Which Streaming Service is Best for You?

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Recently, music super-mogul Dr. Dre’s company, Beats Electronics, released its own version of an audio streaming service called Beats Music. The company, known best for its high-quality headphones, now enters the fold as a competitor to the likes of Spotify, Pandora Radio, and 8tracks. With all of the options out there, it may seem like a lot to handle, but don’t worry – Campus Vinyl is here to help you figure out which is best for you!

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Spotify: The Swedish-born company launched in 2006 and quickly reshaped the way we experience music. Spotify is available in fifty different languages and over a wide array of platforms including Mac, PC, iPhone and Windows phones. Its music database hosts over 24 million songs, and it offers two methods of experiencing streaming: free and subscription.

The free version is adequate for most people, offering unlimited streaming with commercials every six songs, access to other user’s playlists, and the ability to create your own. The audio quality is great, but like everything else with Spotify, it gets significantly better when you subscribe. For $9.99 a month, you have unlimited access to Spotify’s full library without commercials, higher quality audio, and commercial-less mobile capability.

The revolutionary aspect about Spotify is that you connect through Facebook with your friends; you can see what friends are listening to, as well as share music through messages and subscribe to each other’s playlists. There is a desktop platform, a mobile platform, and a web-player, offering more ways to listen than any other service.

The in-house apps also enhance the users experience by offering customization of apps that tell you when your favorite artists are coming to town, displaying the current songs lyrics, and recommending other artists based on your listening habits.

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8tracks: A handy little platform that offers both mobile and web streaming, 8tracks is based off of the idea of the playlist. Launched in 2008, their homepage offers a variety of genres to choose from, followed by an option to select your mood. The app then offers you playlists that other users have made based on these choices, as well as create and share your own playlists.

The fun of 8tracks is that, although you have a general idea of the playlist, you can’t see what tracks are in it until they appear. You have three skips to use within each playlist, which stream directly from Soundcloud, and you have the option of favorite-ing both the playlist and individual songs within it.

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Pandora Radio: Based out of California, Pandora Radio began in 2000 and is the oldest and most entrenched service on this list. As the name implies, Pandora focuses on resembling a radio station, streaming tracks based on an artist, song, or genre that the user selects. With over 150 million users, Pandora is a formidable presence in the industry.

The neat thing about Pandora is that you can “like” or “dislike” each track within a station, and Pandora’s algorithm adjusts to cater to your tastes. One drawback to this is that sometimes playlists can become to general when the like button is used too frequently, and too limited when not used enough. With just the right touch you can have a nearly perfectly personalized radio service.

Similar to Spotify’s free version, Pandora’s free version hosts adds, which can be eliminated by upgrading for a fee of $3.99/month. The subscription version also offers a variety of other benefits, such as customized skins, a desktop platform and higher-quality audio.

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Beats Music: The newest streaming service on the market, Beats Music aims its focus on the mobile platform, offering a sleek and refreshing app for iPhone and Android smart phones.

The app is similar to Spotify in that it allows for free streaming, as well as connection to Facebook friends and personalized playlists, but only for a week .

After that, you have to pay a $9.99 month charge to have access. It has a number of features that separate it from Spotify, most prominently “The Sentence.” The homepage offers four sections: “Just for You”, “The Sentence”, “Highlights”, and “Find It.”

“Just For You” makes recommendations based on the music you identify as having loved, liked or hated. “Highlights” displays playlists curated by music experts from reputable sources such as Rolling Stone and Pitchfork, and even Nine Inch Nail’s Trent Reznor has been enlisted to create his own playlists!

But “The Sentence” is what really fascinates me. Borrowing a page from 8tracks’ playbook, “The Sentence” allows you to tell the program what you are doing, what your mood is, who you are with, and what genre you want to listen to. Though I was skeptical at first, these playlists are good, really good. 

The most impressive aspect of Beats Music is the presentation: sleeker than any other, with a pleasing black and white scheme that incorporates splashes of color. It is the easiest by far to navigate, operating on the principle of “keep it simple, stupid.”

 

So which is best for you? Spotify offers the most out of every platform, including a radio feature similar to Pandora, and the web, desktop, and mobile trifecta. Sometimes the app crashes, but is a steal at $9.99/month. If paying isn’t your thing, the free version is still excellent.

8tracks is excellent for discovering new music, as well as leaving on in the background for pregames, barbeques. I find that I often copy over whole playlists to my Spotify account. While many of the playlists are solid, the site can be hit-or-miss, as there are plenty of bad playlists.

Pandora is a solid B+, excelling within its own niche. Literally the only problem with Pandora is that Spotify offers the same service.

Beats Music is the most interesting as it is the most new. While the app is sleek, its limited to the mobile platform for now, and the free service only lasts a week. While you can add songs to your library like iTunes (a feature I’ve been wishing Spotify would add since I got it), it doesn’t really offer much that Spotify and iTunes don’t already offer. That said, if you tend to get overwhelmed with Spotify, Beats Music might just be for you!

Keep the beat going,

Connor Small