Carrie and I pay for music streaming services because it helps us decide which CDs to buy. We like to have physical CDs in the car, so by not paying for some CDs that we might not want to keep, we put that money towards trying them out over streaming. If you think we should just buy the CDs and deal with it, we have two boxes in storage that'd like to have a word with you.
I tried the free music streaming route with YouTube, Grooveshark, and Pandora/Songza. However, YouTube's availability was spotty, it was hard to find the right version of a track on Grooveshark, and with Pandora/Songza, I preferred to control the music. Spotify playlists generally cover what Songza tried to do.
I also pay for iTunes Match because I like having my CD collection available in the cloud. Now just about everything I like to listen to is available for streaming, so I'll probably have to cut it out. It's pretty cheap, and since I have a 64 GB phone, I can fit all my music on my phone again. Part of Apple's business plan is to make us believe a difference in storage space is worth so much money, eg. 32 GB adds $100. Now we need to pay for iCloud space? Those shiesty buggers.
There's also Google Music, but I think it's just ugly. I uploaded all my music into it when it first came out, but it never stuck. I don't like how it lists artists with its own images because now my library feels unfamiliar to me. I'm used to seeing just the album art. The Music app on iOS does this too, and I don't like it there either.
Cloud lockers like iTunes Match and Google Music were supposed to be the future, but then streaming caught on. I signed up for Rdio because Spotify wasn't available in Canada way back in June 2013. Since then, Spotify burst onto the scene and forced me to choose.
My particular music needs drove my ultimate decision. I have two playlists: EDM and Worship. I load those into my phone so I don't have to stream them every time. Clever right? I listen to music with my Grado SR60s at work, and I like to have it amplified by my Carrie Amp. I listen to music on my walks between work and home, and I kick the jams through my awesome Pioneer A4 when I work at home pantlessly. Sadly, Spotify is blocked at work whereas Rdio works fine.
After the trial, I switched to Spotify for a few reasons. Here are the differences that made a difference to me.
- Rdio's streams sometimes just don't work. I'll click play, and it just won't start. Home, mobile and LTE, work, Wi-Fi, wired, app, browser, nothing. Sometimes you'll wait 10 seconds, sometimes a minute. This shortcoming persisted for years.
- Spotify's streams worked. What can I say?
- When I paused Rdio's music for a while and resumed some undetermined time later, the song would start from the beginning. Unexpected behaviour, but whatevs.
- When you resume a song in Spotify, it picks up where you left off. What can I say?
- Mobile App
- Rdio has the upper hand here. When you navigate to a song, you're several levels deep within a menu. On iOS, swiping right from the screen edge takes you back one level. However, Rdio was clever in realizing sometimes people want to jump back to the beginning, so swiping right from the middle of the screen takes you back to their top level sidebar.
- Spotify just recognizes the swipe from the screen edge, which is normal and less clever, and sometimes it prefers to scroll up instead of navigate back. Takes a couple swipes just to go up a level. Humbug!
Besides that, they're pretty much the same. Collections are the same, both are cross-platform, both have social features, apps integrations and power-ups. Rdio has a multi-user discount. Carrie didn't want to switch with me, so now we pay $20 per month instead of $15. In my experience, Spotify streams better but has a slightly less clever mobile app.
Bonus: if you're wondering about Tidal, don't do it. Jay-Z is just jelly that Dre is the first billionaire rapper, so he's fighting for a piece of the pie. The only way Tidal will take off is with exclusive content like how HBO commissions their own content and commands a premium. For you, only do it if you really need music from those artists and if they make music just for Tidal. The file sizes will destroy your mobile data, and you probably won't be able to tell, let alone appreciate, the difference in sound. You could say it's not a sound investment.