Apple threw its hat into the crowded music streaming service ring this week with the launch of Apple Music, adding yet another name to the hundreds of streaming services already out there.
Diving headfirst into the world of music streaming can be daunting. Which service is best value? Which has the best library of tracks? Will my favourite artists be on all of them?
While there are very few examples of artists’ work being available on one streaming service but not the others (they’re all either on one or none), a few examples do exist.
Only today, Prince announced that he was pulling all of his music from all of the streaming services except TIDAL. A note on his artist’s page on Spotify simply reads: “Prince’s publisher has asked all streaming services to remove his catalogue. We have cooperated with the request, and hope to bring his music back as soon as possible.”
On the flip side, earlier in the week rock titans AC/DC confirmed their plans to bring their music to Spotify and other services for the first time.
As competition intensifies, it’s perhaps only a matter of time before we start to see more instances of artists chopping and changing between platforms.
For the time being, all of the big name music streaming services are pretty much the same.
Here, we run down some of the slight differences which may change your mind on some of them, and hopefully help to pick the right service for you.
Number of tracks: 37 million
Price: £9.99/month (3 month free trial)
Taylor Swift’s much talked about open letter to Apple in the run-up to the service’s launch may have damaged the public’s opinion slightly, but her insanely well selling latest album 1989 is available as a surprising exclusive as a result.
Another surprising exclusive is Thom Yorke, a much publicised opponent of all streaming services. However, the Radiohead frontman’s solo work and side project Atoms For Peace, and even his main band’s In Rainbows, all appear on the platform.
The Beatles are unsurprisingly missing from Apple Music – their albums don’t appear on any streaming services – and fans of Prince will be disapointed to find his back catalogue missing.
It remains to be seen just how Apple Music will fare in the increasingly saturated waters of music streaming, as on first glance the service doesn’t seem to offer much that the established platforms don’t already.
It does includes the curated Internet radio station Beats 1 (helmed by Zane Lowe among others) and blog platform Connect, which enables artists to share media with their fans.
Number of tracks: 35 million
Price: Free with ads and no offline support / £9.99 per month (30 day free trial)
Originating in Paris, Deezer is incredibly simple to sign up to, and offers a completely free subscription plan for those who can put up with a couple of ads after every few songs.
Paid subscribers get the privilege of no longer hearing the ads, and gain access to offline streaming. Deezer has over 30,000 radio channels in its library, 16 million users and 5 million paid subscribers.
Number of tracks: 32 million
Price: £10 per month (30 days free trial)
Napster began life as the father of modern day music piracy. At the time it was a pioneering peer-to-peer file sharing service, the likes of which are seen everywhere in today’s internet landscape.
Since its relaunch in 2012, Napster has dealt in the more legal side of music sharing, first becoming an online music store to rival iTunes, then launching its own streaming music service.
Number of tracks: 16 million
If you’re looking for the next big name releases, or full albums from anything even closely resembling an established band, then you will be disapointed with Soundcloud. But that isn’t the point
Soundcloud, along with sites like Bandcamp, is paving the way for up-and-coming artists to get their music out there. Anyone can set up an account for free and upload their music, which has led to a wealth of exciting new indie bands and electronic producers flooding the service.
An excellent tool for discovery, Soundcloud allows artists to set their own parameters on their tracks, choosing whether to make them available to download or not (though if you want to put a price on your music you will need to head to Bandcamp), and allowing fairly detailed analytics of a track’s performance.
Number of tracks: 30 million
Price: £9.99 per month (60 days free trial)
The granddaddy of them all. Arguably the streaming service that kick-started the whole market, Spotify has seemingly remained one step ahead of the pack when it comes to new features for its subscribers.
Of course, there will always be those who point the finger at Spotify’s comically bad royalty payout policies, but with over 30 millions tracks to choose from, it will be a while before you think of a track that the Swedish service can’t find for you.
Spotify can also lay claim to being the streaming service compatible with most devices, being available as it is on Linux, Palm and Boxee (we’ve never heard of them either).
Number of tracks: 25 million
Price: £9.99 per month for ‘standard’ audio / £19.99 per month for ‘high definition’ audio. Both with 30 days free trial
If you thought Apple Music’s journey to launch day was rife with criticism, spare a thought for TIDAL, whose announcement party line-up of the richest and most powerful names in music came across a bit like the hush hush gatherings of a secret organisation.
Much like Neil Young’s Pono device, TIDAL deals in high quality audio, and whacks an uncompressed price tag on the lot. With no free subscription offers, TIDAL is the most expensive option out there.
The central aim behind TIDAL is to reinvent the image of the typically low royalty paying models of streaming services, being artist owned and overseen by Jay-Z. TIDAL’S major selling point is the exclusive content it has acquired, though this deals in new singles from big artists and special live recordings, rather than a band’s entire back catalogue.
Prince fans are advised to take a look, seeing as the Purple One recently pulled all of his records from all streaming services except this one. If you can afford it and have the audio equipment required to distinguish between lossy and lossless audio it may be a sound investment.
Number of tracks: 38 million
Price: £8.99 per month of £89.90 for a year (30 days free trial available)
The major selling point of Xbox Music is the service’s ability to sync with Microsoft’s range of games consoles. Burning through picturesque scenery in a racing game but the in-game soundtrack isn’t quite doing it for you? Fire up Xbox Music and you can choose from any of the 38+ million available tracks to stream.
Xbox Music is available across all Microsoft devices (Windows Phones, Surface, Windows PCs etc).
So far, we have just listed the big names in streaming. But there are countless smaller services out there hoping to make a dent into the online streaming business. Their catalogues may be smaller, but perhaps one of these smaller services will one day dream up the next business changing idea, and turn their fortunes around?