What to know about popular music streaming services

Thomas Boswell

With the launch of Apple Music on July 30, listeners worldwide will have another option to consider when choosing their music-streaming service. Listeners must decide between established industry leaders or new competitors looking to claim the title “King of the Stream.”

At the bare minimum, Spotify, Apple Music and Tidal provide the same features. With each, users can create playlists, enjoy radio stations and listen to a virtually endless catalog of music — the differences lie in the experience. Here is a look at what each service has to offer.


For whom: Hardcore music lovers looking for extensive database interactions with other listeners and an established service with a proven track record.

Spotify’s dominance stems from its relative seniority. Since 2011, the service has acquired a large consumer base and improved on existing features.

But Spotify isn’t solely respected for its maturity. It offers an experience tailored to those who prefer to explore new music on their own terms without a multitude of suggestions.

Spotify is a consumer-oriented business that promotes relationships with fellow Spotify users, offering features such as pace-matching, which chooses songs based on jogging rates. The user interface is easy to navigate and the program runs smoothly.

Listeners can enjoy a free, ad-supported version or pay $9.99 a month for a premium account. Spotify also offers discounts to college students so they can listen to music while rationing their last ramen packet.


For whom: Audiophiles looking to get the most out of their headphones and those with a moral incentive to provide adequate compensation for the artist.

Tidal’s launch earlier this spring looked like a promising alternative to Spotify’s service, but issues with lag, pricing and the marketing campaign left a poor impression.

The service promises “high-fidelity” streaming — a complicated way of saying the music sounds better. Although this is ideal for audiophiles and there is a noticeable difference in the sound quality, the enhanced sound is only available for $19.99 a month. In addition, the enhanced audio features have led to some lag issues.

Tidal also pledged to pay artists more royalties for streaming than other services. Creating a musician-oriented streaming service is admirable, but the marketing campaign did a poor job of convincing consumers that artists needed more money. With superstar musicians, such as Jay-Z and Jack White, in the commercials, Tidal failed to sincerely convey its message to the public.

Apple Music

For whom: Those already integrated into the Apple brand, looking for a streaming service that explores new features while simultaneously keeping listeners in their musical comfort zone.

Apple music promotes an experience enjoyed by both the artist and consumer. Its interface is interactive, if a little complicated, and the social media elements provided for the artists are entertaining. People should also note Taylor Swift’s 1989 only streams on Apple Music.

The “connect” section and Beats 1 radio offer new frontiers of music streaming, unexplored by Spotify and Tidal. Like a Twitter feed exclusively for artists, “connect” allows users to follow and interact, though minimally, with big name artists. Similar to a Sirius Satellite Radio station, Beats 1 streams 24 hours a day and features DJs such as Dr. Dre and Elton John.

Rates match closely with Spotify, and a family sharing option is also available for $14.99 a month. This allows up to six people to enjoy the service on one account and will likely pave the way for a new-era of “account-bumming” between friends unwilling to purchase their own subscriptions.