It was in the year 2000 that Internet radio first burst on the scene and changed the way we listen to music. This service was pioneered by Pandora touting an advanced algorithm which promised “to play only music you’ll love.” With the success of Pandora’s internet radio, listeners were lampooned by a wave of other internet music streaming services looking to ride it out and the promise to bring the best playlists for any genre, mood, or event to the listener.
Today the service pioneered by Pandora has greatly evolved to surpass just Internet radio to bringing on-demand large catalog of fully customizable music to millions of music lovers. Sadly it seems Pandora has been left behind.
With the launching of Spotify in 2008, the business of music streaming took a new dimension. The Swedish-born music streaming service helped pioneer the current market and today has over 60 million paying subscribers, making them by far the largest on-demand music streaming service. But they are not the only one that has taken the industry by a storm. Apple music, the music streaming service of mobile phone giant Apple Inc. has found its way into the industry and currently is the fastest growing streaming service with a recently announced figure of over 27 million paying subscribers on board in just two years.
Pandora the pioneers, seem to have come late to the party with the recent launch in March 2017 of Pandora premium; their music streaming service. Though it may appear late, they are coming into the market as a strong contender hoping to leverage on their 80 million Internet radio subscribers to replicate the success of yester years.
Let’s take a look at the current landscape of music streaming services in 2017.
It comes as no surprise that we start out list off with arguably the most popular music streaming service, Spotify. They boast having tens of millions of paid subscribers over their closest competition. Since their launch in 2008, the number of total subscribers has grown to over 60 million turning in the monthly subscription of $9.99. Spotify offers a refined user experience with an exclusive and wide range celebrity-curated playlists and over 30 million songs catalog all of which is accessible to all users free (with ads off course) or paid.
They not only deliver great tunes but also an experience that makes it the popular choice for all age of listeners and on a wide range of platforms, whether it’s a conversion of your tablet to a digital juke box or turning your mobile phone into a high powered personal music library.
Spotify has a social feature that lets friends share in the fun as they connect and share their favorite playlists, tracks and albums. It is available on all platforms from Android to Windows and set-up boxes.
On signup, users get 30 days free trial and can upgrade for only $9.99.
Apple Music is generally known for its high exclusive releases and its large catalog of over 40 million songs with support in 110 countries. Apple Music has shown impressive strides since it first launched in June 2015 and has given Spotify a chase for subscribers. In its two years of existence, Apple Music has garnered over 27 million subscribers and the number keeps growing.
Being backed by one of the big names is a plus but what the Apple Music brings to the market sells itself. It’s easy-to-use good feel interface is responsive and gives users access to a large cache of customizable curated playlists on the iTunes library and 24 hours Beat 1 internet radio service manned by BBC – alum Zane Lowe. Apple offers new users a 3 months free subscription on sign up and after that charges $10 per month and a discounted family plan of 6 at $14.99. Apple Music is available on Android and iOS.
Apple Music’s biggest asset is its integration: You are not required to download extra software if you intend to access it across devices. All you have to do is use Siri to control it and your Apple ID to pay for it. You would have access to your iTunes library, allowing you to listen to any of your songs while you’re on the go — even if you don’t have the songs downloaded to your device.
The company also boasts a new social feature that allows artists to share notes, photos, and other media with fans, directly in the app.
Pandora Premium is the on-demand music streaming service of Pandora which came online in March 2017. At first launch in 2000, they held sway. They were the most popular and still are in some way. With over 80 million users subscribing to their internet radio service, Pandora is currently the largest music streaming service in the world.
They could have capitalized on their size to control the on-demand music streaming business before the likes of Spotify and Apple music came on stream, but somewhere along the line they lost it. It’s better late than never though, they have just recently launched their own on-demand music streaming service after acquiring Rdio.
The main attraction for Pandora premium users say is its simplicity. Where Spotify and Apple have you going round in circles, Pandora premium presents and lets you customize your playlist in short easy steps. Its minimalist design is also an attraction as they seem to have eliminated all the clutter associated with the two big names.
It has also been made smarter as results from searches are organized based on what it knows about you, and hides the stuff you probably wouldn’t want to see. Pushing to the bottom of searches covers from other artists, karaoke versions and other renditions you don’t care about. It allows full interaction with Android phones, iPhones, Chromecast, Android Audio, CarPlay and other car stereos.
What Pandora gains in looks, it loses in device support and content as it will continue, for now though, to chase Apple and Spotify.
Tidal, owned by hip-hop mogul Jay Z is the only music streaming service that offers high-fidelity streaming. This superior sound quality is similar to what you would hear on a CD. Being the only player in the game to offer such quality streaming, Tidal obviously sets itself apart from the competition. However, you’d be hard pressed to find the difference in quality between a Tidal stream and a Spotify stream if you were listening through ear-buds. It seems this feature is really only relevant for listeners with high quality headphones or an expensive stereo set up.
Tidal also has some flaws that are hard to over look. With fewer available tracks, poor music discovery features and a sometimes buggy UI there are plenty of reasons why Tidal has not rose to level of some of the top music streaming services. Tidal also has received some unfortunate press regarding exclusive releases. They completely botched Rihanna’s most recent release Anti in an embarrassing manner. By accidently leaking the album early, it forced Rihanna to release the album early, just a few hours after the leak.
Currently the top place to discover new music and videos, YouTube has launched a service solely dedicated to streaming music. The free app is available for download and a subscription to YouTube Red eliminates ads between songs. It also boasts a giant library that is increasing by the day as the user upload platform gains more and more popularity. It has become so popular now that artists and labels include it with all their current releases.
YouTube is an upcoming threat to the bigger, more well-known music streaming services. It’s main threat to competitors is the bundled package that comes with a YouTube Red account. Not only do you get ad-free music streaming for only $9.99, but you also get ad-free video streaming and a handful of other features that are sure to entice potential customers. Throw in the YouTube brand and the fact that their backed by Google and it’s safe to say it’s only a matter of time before YouTube Red rises to the top.
The past couple years have seen the rise of music streaming services sky-rocket. In that it now accounts for more than 50% of the music industry revenue and is still on the rise. One could say that the industry was saved by premium music streaming services, especially after digital downloads have plummeted thanks to the rise of peer-to-peer networks.
This shift will continue to change in the years to come, but right now our pick for best music streaming service is given to Spotify. With it’s large library, simple interface and excellent music discovery features; it continues to hold the title: King of on-demand music streaming. However, because of our varied taste and perspective, the best way to find out what service is good for you is to try it out. They all offer free trials on signup for up to 30 days.