My parents had 78s and 33 1/3 records and I had the latter plus 45s. Then along came 8-tracks and I had those, too. After that, in short order, it was cassette tapes, CDs, and digital music. For every generation of playing device I bought my music collection again. Now I can stream it all anywhere, anytime, for a price, thanks to Apple Music, Spotify, Pandora and others. Here’s a quick look at Apple’s toughest competition for streaming Music.
Pay By The Month
Streaming a library of 30-million or so songs to your Mac, iPhone, or iPad is something of a music lover’s nirvana. Almost. Today’s streaming music options are mostly monthly subscriptions, except for some of the ad supported tiers.
For Apple Music lovers, $9.99 gets you all the music you can manage for a monthly fee. Stop paying the fee, and you don’t get to listen to the music any longer. That only seems fair except to those of us who have 10,000 songs or more already, and have to pay the monthly fee to keep listening to music we already bought and paid for (again).
It’s an arguable point, but Apple’s toughest competition probably is Spotify, not the originator of streaming music (think Napster) but the big kid on the block, the service with more paying customers than anyone else.
Like Apple Music, Spotify lets you listen to three months of their premium plan for a reduced amount. Apple reduced the three month fee to no fee, while Spotify reduced it to 99-cents. In many respects, the services are similar at a basic level, but vary in the details. Do a Google on “spotify vs. apple music” and you’ll be treated to the usual comparisons, as well as a number of bloggers who switched; some to Apple Music, some from Apple Music to Spotify.
Even the look and feel and method of finding music, managing music, and listening to music is about the same, and it all starts with a Mac app.
Spotify has been around for years, starting in 2008, and the company claims more than 20-million active paid users, about double recent estimates for Apple Music which started barely six months ago. The way they both work is similar. After the trial period, you’ll pay a monthly subscription fee and get access to a catalog of music titles that pushes 30-million and rivals Apple’s extensive library (except for a few favorites, including Taylor Swift, Garth Brooks, and the Beatles).
What Spotify does not have is a component that Apple uses to differentiate its service. Radio. Apple’s Beats1 is a 24-hour live radio station broadcast in over 100 countries with major stars hosting their own weekly shows. An important elements in each is search. Spotify uses Google, while Apple’s search is homegrown. What got me to look more closely at Spotify and go for the 99-cent trial is the user interface. No offense to Apple’s famed app developers, but Spotify is easier to use, less confusing, less cluttered, and more social, an area which Apple tends to ignore and one that Spotify excels.
Spotify’s playlists tend to be longer, which I prefer, and for whatever reason Apple’s highly touted and curated playlists left me with fewer warm and fuzzies than my own playlists. As to music quality, there are differences but most baby boomers won’t notice, though I suspect that Apple has plans for the future that encompass Beats headphones, the iPhone and iPad Lightning port, and high resolution audio to further differentiate Music from Spotify and other services.
Apple and iTunes might be the big music dawg on planet earth, but there are competitors, and Spotify seems to be holding its own and Google Play, which I’ve tested, has improved, too. In the end, what I want is access to as much music as possible, simple to setup and curate playlists devoid of a clutter of confusing options, and an affordable monthly fee.