Streaming music is essentially a commodity play. All the streaming services have huge music libraries, mostly consisting of the same tracks, and will all cost you roughly $10 a month for unlimited music anywhere. With Google Play Music All Access, a new challenger has emerged. And if the rumors are true, Apple won’t be far behind. So which service deserves your monthly 10 spot? That depends on how you plan on using the service and what you want it to do for you. Here’s what each does to stand out in an increasingly crowded field.
Launched in Europe and used by pretty much all your Facebook friends, this is the subscription service your friends who still roll Android 2.0.1 know about. The mobile app is about as exciting as a Toyota Corolla. Sure it does the job, but it’s bland and boring.
Spotify’s desktop app, on the other hand, has a standout feature: apps. Granted, most of the apps are really just recommendations from publications like Pitchfork and Rolling Stone. But some of them are actually fun. The lyrics apps display the lyrics of whatever song your listening too currently, for example. There are some nice game apps too, like one that quizzes you whether a particular song was a hit or not.
But the most unique feature isn’t actually a feature at all; it’s a band. The trendsetting internet music haters known as Metallica have their entire catalog exclusively on Spotify. Sure, the other services have their new albums. But if you’re a true fan, you want Master of Puppets.
Good for: People who like to sing along to their favorite songs. Facebook fans. Using the same service your less tech-savvy friends use.
If you’re looking for a manageable social experience from your music service, Rdio is the place to be. The subscription service generates a Heavy Rotation list of albums listened by your friends. If you’re smart, you’ll only follow people with quality music tastes. Not the same taste as you, that would be boring, but quality music taste. You’ll discover some great music that way.
Rdio’s mobile app is also the best looking and best implemented of the three. Sure, Rdio updates its mobile and desktop every 10 minutes. And maybe that can be frustrating: “I just figured out how to tweet songs, and now it’s different.” But, hey, look at the pretty colors.
Good for: Music discovery. Finding new music based on friends’ habits. People that like really awesome apps that are updated more often they change their socks.
Google Play Music All Access
This is the new kid on the block, minus a bad 90s haircut. Google’s leap into the subscription music service business was briefly marred by its lack of an iOS app. If you truly want to get all the music fans on your service, you need to spread the love to other platforms. Fortunately, Sundar Pichai, Google’s senior vice president of Android, Chrome, and Apps told the assembled audience of people with $5000 to drop on a D11 ticket that an iOS version of the app was coming in a few weeks.
With that on the horizon, All Access does something the others can’t. Because you uploaded your music to the service, you can create playlists with music you own and songs available on the subscription service. So if you already ripped and uploaded Metallica to All Access, you can create the ultimate headbanger playlist with songs you own and the songs you’re “renting.”
The lack of an actual desktop app is a bummer. The web app works, but it lacks a mini player, it can’t be controlled from hardware media buttons, and you have to go wading through all your tabs to find the one playing For Whom the Bell Tolls to pause music. Or quit your browser.
Good for: Owners of music libraries with songs that don’t end up on subscription services. Fans of web apps.