Until not so long ago, some of us downloaded tons of MP3 to build our personal music collections. All that has changed and the internet offers the very infinite in terms of audio and video sources, something we won’t get to listen to in our entire lifetimes. This article will have a look at music streaming and some of the best music streaming platforms, comparing price, audio quality, catalogue and more. Let’s see some of the music streaming services compared…
What Is Music Streaming?
Music streaming is a way of playing music directly online, in ‘real-time’ without having to download it first. It has been the end-to-end solution that major labels and stores found in order to get some income again for what is reproduced. Streaming also relates to music videos that contain songs.
To stream music online is like how it was listening to music on the radio station 20 or 30 years ago. At least in terms of quick access to everything that is top-notch stuff. Nowadays you can pretty much get access to all music available, as much as you want and whenever you want.
What Is A DSP In Music?
DSP, meaning Digital Streaming Platform, is a platform within which you can stream music and video. Without these platforms, you wouldn’t be able to access all that music to stream wherever and whenever you want.
An average person getting up every day to go to work feels comfortable knowing that at any time they have millions of songs available on music streaming apps. Plus they can also put together their own playlists for faster and more effective access. But a music producer, a songwriter/composer, a rock band, on the other hand… They all have a real challenge in common. They have to get their art out there to have their fans stream their music online. We’ll talk a little more about the benefits for artists and also what streaming services pay artists in this article.
What Is The Best Music Streaming Platform?
Now we’ve covered the ins and outs of streaming and DSPs, let’s see in detail how each platform works for the user and for the artist:
We might say: the most famous and most used music streaming service in the world? Perhaps the one with the strongest catalogue? Undoubtedly. But at the moment there are competitors emerging at an accelerated rhythm, like the case of Amazon Music Unlimited which in only one year was placed as the third most used platform, covering the 12% (MIDiA Research, 2018).
Spotify was given birth in 2006 by two Swedish entrepreneurs who had a vision for the real-time execution of online music. It offers a free version for the largest number of devices (Android, iOS and more) as well as Premium account(s) that are ad-free and with better audio quality. One of the best features is the Premium account for students ($5) allowing hundreds of thousands of young people in their spare time at the University to access new music. They also have a family option, which offers up to 6 premium accounts for those under one roof, for only $14.99.
Spotify Playlists And Algorithms
And the algorithms? Well, we know that each music streaming app has different playlists adapted to the user’s experience. In the case of Spotify, there are several and they plan to add even more according to the data they obtain each year from research.
- Weekly Discovery: a playlist that recommends several dozen songs each week, based on what we previously heard, offering a kind of liaison between similar artists and songs.
- Release Radar: a unique playlist for each user according to their activity during the week. It is updated every Friday.
- Daily Mix: one or more playlists based on the user’s recent activity. Even our music may appear (and that’s the idea).
- User-Generated Playlists: created by users, some with many followers (from thousands to millions). A good starting point to become familiar with future hits. This is also a great way to promote your music if you can convince them to add your tracks. (Or get in touch with our music promotion team who will take all the leg work out of this for you and also potentially get you on some editorial playlists – see below!)
In addition, Spotify offers Editorial Playlists, with people specifically hired for this task: curating music by hand and promoting it. This includes the so-called Mood playlists, where we can access songs they considered for moments of happiness, sadness, joy, anger, peace and many others.
Spotify provides for both label imprints and independent artists, the web and mobile version of Spotify for Artists, to be up-to-date of the daily, weekly and monthly statistics of streams and playlists where the music has been placed, countries and cities we are heard from, as well as to other valuable information. Here you can also update and optimize your artist profile on Spotify which is something you’ll definitely want to do.
Rating UX 4/5 – Rating UI 4/5. Nice quality overall but some of the playlists are quite similar. Spotify for Artists makes the difference.
Find out how to get your music onto Spotify in our article.
Apple Music ranks second in number of users, even being almost exclusive for Apple devices (although also available for Windows and Android phones). Among music streaming services, it is a supreme success in the United States and offers similar subscription plans to those of Spotify. Despite there being no free plan available, there’s the famous $5 plan for students, in addition to the family and annual plan. The family plan is the same as Spotify at $14.99 for up to 6 people.
