How to choose the best audio streaming service
Guest column: Time for a break from politics, here Karl Volkman, CTO of SRV Network, Inc., gives readers some advice on selecting the best digital music service
How do you listen to music? Do you still listen to the radio or buy CDs? If you are like most Americans, you are now turning to audio streaming services—music content delivered over the internet.
For the first time in history, audio streaming services are now outperforming video streaming services. In fact, audio streaming is quickly becoming the cornerstone of the music industry. Audio streaming has surged 79.5% year-on-year, while the download market and physical album sales stagnate.
However, with so many options for audio streaming, it can be difficult to know the best option, especially as the market is ever-changing. When choosing an option, here are some things to consider:
Amazon Prime: If you are already a Prime customer, this is a serviceable option in a pinch. Their catalogue is limited, but the app runs smoothly and with no ads. Best of all, you can access whole albums at a time, and skip, replay, or fast-forward to your heart’s content. (Many other apps limit the skips, such as Pandora.) Cost: Free for Prime members.
Musi: This app offers access to music video content on the web, whether your kid wants to hear Thomas the Train’s theme song for the millionth time or you want to run sprints to Missy Eliot’s hits. Navigating the app and building playlists can be tedious, and you can’t download the songs to your phone—which means you have to use precious data. Cost: Free.
Apple: Apple offers an awesome monthly plan for up to 6 other people, so you and your whole family can share access to millions and millions of songs. They also offer cheaper student rates. You can upload music and stream it your device, along with 24/7 radio, and 30 million songs at your disposal. But, if you don’t upgrade to the monthly subscription, you will be dealing with unwanted and annoying ads. Cost: $9.99/month.
Tidal: Tidal (Jay-Z’s much-hyped music service) offers High Fidelity sound and HD music videos. The content is collected by a team of music journalists and producers, so if you are looking to discover tailor-made recommendations and playlists from the best in the business, you are looking in the right place. It also offers discounts for students and military personnel. Cost: $9.99/month (premium) or $19.99/month (Hi-Fi sound).
Google Play: Google recently bought out Songza, which was a music app that many people adored. Keeping the goodwill that Songza had after the acquisition would be a challenge, and critics say that the tech giant has failed to do so. Some users complain that the app doesn’t run smoothly and often stalls, while some complain about the icons and graph format, as they prefer lists. Others say that Google Play did away with Songza’s best feature—the ability to introduce you to new artists you might not otherwise have discovered via their carefully curated and highly specific stations. Cost: Free (with ads) or $10/month
BitTorrent Now: If discovering new music and indie artists is important to you, then BitTorrent Now is a great fit. You will have access to millions of artists, but these won’t necessarily be the artists you hear on Top 40 stations—and that can be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on your tastes. BitTorrent is best known for its widely-used Internet download software and had acquired some bad rep due to users sharing and downloading copyrighted video and audio. Hopefully the Now product can change that for BitTorrent. Cost: Free, except for some premium content.
Ultimately, you may find that you need to combine a couple different music apps in order to get everything you want from your audio streaming experience. For example, you might like using the Google Play workout mix at the gym but prefer to use a personalized playlist from Tidal when you are at home cooking dinner. Whatever option you end up choosing, you have millions of artists at your fingertips every month, often for less money than you would spend on lunch. And that’s music to our ears!
Karl Volkman has been Chief Technical Officer of SRV Network, Inc. since 1996. Karl is an expert in UNIX, NT, Netware Operating Systems, Local Area Network and Wide Are Network environments, Network design, Implementation and troubleshooting.