From the ongoing battle between Spotify and every musician alive to the constant conjectures on what Beats Music is going to do next, music streaming services have been all over the news as of late. But hearing Taylor Swift's thoughts on the "value of art" or seeing every celebrity use Beats headphones isn't going to help you choose the right streaming service.
Whether you're an audiophile looking for the perfectly curated playlist or the guy who doesn't want to let go of the 15,000 mashup songs you downloaded on iTunes, there is a music service out there to fit your needs. We've reviewed three of the most popular streaming services on the market right now so you can figure out which one is right for you.
Beats Music hands-down has the best system for discovering new music. It deep dives into a user's musical preferences by taking into account the listener's age, gender and past musical preferences. But the algorithm doesn't just give recommendations based on a user's history. Beats tracks your daily listening habits and sees what artists you've recently stumbled upon to curate the perfect playlist for you.
Both Google Play and Spotify have a free streaming option along with a premium version that costs $10 per month. Beats, on the hand, does not offer a free streaming option. The service has a flat rate of $10 per month. But unlike Spotify and Google Play, Beats Music also offers a family plan for $15 a month, which makes it the most economical choice for families and cohabiters.
If you're looking for a vast and varied app library to go with your music streaming service, Spotify is the way to go.
From snazzy visualizers to lyric transcription apps to the ability to crowdsource playlists, Spotify has a ton of interesting and innovative apps and Chrome extensions that go beyond the standard Pandora-like radio stations and Last.fm and Pitchfork app integrations. Check out this guide to Spotify hacks to discover all the cool apps available on the streaming service.
It's also worth noting that Spotify has the best social integration feature out of the three, which can be a blessing or a curse depending on who you are. With Spotify's social element, you can follow people's playlists and see what they're listening to via Facebook. These features can easily be turned off in case you don't want people to know that you listened to Sara Bareilles for four hours on Sunday afternoon.
Aesthetically, Beats Music's use of cool and dark colors makes it the most visually appealing. And though none of the three options are particularly hard to navigate, Beats has the most user-friendly interface. Spotify is the only option that has a desktop version, whereas the others only offer mobile apps and web player options. For me, the desktop option is a major plus. If I want to listen music on my laptop without opening the distracting world that is the Internet, I can easily forgo opening the Web player on my browser and don't have to waste my smartphone's battery.
Integration With Existing Library
If you already have an extensive collection of downloaded songs, Google Play offers the easiest way to upload your existing music to a streaming service. On Google Play, you can sync and backup as many as 20,000 songs which integrate seamlessly with your streaming music to create one cohesive library. Beats Music doesn't have an option to upload existing music. Spotify has an option where you can enable "tracks from local sources" such as an iTunes library, but taking the steps to create offline playlists of already downloaded songs can get a bit cumbersome.
Verdict: If you're an audiophile who loves to discover new music and puts music curation as a top priority, Beats is definitely worth a try. If, on the other hand, you already have an extensive library and are weary of having to constantly hop back and forth between two interfaces, Google Play may be the perfect solution. And if you want the reliable music streaming service that all your friends are using with the option of integrating cool apps and social features, Spotify is your best bet.