Music to your ears


Exploring the perks and problems of popular music streaming services

Story by Helio Qendro • Illustration by Katie Dineen

Long ago, discovering music required fans to slide their fingers through thousands of physical copies of records until they saw something interesting. Then they would listen to a sample of the music on a CD player in the store before actually purchasing it. Today, streaming services have replaced all of that with complicated algorithms that craft and polish playlists for every listener out there. In an age when convenience has taken over excitement, major companies like Apple compete against independent players like Spotify and Tidal.


Subscription Fees: $9.99 for premium / $19.99 for HiFi

Perks: Tidal is the infamous streaming service started by Jay Z and a number of popular mainstream artists. It is the first service that aimed at commercializing High Fidelity (HiFi) music. HiFi music streamed through this service doesn’t lose any of the sound quality that it was originally produced with. The service offers a lot of exclusive content, including extra tracks, music videos and concert livestreams. Another notable thing about Tidal is that it claims to pay the highest royalties to artists.

Problems: Tidal has limited subscription options and is a pricier alternative to other apps. While the service offers a lot concerned that this results in an increase of music piracy.


Subscription Fees: free for standard / $4.99 for student premium / $9.99 for premium / $14.99 for family

Perks: Spotify is a pioneer in the streaming service market. The Stockholm-based company has more paying subscribers than any other music streaming service with 140 million active subscribers. The service is well-known for its personalized playlists and rich user experience. Other benefits include the web player and the compatibility with almost all operating systems. On top of that, it offers the opportunity to make collaborative playlists and to see what your friends are listening to through the “friends feed.”

Problems: The free version only allows shuffle play for playlists, and the number of advertisements between songs may be bothersome.

Apple Music

Subscription Fees: $4.99 for students / $9.99 for standard / $14.99 for family sharingPerks: Apple Music is compatible with iPhone and iTunes users. The service blends music that you have purchased and music that you stream through iCloud and combines them in an ultimate library. The streaming service has curated playlists and a very popular radio station, Beats 1, which you can stream on-demand through the app. DJs like Diplo and Skrillex have joined the service with their own radio shows for which they create live mixes.

Problems: While you are able to download the app on an Android, users have reported many glitches. Even on the iPhone, the app has a confusing layout and a complicated user experience.

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