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5 Music Streaming Services

Streaming music is the new way to indulge in thousands of available songs, without cluttering your device with large audio files. Tech Talker explores 5 of the most popular music streaming services to help you choose which is right for you.

By
Eric Escobar,
March 12, 2015
Episode #164

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A while back, I did an episode on the most popular streaming video services. This week, I’ll be covering the most popular streaming music services.

From Spotify to Beats Music, we’ll explore the ins and outs of some of the best ways to indulge in your favorite music, without overloading your device's storage capacity.

What Is Streaming Music?

Streaming music is the latest incarnation of how digital music is consumed. Music streaming services offer enormous music libraries to be instantaneously streamed to your device by sending small "packets" across an internet connection to be buffered and played by your device. This essentially eliminates the need to own and store large audio files, which cuts down on the storage capacity needed on your smartphone, tablet, or laptop.

See also: Streaming Video Service: Netflix, Hulu Plus, or Amazon Instant Video?

It makes sense that streaming music has become so popular in the past few years. In order to keep up with growing music collections, phones and other MP3 players’ storage capacities were required to get larger and larger. As streaming technology developed, it seemed pretty ridiculous to continue to increase storage when this data could be just be streamed to a device.

There is a ton of streaming music services out there. Today I’ve compiled a list of the most popular ones, their features, prices, and collections. The goal is to give you all of the information you need in one spot, and let you decide which of these services is right for your needs.

If, by chance, I’ve left one out that you happen to love, please feel free to post it on the Tech Talker Facebook page.

Spotify

Alright, first up is Spotify. I really like Spotify for a number of reasons. First, they have an app for pretty much every operating system and mobile device. They also have a web player if you don’t want to install anything. Spotify is free if you want to endure the advertisements. If you don't, its paid version costs $10 per month.

One feature that I love about Spotify is that you can save playlists and take them offline. For example, say I was going on a backpacking trip and had no mobile or WiFi service. I could download a handful of selected playlists (up to 3,000 songs) to my phone and listen to them without an internet connection.

Unfortunately, these playlists aren’t permanent. Your phone will only store them for 30 days. However, for the average person, this is more than sufficient. This is a pretty handy option that many streaming services lack. This feature also greatly reduces data usage if you’re concerned with how much data streaming music takes up (assuming you’re not connected to WiFi).

While I was researching Spotify, I found that they have a huge library of over 30 million songs. Personally, this doesn’t mean a whole lot. Of those 30 million songs, I will probably only listen to a few hundred. So as long as they have the ones I’m looking for, I’m satisfied!

Spotify’s music comes in at 320kbps. Kbps, or kilobits per second, measures how much data, per second, each song contains. Generally, the higher the kbps, the higher the quality of the data.

In music streaming, 320kbps is seen as extremely high quality. Personally, I can’t distinguish it from 192kbps, which is another popular data rate for music. Some people claim that the difference is dramatic, but if you’re listening with standard headphones, I don’t think it matters that much.

Google Play Music

Next is Google Play Music. It has a very similar feature set to Spotify, with the same price tag of $10 per month, offline listening, and a streaming quality of 320kbps. It also boasts a huge library—about 30 million songs. 

What about the features that make Google Play Music stand out?

One feature I really like is that it will mirror your iTunes library. Simply upload your iTunes library to Google Play Music, and it will create a library with the same songs and playlists as you had with iTunes, but all available to stream. Talk about a storage saver!

Back in the day, I had a pretty large music collection of about 10 gigabytes. All of it was organized into playlists where I could easily find it. Google Play Music allowed me to preserve all of my songs and organization, and save storage space with this handy feature.

What’s even better (and the reason I personally use Google Play Music), if Google doesn't have a particular song available for me to stream, I can upload that song from my own collection and stream it just the same. I have a bunch of really random songs that aren’t on any streaming service. With Google, I can upload them all and listen to them as if they were a part of their music library. Keep in mind, music you upload only stays in your library and won’t get shared out.

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