It is noticeable that iPhone, iPad and MacBook users will pursue a full integration as they already have it with the Apple Cloud, and yes, it works: Siri will be waiting for us to say who we want to listen to from one device, and tell the others. On top of that, Apple allows you to download way much more content than Spotify does.
Rating UX 3/5 – Rating UI 4/5. Not being available for free kind of takes away the magic and makes the music streaming apps world become too elite. Excellent average interface.
Amazon Music Unlimited
This is Amazon’s Music Streaming solution that’s a step up from the one included in Amazon Prime. Here the base of musical content, radio and playlists is expanded. You can also get this service at a discounted rate if you already have a Prime membership! It’s $7.99 for Prime members and $9.99 for non-Prime customers. Again, with this one, there is no free option.
It contains a lyrics database available for most songs and there are no annoying ads interrupting our activity. Again with this, you have a choice of monthly, annual, family and student subscription plans. The family plan with Amazon Music Unlimited is on the same track as the others at $14.99 per month.
Rating UX 3/5 – Rating UI 3/5. This is an especially good offer if you’re already a Prime member. However, it would be nice to have more quality and quantity.
Born as one of the great alternatives to traditional radio in the United States, this is known as the king of passive listening. With an average system where songs will play one after another and some kind of on-demand system for choosing what we want to play plus a track-rating system that works along with the algorithm of the radio stations to provide the best user experience.
We could say Pandora is the Weekly Discovery from Spotify that plays automatically and randomly, capturing our tastes and offering the best out of its catalog.
Pandora Premium follows the pricing trend, coming in at $9.99 per month, $4.99 per month for students and $14.99 for ‘families’ of up to 6 people.
Rating UX 5/5 – Rating UI 3/5. The experience on the radio-type-of-streaming is massive. But not having Pandora available in more countries leaves a mark for them.
Beyond the fact that Spotify has been trying out a video experience for some time, we cannot deny that YouTube is still the one who dominates.
YouTube has a trending system where the algorithm simply checks the amount of views and retention divided by the upload time. This can lead to a rapid viralization. Likewise, the highest quality live playback standards are also offered with many new features being announced from YouTube for Creators.
The subscription plans are the same mentioned above for Google Play Music.
Rating UX 4/5 – Rating UI 4/5. The integration of video and audio is a highlight but they still have to work more on the quality according to the source of connection.
What makes this platform a standout is its hi-fi music option. This is great for picky users who are eager to experience and have a good sound system. With competitive prices for individuals, family and students, Tidal has described itself as the main Spotify competitor. Something that would later be contrasted by some legal actions and public statements by artists the likes as Coldplay or Taylor Swift, who suggested not being in the catalog and move to Tidal for this-or-that reason, something we already saw was inefficient since even the creator, Jay-Z, has had to negotiate with Spotify and put his catalog back.
We recognize that Tidal has also contributed to improving the streaming video service, offering basic and Premium plans. Tidal costs $9.99 for the ‘premium’ service and $19.99 for their ‘HiFi’ service. They also, of course, have family and student plans starting at $14.99 and $4.99 respectively.
Rating UX 3/5 – Rating UI 3/5. Although this offers a lot more quality for a similar price point, it seems slightly elite/niche as the average consumer doesn’t seem to care as much about audio quality.
This platform came to light the same year Spotify did, but in France. It may seem that very few people use it in the world, but that’s not necessarily true. Deezer has always been on Spotify’s heels with its ability to integrate and adapt to new technologies. It offers FLAC audio quality that is already better than Spotify’s (same bitrate as Tidal).
Of course, the free version only lasts 30 days, but with a catalogue that today lives up to the rest. In addition it has curated content, along with playlists and the Deezer Flow option. Deezer flow is an infinite song player that works with an algorithm that collects previously heard music information; a mix of Pandora’s offer with the Spotify Daily Mix.
Deezer has similar pricing plans to the rest, with the inclusion of a free tier!
It’s $9.99 for premium, $14.99 for families, $4.99 for students and even a lossless quality tier called HiFi for $19.99. Most of these also come with a three-month free trial.
Rating UX 4/5 – Rating UI 3/5. Over the years the interface has not changed much but the experience overall is good and it’s great to have FLAC audio available.
Many people still believe SoundCloud doesn’t qualify as a music streaming service. It is basically a platform to discover music not officially hosted elsewhere. That is why bootleg-type material, such as remixes, mixtapes or DJ sets, are uploaded by users to be commented, liked and recommended (reposted) as in any other social network.
