In the fast-paced world we live in, immediacy and portability has come to be expected in almost every facet of our lives.
Perhaps one of the hottest facets currently is music and the ability to collect, store and play songs anywhere. From radio stations and independent apps, to streaming websites, the world of music is now easily within everyone’s grasp.
However, as it often goes with popular ideas, this power comes at a cost. Don’t want ads? Pay monthly to make them go away. Don’t like this song? You guessed it, upgrade and it will no longer be a problem. The little anarchist inside of me rails against the idea that such basic functions should need payment and has prevented me from using a premium streaming service — until now.
Is it really worth the monthly fee to listen to streamed music?
For the past month, I have been trying out not one, not two, but three different premium streaming apps and tallying the pros and cons of each.
Below is the breakdown of my experience with a 30-day free trial of Tidal, Apple Music (student) and Spotify Premium (student), and which I would recommend.
Spotify Premium (Student)
Pros: Spotify Premium Student comes with a 30-day free trial and is offered at the reduced rate of $4.99 per month, with a free Hulu subscription.
Added features include unlimited song skipping, the ability to select specific songs instead of only having shuffle play option and, of course, no ads. Especially important in the Midwest, you also have the ability to download playlists, albums or songs to play when you do not have enough WiFi or data coverage for the app to work.
While not a specifically Premium feature, I love all of the playlists and the daily compilations of favorites based on my listening and weekly discovery playlists full of suggested tracks. Also, literally Every. Band. Is. On. Spotify. Even if they have zero followers, and no record deal, you can still find them here.
Cons: I am not sure if this was just a glitch with my phone or an actual condition of Spotify, but I only got 14 days of Premium on my phone but still had the full 30 days on my laptop. Another bummer is that you still cannot play on multiple devices at a time.
Pros: Great sound quality and music videos are a big seller for Tidal, not to mention their exclusive streaming of some albums and pre-release sneak peeks. Ability to download music for playing offline is also great for long car rides in desolate country.
Cons: I chose Tidal because my sister and a few other people I know use it and seem to really like it. Unfortunately, for me, it didn’t click.
They don’t have a student plan, so you’ll have to dish out $9.99 per month for their base plan for standard sound quality or another $10 per month on top of that if you want their stellar “lossless HiFi.” For those with a music taste more rap, hip-hop or R&B based, it would be a good fit, but for those like me who are not, Tidal will leave you wanting more.
Of course, Tidal has playlists, but they have some of the strangest names and compilations I have ever seen. Plus, most of the exclusive content is based in the aforementioned genres.
Also, unlike Spotify, they do not have every band you can think of and others you can’t. As someone with some crazy music tastes, I admittedly could not find some of my favorites.
Apple Music (Student)
Pros: Apple Music came to Apple iPhone users a few years back, and offers a whopping three-month trial and a student rate of $4.99 per month thereafter.
Similar to Spotify, for students Apple Music offers another membership included. Instead of Hulu, you are automatically signed up for UniDays, which if you are like me and had no idea it existed before I just mentioned it, it is basically an Ebates for college students with tons of discounts on brands that college students are shown to buy from, I guess. Adidas, Nike, Urban Outfitters and of course, discounts on Apple products.
Just like Spotify and Tidal, Apple Music comes with the ability to download songs for offline play and access to exclusive artist content and Apple’s internet radio stations. Just like Tidal, they offer exclusive content for their subscribers, such as Wolf Parade’s new album “Cry, Cry, Cry.”
Plus, you don’t have to go through and re-find the songs and albums you already have on your computer or iTunes, because it is all still there.
Cons: I have to admit, when Apple first came out with Apple Music, I was more than a little “peeved off.” It was plain to see they were trying to get you to pay more just to play the music you already had in your library prior by making you pay for Apple Music just to download it on your phone.
For those of you unfamiliar with Apple iTunes and phones, your whole library (or whatever you wanted based on your storage space) would be downloaded. You could also listen to their radio stations for free. No fees, no strings attached. It was great.
It would appear that after Tidal came on to the scene, however, Apple had the bright idea of Apple Music and with it a monthly fee. It makes it hard to fully appreciate the three-month free trial, when you know it is so you can amass a large quantity of music that you love but haven’t paid for in your library, which you either have to part with or pay for after the trial is up.
They also make it hard to find playlists for what you want.
Also, just like Tidal, you can’t necessarily find all of the bands with tiny followings or crazy genres.
And the winner is:
I fell completely in love with Spotify. The playlists made especially for me based on my listening history adds a personal touch. As someone always on the search for new music, their new music compilations are especially helpful.
I thought it would take forever to find my music and artists I already have on iTunes, but it really didn’t. The ability to look up and stream essentially any band no matter how obscure is also great for my work here at The Spectrum as well as my eclectic music tastes.
The added benefit of Hulu also seemed more worth it for me than UniDays, as I already have an Ebates account, but that’s just me.
In the end, my opinion is far from the end-all-be-all of music streaming apps worth paying a monthly fee for. It’s up to each individual’s preferences and there are definitely more music streaming apps to be explored. What I hope is that I have given some helpful insight into a few of the options to assist your own hunt for the perfect music streaming experience.