The best and worst of the music streaming wars | EW.com

Music

From Apple Music to Tidal: The best and worst of the music streaming wars

(Jeff Chiu/AP)

Apple Music launched June 30 with heavy hype. But, the highly-touted music service is merely the latest in a sector of the music industry that’s becoming increasingly crowded. EW sized up Apple Music’s pros and cons—and how they stack up against the competition.

Apple Music

What it is: Apple’s new streaming service looks to be a game changer, as EW saw during a prelaunch press demo. It offers just about everything: personalized suggestions that become even more so over time; curated radio programs hosted by Dr. Dre, Elton John, and others; a social-networking feed for artists to release fresh tunes (Drake, for one, has already signed on); music videos; and more.
What it costs: $9.99/month for single membership or $14.99/month for a family of up to six.
What’s hot: Apple is gunning for every digital platform for consuming music, but the service’s Beats 1—which could blow up the very idea of terrestrial radio—stands out. The live channel broadcasts shows by tastemakers and artists globally, for a universal listening experience. Bonus: Taylor Swift is on board with Apple Music.
What’s not: Podcasts still live in a separate app (sorry, Serial fans!). Privacy buffs might not like how it learns listeners’ habits to curate picks.
Who it’s for: Mac lovers, iPhone owners, and other mobile users who want an all-in-one service.

Spotify

What it is: The reigning streaming king, with more than 75 million users and 20 million subscribers.
What it costs: Free (ad-supported) or $9.99/month (ad-free).
What’s hot: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Spotify continues to add to its library, and even a Luddite can navigate the app.
What’s not: Music discovery isn’t effortless in Spotify’s mobile apps. No Taylor, either.
Who it’s for: Loyalists, Apple skeptics.

Tidal

What it is: Jay Z’s service, which launched earlier this year to much A-list fanfare, seeks to reclaim streaming on artist-friendly terms.
What it costs: $9.99/month (premium) or $19.99/month (hi-fi).
What’s hot: Lossless files for audio buffs who want to hear every guitar riff and drum fill.
What’s not: The desktop app is still in beta; the Web player and mobile apps pale in comparison with Spotify’s.
Who it’s for: Fans who want to hear new Beyoncé music the second it drops.

Pandora

What it is: The 15-year-old personalized online streaming service that set an early industry standard and continues to keep pace.
What it costs: Free (ad-supported) or $4.99/month (ad-free).
What’s hot: Pandora ditches user libraries to avoid clutter. It offers “radio stations” based on your favorite artists, songs, and genres.
What’s not: Pandora’s model was revolutionary, but consumers now want more control than ever over what they’re hearing. A service that limits choice feels outdated.
Who it’s for: Casual music fans and anyone who wants dinner-party tunes—even if they’re Bublé.

Google Play Music

What it is: Long a pay-only service for Android devices, Google Play now has free, ad-supported radio streaming to compete with Apple.
What it costs: Free (ad-supported) or $9.99/month (ad-free).
What’s hot: In addition to an extensive library, you can upload and store 50,000 songs to the cloud. For now Apple allots only 25,000 tracks, but it plans to boost that figure.
What’s not: Though the iOS app keeps improving, the Android version still feels far superior. Also: no Beatles catalog.
Who it’s: for Android and Google purists.

Myspace

What it is: No joke: The former social-networking giant has plenty of music still available for streaming.
What it costs: Free!
What’s hot: Minimal ads. Their mobile app is gratis too.
What’s not: The desktop version is difficult to use, and you can’t take your playlists offline.
Who it’s for: Thrifty social-media mavens nostalgic for 2006.

Rdio

What it is: An underrated streaming service created by Skype’s founders.
What it costs: Free (ad-supported), $3.99/month (limited but ad-free), or $9.99/month (unlimited and ad-free).
What’s hot: The cleanest user interface and search capabilities among on-demand outlets.
What’s not: Exclusives are few and far between, and even by on-demand standards there’s a lack of curation.
Who it’s for: Music-loving minimalists, monks.

Amazon Prime Music
What it is: A music library that’s included with the retailer’s Prime service.
What it costs: Free with Amazon Prime subscription ($99/year).
What’s hot: Users already have access to a wide and deep variety of playlists.
What’s not: Amazon boasts just over a million songs, versus the 25 or 30 million some others have.
Who it’s for: Transparent super-fans who also want to crank up Billy Joel’s Greatest Hits.

A version of this story appeared in Entertainment Weekly issue #1371/1372, on newsstands Friday, July 3.

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