had this to say about streaming services: “I like Bandcamp because it has a lot of options including vinyl, and it seems to pay the artists better.”

Compared to many of the other popular music streaming services that pay less than a penny, Bandcamp likes to give most of the profit earned back to the artists. Unlike Apple Music and Spotify, on Bandcamp artists have the ability to charge whatever price they want for their music, so there’s not a fixed rate per stream. The artists on Bandcamp will personally set restrictions on the amount of free streams before you have to pay. Most of the artists will enable unlimited streaming but many listeners decide to support their artists and pay for their music. In addition, Bandcamp also has a feature where artists can label their music as “name your price” where listeners have the ability to choose the amount they pay rather than the artists making the final decision.

Compared with Bandcamp, the two biggest music streaming services, Spotify and Apple Music, have a significantly different way of paying artists. Artists on Spotify earn roughly $0.00437 per stream ($4.37 per 1000 streams) and $0.00735 on Apple Music ($7.35 per 1000 streams).

With many different services, the best services for higher profit margins (from the service’s perspective) are Spotify and Apple Music. Although Spotify’s and Apple Music’s payouts per stream are much lower than Bandcamp, their larger number of users on both respected platforms may make up for the lower payout per stream.

This graph presents the streaming payouts per stream for the biggest music streaming services in the market. Photo by Digital Music News.

While Spotify is the most prestigious music streaming platform in the market, this does not mean it will be the best option for you. Make sure you find a program that is most suitable for your needs. If you’re into supporting artists and the amount that they’re paid is important to you, go with a streaming service such as Bandcamp. On the other hand, if you’re trying to get the most out of music with good quality and fair prices, go with either Apple Music or Spotify. Both are great for all levels of music listeners!

 

Here is a breakdown of the details for certain streaming services:

Prices and features of top-ranked music streaming services:

Spotify

  • Free 1-month trial
  • Prices (CAD):
    • Individual: $9.99/month
    • 2 Users: $12.99/month
    • Family (6 users): $14.99/month
    • Student plan: $4.99/month
  • No ads with paid version and unlimited skips
  • Free version comes with advertisements, offline playing disabled and limited skips
  • Very compatible across devices
  • Music quality: 320kbps

Apple Music

  • Free 3-month trial
  • Prices (CAD):
    • Individual: $9.99/month
    • Family: (6 users) $14.99/month
    • Student plan: $4.99/month
  • No free version
  • Less stability/quality for Android users
  • Music quality: 256kbps

Pandora 

  • Free 60-day trial
  • Prices (USD):
    • Individual $9.99/month
    • Family (6 users): $14.99/month
  • Free version comes with unlimited skips, offline playing disabled
  • Music quality: 192 kbps

Tidal 

  • Free 60-day trial
  • Prices (USD):
    • Individual: $9.99/month
    • Individual: $19.99 (lossless High Fidelity sound quality)/month
    • Family (5 users): $14.99/month
    • Student Plan: $4.99/month student plan
    • Military/ First Responders: $5.99/month
  • No free version
  • Music quality: 320 kbps

Bandcamp

  • Free for fans

Most of these popular platforms charge roughly $9.99/month for individuals, $14.99/month for family plans, and $4.99 for student plans. They all also come with free trials with Apple Music taking the win, giving users a 3-month trial. Spotify takes another victory with the best music quality with the capability of streaming at 320kbps and most users.