Music streaming has come far in the last two decades. Pandora took a simplistic, yet ingenious concept and allowed it to work in their favor, Apple created iTunes, which would grow into something larger than they ever envisioned, and Spotify ran laps around their competition, even after giving them a head start. These companies garner the most news and provide the most content, but they have inspired smaller companies to follow suit to provide music on the go, at any time. Smaller companies like Zune, Soundcloud and TIDL should all receive honorable mentions, but they don’t compare to these music moguls.
Pandora launched in 2000. As of December 2016, Pandora still boasts an incredible 81 million monthly users. That’s crazy. Pandora is a very clean and smooth application, but it’s so simplistic that it can’t replace Apple Music or Spotify. Pandora’s number one feature is playing artists and songs that are related to your current radio selection. That was unique, until Apple began doing live radio through iTunes and subsequently Spotify adapted Pandora’s gimmick in their own way.
Tunes quickly followed Pandora, releasing just a year later in 2001. The application allowed users to download music directly from CDs, or burn CDs by mixing their favorite tracks. In 2014, CD sales were still at a whopping 141 million. iTunes found its following through the loyal fan base of Apple, and the fact that people love building their digital libraries. With the release of the iPod and iPhone lines, Apple was able to implement iTunes in a way that normalized the name and created a sense of familiarity with the brand. With iTunes winning in every category, Apple started up Apple Music. In a nutshell, you still keep everything that you own; you just have access to everything you don’t own as well. It’s weird, I know. Users have access to their iTunes libraries that have grown throughout the years, but also have access to music streaming, live radio, offline listening and Siri-implemented features (just another part of the market Apple has cornered). The plan is $9.99 a month, which may seem like a little much, as it just doesn’t seem different enough from personalized iTunes libraries.
Spotify launched in 2008, fairly behind “the game” at that point. In 2011, shortly before the service expanded to America, Spotify already boasted a hearty one million paying subscribers. 2012 brought four million more paying subscribers to Spotify’s service. The kicker is when Spotify and Facebook teamed up. Seeing what your friends are listening to and being able to share music on Facebook spread the brand’s name and created that sense of familiarity we associate with iTunes and iPods.
One thing that each of these companies rely on is their total monthly users on mobile. Without mobile music streaming, these companies wouldn’t be the industry leaders that they are today. How many times do you use Spotify on your computer? Apple Music? Pandora? The release of mobile applications allowed these companies to reach more users and expand their targeted age groups. Music on the go is easy, people know that.
So which is the best? Each streaming service offers its own “unique” benefits. Pandora has lost its luster in recent years. The simple idea has seemingly reached the end of the line. Apple Music is taking large strides to catch up to Spotify and their total subscribers. The only thing that Apple Music has that’s really noteworthy is artists that refuse to allow their music on other streaming applications (Taylor Swift, I’m looking at you).
Spotify “gets the gold” on this one. The company offers a $4.99 subscription to college students that subscribe with their college “.edu” email. That’s a big win for students trying to manage their money. Each week, Spotify offers a Weekly Discover playlist, tailored to similar music and artists that you’ve listened to within the past week. Spotify also features Pandora’s gimmick, radio stations. If you’re insistent on using Pandora, then just know that Spotify has everything that Pandora has to offer. Apple Music offers a handful of features, like Siri and exclusive artists, but Spotify is the superior streaming service. If you’ve never tried Spotify, then take the free month trial and give Spotify Premium a shot.
Written by staff writer, Will Blase