Music services vie for more ears

September 13, 2016 — by Alex Yang and Katherine Zhou

Juniors discuess which music stremaing service is the best. 

Over the years, it’s undeniable that music consumption methods have changed rapidly. From phonographs and cassette tapes in the 1960s to smartphones and surround-sound speakers today, the music industry is in a constant state of technological progress. Recently, more than ever, physical music sales have been in decline and have been replaced by an easier and more cost-effective way of listening: streaming.

Since the music streaming market started in the early 2000s, companies such as Pandora, Spotify, Amazon Prime, Soundcloud and Apple Music have been aggressively competing for users. With each having its own pros and cons, it’s difficult to decide which streaming service is the best.

To find out which streaming services are the most popular at Saratoga High, The Falcon polled 122 students for their preferred streaming service. Of those polled, about two-thirds said that Spotify was their favorite, with Soundcloud, Apple Music, and Pandora pulling in around 10 percent each. Only one student chose Amazon Prime music streaming as their favorite service.

With a strong business model, it’s clear why Spotify is dominating this market. On top of a radio function akin to Pandora and Apple Music, Spotify’s main appeal is its ability to play songs on-demand as well as user-created playlists for free.

“[I enjoy using] Spotify Premium because you can use it without wifi,” junior Mervi Tan said. “You get access to a lot more songs. [For] Taylor Swift [and other artists not on Spotify], I already have all her music on iTunes.”

For less popular services like Apple Music, which launched in June 2015, the company still struggles with getting people on board. The 15 million subscribers it has one year since its release pales in comparison to Spotify’s 100 million plus users.

Despite its promise of music streaming similar to Spotify’s, one reason for Apple Music’s lack of subscribers lies in its business model. Both services cost $9.99 per month, but Spotify Premium offers a $4.99 student discount. Unlike Spotify’s premium service which gets rid of ads and allows users to download playlists to listen to offline, Apple Music is a fully subscription-based service, which is likely a turn-off for millions of people who already listen for free on Spotify.

Still, some are making the switch from Spotify to the novice Apple Music because of the music selection. Although both services boast over 30 million songs, many artists, such as Taylor Swift, have pulled their songs from Spotify because of arguments over compensation. Many other artists decide to have a “windowed” release, where they delay putting their albums on Spotify in order to maximize sales and anticipation.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the spectrum, Oakland-based personalized radio service Pandora is struggling to compete with newer on-demand services. Its user-base only grew by about  4 million active users between 2013 and 2014 and has been stalling ever since. Its ad-free service, Pandora One, costs $4.99 per month.

Still, many prefer Pandora for its simplistic radio-style streaming.

“I don’t want to choose my music, and I like to listen to [everything],” junior Tiffany Huang said. “Pandora is just so much easier, because I don’t have to choose the music. Spotify is too complex.”

Although it seems like Spotify is dominating competition at this time, new services are being developed all the time. With both Amazon and Pandora announcing the development of their own on-demand music streaming services, it looks like the crowd won’t be thinning any time soon.


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