The music industry is hardly recognizable from a couple of decades ago. It doesn’t seem like too long ago that most music was listened to on the radio or on cassette tapes. If you wanted to listen to a specific song, you had to wait until a radio DJ played it, or you had to spend money to buy an entire album by an artist, even if you were only interested in one of their songs. CDs and MP3s came along later, and although they improved the sound quality one could expect from a music player, they did nothing to change the fundamental method with which we listened to and purchased music.
Then, in 2003, Apple turned the music industry upside-down by introducing the iTunes music store. For the first time, music fans could purchase individual songs directly from their computers. Instead of being forced to purchase an entire album, music fans could simply buy one or more songs at a time, and have access to the music on multiple devices simultaneously. Entrepreneur Jason Hope said, “There is no doubt that the innovations released by Apple permanently changed the way consumers download media and producers bring that media to market.”
Today, the music industry is rapidly changing again. Instead of purchasing music, consumers are increasingly choosing to stream their music instead of purchasing it outright. According to a report in Rolling Stone magazine, track sales decreased by 6% in 2013, while streaming increased by 32% to over 118 billion streams. To the keen observer, this trend makes complete sense, as streaming services offer many advantages over traditional download and physical album sales models.
Music streaming services are typically subscription or advertising-based, while providing access to millions of tracks for a monthly subscription price. Consumers don’t seem to mind the fact that they never “own” their music, instead opting for greater access. In addition, streaming services allow music listeners on mobile devices to save precious storage space on their smartphones, tablets, or laptops, since streaming services don’t require any of the music to actually be stored on the device for playback. Finally, streaming services are relatively inexpensive (usually less than the cost of a single digital or physical album), making the cost-benefit analysis worthwhile for even the most amateur of audiophiles.
On the other hand, due to their popularity and revenue potential, the music streaming industry had become saturated with subpar services that are simply not worth the money. Fortunately, there are numerous services that are worth your hard-earned dollars. The following are a few of the best options currently on the market. Because everyone’s needs are different, there is no single “best” option. Instead, look for what features are most important to you, and choose accordingly.
Although YouTube is thought of as more of a video streaming service by many consumers, the fact is that it is one of the most popular music streaming services in the world. Most major and minor music labels have created YouTube channels in which their music can be played. For those who continue to resist the uploading of their music on YouTube, there is no shortage of amateur uploaders who are more than happy to upload the music themselves. YouTube is ad-based, which means you can listen to specific songs whenever you want, all for free!
Pandora is one of the original modern music streaming services. Pandora allows users to create music “channels” which learn your specific music preferences over time. Users can ‘like” or “dislike” specific songs when they are played. Pandora offers a free version (which limits number of channels, skips, and has ads between some songs), and a paid version for $36 per year, which removes the ads and some of the skip limits (although it does not remove skip limits altogether).
For the greatest flexibility, Rhapsody is your best (and most expensive) music streaming option. For about $10 per month, users can listen to any specific songs on demand with no limitations, create playlists, and even download songs and playlists for offline listening. For the greatest flexibility in your music options, Rhapsody is hands down the way to go.
About Author: Amy Taylor is a business and technology writer. Amy began her career as a small business owner in Phoenix, AZ. She enjoys writing about business technology trends. When she isn’t writing, she enjoys hiking with her Alaskan Malamute, Sam.