You don’t need to be an audiophile to appreciate the huge change in how most of us acquire and listen to music.
We’ve gone from buying albums on or in a piece of plastic — records, 8-tracks, cassettes, CDs — to downloading digital tracks from the internet to streaming music to various devices in and outside of the home. Streaming music doesn’t require you to download the file to consume it, much like starting a movie or TV show on Netflix. It instantly plays from the company’s servers over the internet to your device.
Imagine giving a record store owner $10 so you could run around with a bottomless shopping cart, throwing albums in as you see fit. And just like streaming video services, you pay a relatively low amount each month for unlimited access to all the music you can handle, which is playable on multiple devices including a computer, smartphone, smart TV, smart speaker, smartwatch, tablet and video game console.
Top 5 music services
Worldwide, these music streaming services had the most market share by revenue in the first quarter of 2020, the most recent information available.
1. Spotify, 30%
2. Apple Music, 25%
3. Amazon Music, 12%
4. YouTube Music, 9%
5. Pandora, 5%
Contrasted with a pay-for-what-you-use approach, such as 99 cents a song, streaming services are more all you can eat. For music lovers, that sounds like heaven, but be aware of some downsides. And how do you choose?
The benefits of choosing streaming music
“Quite simply, streaming music is the best thing to happen since the invention of the electric guitar,” says Eric Alper, who has worked for artists including Ringo Starr and Ray Charles during his 27-year career as a music publicist. His Twitter account has more than 768,000 followers, and Billboard magazine profiled him in June for his social media skills.
“Instead of taking a bus to a record store to buy a new album, if there was even a copy left, and then going home to play it, you’ve now got access to up to 75 million songs for one low price, without even leaving your home,” Alper says.
Andy Greene, a senior writer for Rolling Stone, mirrors Alper’s sentiment: “Convenience is the main benefit to streaming music services. If someone told me something like this would exist, even just a few years ago, I would have thought it was science fiction to play virtually any song you want, for so cheap, or even for free, with ads, on many services.”
Streaming music is “magical” and an “incredible gift” for fans, Greene says.