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Streaming Music

Music streaming services have changed the way we access and listen to music give us easy access to millions of songs, readily available at our fingertips. You can create your own playlists, explore music by genre, artist, album or even follow other people's recommendations and playlists. There are free subscription options available if you are happy to sit through the ads which happens quite often, a lot like listening to the radio, but better, because you can choose your own songs. Paid subscriptions save you from having to sit through ads but also allows you to stream more devices, allow downloads so you can save on mobile data consumption, mobile access while you are on the move and also higher quality sound. 

Sound Quality vs Data Consumption


Audio quality differs between services. Most streaming services have a default audio quality set quite low so data consumption is lower and allows the listening to stream music on the go using data on their mobile devices. The sound quality on CDs and Vinyls are too high and data consumption is too large to be practical, especially while on a mobile connection. Below are comparisons to give you an idea of data consumption on the different sound quality formats.

  • MP3 - standard-quality - three-minute MP3 file - will consume about 4MB of data 

  • A high-quality equivalent (which is still well below CD quality) - will use around 12MB

  • The same song streamed at CD quality can run up 40MB


This is why most services try to find a good balance between quality and consumption. You can negate the data issue on most services by using offline mode, which lets you download tracks while you're on Wi-Fi.

While the standard and high-quality MP3 files aren't technically on par with CDs, they're still good enough for the average listener, especially when you're streaming on-the-go. Compare the two, and you're unlikely to notice any glaring differences, unless you have trained ears and a high-end sound system. If that's the case, you could try Tidal or Deezer, which have CD-quality subscription packages.

Custom Quality


Some services let you set the audio quality of your choice if you prefer higher quality listening. However, some services such as Apple Music, automatically adjust based on your internet connection speeds. Sound quality options can become confusing different services have different definitions for sound quality. Deezer, for example, refers to its lowest and mid-quality options as 'basic' and 'standard.' Google Play and Spotify however, use 'low' and 'normal.' Similarly, 'very high' quality on Spotify is more or less the same as Tidal's 'High' quality option.

Quality Comparison
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Which Songs Are Available?


Just because a service hosts millions of melodies, doesn't mean they have every song. There's a bunch of factors that can dictate availability.

  • Older, independent and obscure artists can be difficult to track down.

  • Specific versions of jazz and orchestral pieces that have been performed by multiple groups can be tricky too. 

  • Popular music is generally a safe bet, and a number of bands that held out for years including Metallica, Tool and The Beatles are now available for streaming. 

  • Some artists restrict their work to certain services – Beyoncé's hit 2016 record Lemonade is a Tidal exclusive (though the rest of her catalogue is on Spotify). 

  • Others are contractually restricted to one service for a short period of time. Kanye West, who initially released his 2016 record The Life Of Pablo on Tidal, followed by other services later in the year. 

A few services let you upload your own music as a workaround. Google Play, for example, can sync with digital tracks in your cloud account, but this can be a time-consuming exercise. Take advantage of the free trial period to find out whether the subscription you're considering supplies your favourite songs or lets you upload music you own.

What to look for


With the large list of music streaming services available at our fingertips, how do we choose the right service for us? Here are a few points we suggest considering when choosing a streaming service that is right for you.

  • Ease of use: Searching for songs, albums or artists on a music streaming service is usually straightforward, but finding a specific song or album in the search results can be confusing, as most list multiple versions of one track. It can also be time consuming finding the song, as some list exact and similar results in a long list.

  • Sound quality and data consumption: Try to find a service that strikes a good balance between sound quality and data consumption, and one that lets you set the sound quality, as this will assist with data management.

  • Offline mode: This lets you listen to songs on the go without consuming mobile data.

  • Multi-platform support: Note the supported platforms and whether they suit your needs and the devices you already own. For example, you may want to consider Amazon Music Unlimited if you own an Echo smart speaker.

  • Smart speaker integration: This gives you the option to select music using voice commands.

  • Family friendly features: Such as the option to filter explicit content, stick to family friendly music, or mute artists altogether.

  • Additional content: If the service is part of a larger company, a subscription may include other entertainment options. YouTube Music provides access to YouTube Red, your Amazon Music account can also connect to Amazon Prime Video, Tidal includes exclusive music videos live concerts, documentaries and interviews, and Apple Music often has exclusive access to videos as well.

  • Podcasts: Some services have added podcast support.

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