I have never believed in pirating music. Enjoying the physical purchase of CD’s as a tween/teen, I quickly graduated into the ease of travel-less iTunes as the consumption of music evolved. However, I spent a lot of money on iTunes. Almost too much money.
With songs being 99 cent to $1.29, buying albums and individual songs adds up. That’s why Apple introduced their new streaming service titled iTunes Radio in 2013. However, it rivals internet radio outlets like Pandora more than controllable options like Spotify.
Then I heard about Spotify. For $9.99, users have access to a huge musical database that can be stored on your portable music device for easy offline access. I loved the concept and all the money I’d save. The company that used to be exclusively European branched out towards North America in 2011.
It then became one of the most mainstream ways for 60 million (and counting) music lovers to get their fix. Becoming the new normal came with expected backlash, as artists like Taylor Swift and Björk shunned the service for lack of proper royalty compensation. Spotify offers a ad-supported free version of their service, which helps them gain users but doesn’t help the artists gain more income for their music.
Fast forward to the present and Jay Z (and his band of A-list musician investors) plan to change the way that recording artists get paid with the acquisition of Tidal. Tidal is a revamped version of an existing streaming service that rivals Spotify’s offerings and pricing structure, boasting the difference of Hifi listening capabilities (at $20 a month) and artist exclusives without offering a free version. So far they’ve had huge Beyoncé and Rihanna exclusives within a week after relaunching. But still…
Twenty dollars a month, Jay Z? Really?
For me personally, Spotify has been a consistent source for musical enjoyment. I have a premium account that I use regularly. Sure, not every song is available but most are. When they’re not, I turn to iTunes – which is very rare – or look for hard to find songs on SoundCloud.
To be perfectly honest, SoundCloud is my favorite of all the music based streaming services. Unlike the others, it’s free – unless you’re an artist who wants to upload tons of material – and is mainly a platform for musicians to share their material from. That being said, SoundCloud is where I always seem to find the freshest indie music.
If it weren’t for SoundCloud, I would’ve never discovered Chippy Nonstop, Junglepussy, K-Rizz, Pia Mia, Feebzz, PHONY PPL, Masego and more. The music that I’ve been the most excited about has been discovered on SoundCloud before hitting mainstream listeners. Something about the hunt and discovery of awesome new music is much more fun than paying for a service to force curated content onto you.
Because of all of this, I use SoundCloud the most. A lot of artists even give away free music on the service, which helps combat the fact that it doesn’t allow you to digitally store its offerings. You can also use SoundCloud to form your own unique playlists, as I did during March.
So in the world of paid streaming services, who should you choose?
I think it’s important to pay for art to keep it alive. It is a billion dollar industry and a lot of its top tier artists are overpaid, but many of its rising newcomers aren’t. Everyone deserves to get paid for the work they do, so I’m hoping Jay Z‘s Tidal service inspires Spotify to get its royalty payment system better figured out. In the meantime, use SoundCloud.
Streaming services are the future of how music is consumed, so they’re not going away anytime soon. If you want access, you’re going to have pay for it. Unless you use SoundCloud.