The state of streaming
The way we listen to music is constantly and rapidly evolving, as old technologies are quickly abandoned and replaced with something newer and maybe even better. According to the RIAA’s 2014 sales figures, the streaming industry — for the first time ever — is worth more than the CD industry, $1.87 billion of revenue versus $1.85 billion. The plethora of streaming services is a difficult labyrinth to navigate though, so we here at Scene have put together reviews of all the major streaming services to help guide you toward a better listening experience.
Erin McAuliffe — Spotify
As a Premium user, my music streaming allegiance lies with Spotify. For just five dollars a month, a college student special, I am able to stream over 30 million songs — minus Taylor Swift’s discography. One of the biggest perks of having Spotify Premium is the power that comes with it: control of the aux cord. With the ability to access nearly any song in seconds, the coveted DJ position is normally relinquished to my iPhone and therefor my “Hip Hop (every) Night” playlist. Spotify’s interface allows users to create and group playlists, collaborate on or share these playlists easily and create an easy-to-edit queue. The social aspect of Spotify extends its prevalence beyond your dorm room Tayl-Beyoncé jam session; with users able to see what you are listening to when you are listening to it, beware or listen on the “private” setting.
Jimmy Kemper — TIDAL
TIDAL’s reputation has been bad since the service was relaunched under the ownership of Jay Z and several other prominent artists, including Kanye West, Daft Punk, Deadmau5 and Arcade Fire — and it rightly deserves its criticisms. At the launch event last month, Jay Z shared his vision for the future of streaming: a hodgepodge of vague statements including “[artists] need to write the story for ourselves,” and “this thing is what everyone wanted and everyone feared.”
Hova’s vision for the streaming platform is a mess, and the product he offers is not much better. TIDAL tries to stand out by offering high-fidelity streaming, exclusive videos and artist-curated playlists, none of which validate the $20-a-month fee or even the $10 for standard fidelity streaming — especially on a college student’s budget. Furthermore, to get quality HiFi streaming, you’re going to need a high bandwidth and high quality headphones and the differences between HiFi and standard streaming are going to be negligible for most people. If you do care about high fidelity sound, your best bet is still in vinyl. The exclusive videos and artist-curated playlists are absurd extras that don’t add any value to your music listening experience. Save yourself some money and look into a better, cheaper service.
Caelin Miltko — 8tracks
Usually, I’m one of those people who only listens to the music on their iTunes account (most of which is actually legally obtained). Sometimes I foray into Spotify, if there is a particular song that I haven’t been able to get out of my head that I don’t already own. However, in the last year or so, I’ve discovered the magic of 8tracks. What I love about 8tracks is that the playlists are already made for me — I don’t have to go through the long, slow process of making my own playlist only to discover that my computer or phone has already deleted half the songs. It’s especially helpful for me when I’m writing papers because all I have to do is search “writing,” and it immediately comes up with a list of playlists specifically designed to help me get my paper finished.
That said, the premade playlists are sometimes a disadvantage because you don’t know what songs are coming up next. While this occasionally introduces you to new music you might enjoy, sometimes you find yourself stuck listening to a music taste you just can’t understand. Since 8tracks immediately starts a new playlist when your first one finishes, you don’t always choose what you’re listening to. Plus, if you really enjoy a song, you can’t go back and replay it.
John Darr — Turntable.fm
Alright children, gather ’round: I’ll tell you how it was back in the good old days. When you logged into turntable.fm, you found yourself in a stylishly designed gold and red lobby, presented with a list of rooms. Each room displayed a number of listeners, number of DJ spots open and the song that was currently being played there. You clicked on the room of your choosing and BAM. There was your little avatar, a cute blond kid with a pink ski hat perhaps, standing in a crowd of little avatars. You and your fellow listeners, stood with your backs to the screen looking at the front of the room where a handful of users sat at a DJ counter. The counter had a sweet LED display that showed the artist, song title and the duration of the current track. It boasted a limited number (usually five) of DJ spots; current DJs were displayed behind digital computers, only their eyes and silly hats visible to the audience below.
The current DJ was bathed in a glorious spotlight, bobbing his or her head like a champion. If there was a DJ spot open, you could hop on up, queue a song of your choosing and wait for your turn to play. When your song came up, you’d get a DJ point for each person who clicked the green “Awesome!” button at the bottom of the screen. With DJ points came the opportunity to unlock new, swaggin’ avatars like “Black Bear” and “Hipster Cat.” A host of sweet, subtle features — an integrated chat system, wonderful graphics, a rewarding points system and an amazingly welcoming and friendly community — made Turntable.fm by far the most enjoyable streaming service on The Internet. Song licensing costs pushed the site out of business in 2013, but hopefully, we’ll see the rise of a similar service in the near future.
Erin McAuliffe — the radio
Maybe it’s “cool” to be “too cool for radio,” but let’s face it — we all have our favorite station. When in my stomping grounds, the Nasty Nati, I can frequently be found bumping 101.1 The Wiz (usually while parked outside a McDonald’s drive-thru dunking nuggets to Kirko Bangz with extra air horns courtesy of DJ Don Juan Fasho.) Since my car doesn’t have an aux cord connection, The Wiz has gotten me through some carpools that mixtapes just couldn’t handle. (Sidenote: My brother is 16 and now driving that same aux cordless car, but he uses a radio connector to blast SoundCloud trap remixes — so maybe I am old school and irrelevant.)
Matt Munhall — DON’T STREAM MUSIC
Listen to me now before it’s too late: don’t use streaming services. I don’t trust the Internet because all your favorite music might disappear overnight based on the whims of the Illuminati. Last year, my favorite cover of an Animal Collective song vanished from YouTube without a trace. Spotify was started by the government to distract us from UFOs. We’ve never actually put a man on the moon; it was all a hoax just like TIDAL. Paul McCartney’s dead so how can you stream his music online? Buy albums and actually support the work of artists. Store all your records under your mattress and sleep with a loaded shotgun to protect them. Back up your MP3s to an encrypted hard drive and bury it in an eight-foot hole in the middle of the Sonoran desert. *James Franco voice* VINYL FOREVAAAAAAAA Y’ALL