Cooped up and stumped on what album to listen to next to pass the time? There’s an app for that.
Now, more than ever, is the time to consider joining a music streaming service such as Spotify or one of its competitors. Over 300 million people worldwide have a paid music subscription.
Even if you have a massive record collection at home, there’s a chance you’ll be looking for something else to listen to by the time the coronavirus quarantine is over. Besides, you can’t take your record collection outside for your daily walk, run or bike ride.
Convenience is the biggest reason to sign up for one of these services, which usually cost between $8 and $15 per month. Having more than 50 million songs at the tap of a phone screen (the number Spotify and Apple Music both claim) is as easy as it gets.
Discovering new music is another big plus. Most of these services have algorithm programs that point listeners to other artists and songs based on what you’re already picking to play. Friends, experts and complete strangers can also point you to new grooves via the apps.
Of course, there are also downsides. Audio quality is diminished when it’s streamed over the internet, though some of the services such as Amazon Music Unlimited now offer “HD” options for better sound at a higher monthly fee.
There’s also the touchy subject of how little these companies pay artists and their record labels. On average, Spotify doles out between $0.006 and $0.0084 per stream, for instance; so maybe a whopping 80 cents goes to the artist if a thousand people stream a song one month. This pittance has many altruistic music fans swearing off paid subscriptions.
Patrick Werle, of Minneapolis, knows the arguments against Spotify, but he still pays for it — and then he buys downloads or physical albums on the artist-friendly site Bandcamp.com when he discovers new music he wants to own.
“I pay the monthly fee for it, so I am at least contributing something,” said Werle, who especially likes Spotify’s “Fans Also Like” recommendations.
Cody Clark, also of Minneapolis, often uses the free streaming site SoundCloud for smaller, independent artists but recently switched to a paid Spotify subscription for mainstream acts after a competitor insulted his tastes.
“Never went back to Pandora after I heard Poison on the Slayer Station!” Clark complained. “Not OK. Ever.”
Here are some options if you’re finally giving into the music subscription trend, or if you’re already signed up but are shopping around for a new service.
Overall, it’s generally easiest to just go with the Apple or Amazon services if you already use their devices, such as an iPhone or an Echo (though Spotify can also be channeled through either). Most music fans are pickier than that, though.
Monthly fees: $9.99 individual, $14.99 family.
Pros: It’s the most ubiquitous of the bunch, which makes it easier for sharing music with friends and gives it the industry leverage to have maybe the deepest catalog of music. Its app features are generally the most user-friendly, too.
Cons: It’s the one most widely derided by musicians and record labels for its attempts at lowering its already-low royalty payments. Not among the best in audio quality, either.
Monthly fees: $9.99 individual, $14.99 family.
Pros: If you’re an Apple junkie, it syncs up best with your other devices. Also has a deep catalog of music and access to other Apple Inc. features, such as the new Beastie Boys documentary. Many users rave about its algorithmic recommendations and playlists.
Cons: Syncing with non-Apple devices can be glitchy.
Monthly fees: $7.99 individual or $14.99 family for Prime members, $9.99 nonmembers. There’s also a $79 annual option.
Pros: A good deal if you’re already a Prime member. Syncs up easily with Echo devices. Also offers Amazon HD with higher audio quality for about $5 more per month.
Cons: Catalog isn’t quite as deep, but only the most hard-core music nerds would probably notice. Amazon’s overall business practices have been a great source of debate lately, too.
Monthly fees: $9.99, or $19.99 for “premium” option with CD-quality audio.
Pros: Co-founded by rapper Jay-Z, it’s considered the more artist-friendly company. It also boasts higher audio quality than the aforementioned services, even in its basic level.
Cons: Not as deep a catalog.
Monthly fee: $11.99.
Pros: Essentially a replacement for Google Play, it syncs up well with both YouTube and Google searches and is geared more toward music videos and concert clips.
Cons: It’s still kind of clunky and not well established yet.
More hi-fi newcomers
Cons: Their music catalogs still lack depth, and there’s no clear forerunner in this field yet, so it’s hard to know who’s going to last.
Pros: You can always still call up music for free via YouTube, SoundCloud, Bandcamp, iHeartMedia and even Spotify, Amazon and Pandora have free options. Most radio stations can also be streamed for free.
Cons: Listening to ads is usually required. Song selections are often limited and disorganized.