The “celestial jukebox” — a device that gives access to any song, any time, anywhere — was long a dream among tech enthusiasts. With the advent of streaming music services, that dream began hurtling toward realization. Now, the race to become the dominant platform is in full force.
“With the recent introduction of Beats Music, the competition between music streaming services is tougher than ever,” said expert and entrepreneur Jason Hope. “Established players such as Spotify and Pandora are going to find it more difficult to seize or maintain market share. But this competition is good for the consumer, as it leads to a varied offering of products and lower costs.”
Here’s a look at some of the major players in the streaming music space.
Although the service is only several years old, Spotify is one of the more established and entrenched platforms available. The company made waves recently when it announced that it would no longer restrict its free streaming services from mobile phones. Subscription users (the service is $10 monthly) get full access to a library of 20 million songs. Users can play as many songs as they like, whenever they want, all also receive recommendations from friends and the app itself. Spotify has integrated social features with social networks such as Facebook, allowing friends to observe what other friends are listening to at any given moment. Users can also create and publish playlists. Those who don’t pay can still use Spotify’s listen on demand features on a desktop, although they are subject to ads. Free listen on demand remains unavailable of smartphones and tablets.
Compared to Spotify, Pandora is something of a grizzled veteran in the streaming music wars. The more than 10-year-old company’s niche is basically curated Internet radio. Users tell Pandora the name of a band they love, Pandora will play a song by that band – and then a series of songs from bands similar to the band the user loves. It’s a brilliant and addictive setup, as users continually discover new music from Pandora’s suggestions. Those suggestions are arguably the most astute among all of the services, as Pandora’s software has an uncanny knack for picking songs that appeal to the listener. The app has a much smaller library than some of its competition, however, and lacks a search function for play on demand. The service can be used for free, but users much sit through ads periodically. A subscription version allows users to skip suggested songs and increase sound quality. While Pandora can’t compete on library size or on demand features, that’s not really its niche. It’s designed to be a world class radio station, and it largely succeeds.
Rdio shares much in common with Spotify, but differentiates itself through slightly hipper branding and music selection. Where Spotify aims for the mainstream, Rdio shoots for the alternative and independent. Rdio has a 20 million strong catalogue, and works beautifully with users’ social media accounts. In fact, that social integration is probably the best of all the services. Rdio’s interface is also a winner, as it is visually appealing and a pleasure to navigate. Like Spotify, Rdio is free with ads, and $10 per month for ad-free access.
Beats is the new kid on the block. But it’s hardly a scrappy underdog – the service is part of the massive Beats Headphones empire, and has the backing of a variety of music industry heavyweights. Like Spotify and Rdio, Beats has a massive 20 million song catalogue. But the premise is different. Beats submits each user to a thorough examination, culling information about musical tastes in an effort to provide superior recommendations. The algorithm attempts to go much deeper than usual, blending your taste in music with your biography. Beats will also monitor what users listen to on a daily basis in order to fine tune suggestions even further. The app streams everything at the highest possible sound quality, but does not offer a free, ad-supported streaming option. Users must pay $10 for full access.
Amy Taylor is a technology and business writer. Amy began her career as a small business owner in Phoenix, Arizona. She has taken that knowledge and experience and brought that to her unique writing capabilities. She really enjoys new business related issues that are tied directly to technology.