What is new then? SoundCloud has seen a fall over the past two years, which is why they decided to get involved. They do this through offering SoundCloud Go, a subscription service with access to a catalogue of +135 million songs and expanding. Not yet available worldwide, but with the company’s recent confirmation of having a variety of countries incorporated by 2020.
SoundCloud ends up being the only music streaming service with engagement in real-time.
Rating UX 4/5 – Rating UI 4/5. SoundCloud was once about to close down and suddenly they showed up a few integration novelties.
The Berlin-based app offers “the ultimate streaming service for classical music worldwide” as one of the co-founders once said. Recently named as one of the best inventions by Time Magazine, IDAGIO is arguably one of the best classical music streaming apps.
Like any other free music streaming service, IDAGIO counts with a blog for those who want to stay up to date on technical and social information. Not to forget that it also has two paid options called Premium and Premium+, offering whole albums, playlists, recordings and tracks on-demand, offline whenever you want. The latest launch of IDAGIO Free comes with a blog post explaining the whole system and know abouts.
The word ‘ultimate’ really stands for the content that is exclusively being shown on Idagio due to deals between the company and major labels as well as artists who are more than happy to know that IDAGIO pays per second and not per stream. (More on that later)
Rating UX 4/5 – Rating UI 4/5. Nothing to criticize when compared to other music streaming services as this is one of a kind.
How Much Do Streaming Services Pay Artists?
Music streaming services’ royalties vary between the different services on offer. However, here is a list of the estimated payout per stream from each platform:
|DSP||Payout Per Stream|
|Apple Music||$0.00783 per stream|
|Deezer||$0.0064 per stream|
|Spotify||$0.00437 per stream|
|Amazon|| $0.00402 per stream|
|Pandora||$0.00133 per stream|
|YouTube||$0.00069 per stream|
IDAGIO is special in terms of its payouts to artists. They use what they call a Fair Artist Payout Model. This means two things:
- They pay per second, not per stream. “The average length of a classical music track is much, much longer than a pop track. Take a user that listens to music for 30 minutes: in a click-based payout model, a 3-minute pop song would get played ten times more than a 30-minute movement of a symphony, even though the listening time is exactly the same. With a pay-per-second model, however, both artists would be paid the same. Therefore, with this model we can fairly reflect the actual listening behaviour of users.” (IDAGIO)
- They distribute royalties per individual user. They don’t pool the income from subscriptions where they then pay out from. As a subscriber of IDAGIO, if you only listened to one artist for the entire month, all royalties would be paid to that one artist.
Any Changes In 2020?
SoundCloud is already working to improve the distribution service, expanding the possibilities for independent artists who do not want to rely anymore on label imprints or classic distributors such as CD Baby or TuneCore. Also, they added FL Studio to the list of available DAWs to upload the music directly to the platform, saving time when it comes to testing tracks privately or publicly.
Google Play Music and YouTube Music are very likely to merge in the coming months and there will be some kind of relaunch, with more options and integration.
Spotify Kids responds to the new laws that try to regulate Internet access worldwide, promoting an exclusive App for them. YouTube has recently created what is known as the “COPPA law”. This is a definitive division of all content between what is exclusively for Kids and what is not. It’s brought a lot of criticism from YouTube Creators who will now lose one type of audience. Also meaning that their income will be diminished, if not, completely tainted.
Apple Music has announced back in December that it will begin to reward artists in what they have called, obviously, Apple Music Awards, where they are likely to talk about all of the products integrated in recent years such as Apple Arcade, Apple TV +, Apple Card and more.
Pandora has been working on good business in regards to podcasts (i.e. a multi-year deal with Marvel) and also a new tab called “For You” where a mixture of their own curated content claims to be adapted to the experience of each user.
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What Is The Best Music Streaming Service?
Thinking about user experience: Spotify because of the algorithm and curated playlists. Pandora, Deezer and Tidal because of their sound quality. We must wait a little longer to see what Amazon Music Unlimited can do to start beating their competitors.
Thinking about the artist: Spotify also because of the algorithm. On the other hand, Tidal and Apple Music pay artists the most.
At the end of the day, it’s completely up to you which music streaming service you decide to go with! Hopefully, we’ve given you what you need in order to make a decision as to which platform fits your preferences.