Whether you’re an avid collector of music or you’re obsessive about keeping your collection organized, whether you want to discover new music from a trusted source or you simply want to be able to listen to a song that you think of whenever and wherever you want will all help determine the ever important decision of which online music platform gets to carry the torch on your behalf. Other factors that you might base your decision on include price, how deep the catalog runs, being able to explore curated playlists, the ease with which you can share what you’re listening to with friends in social media, the ability to sync your music collection across multiple devices, the parameters of offline playback and skipping tracks, being able to have an uninterrupted ad-free experience, or whether you prefer a more linear experience of being programmed to or a more active on demand experience. Bottom line, if you love music, it’s a major decision! And there’s no one perfect answer in a world of dizzying choices.
First, it’s important to distinguish between different types of services that are offered. The big buzzword of late is “subscription” services in which you pay a monthly fee to have access to listen to anything that you want from the entire catalog of that particular service. But to be clear, in that scenario you’re not “owning” anything. So if for some reason you can’t get access to that service, then you’re out of luck. Another buzzword is “streaming” in which a platform acts like a radio station. You’ve got curated stations that are created by music services and are built around a genre or theme or even an artist and you’ve also got custom stations that you can create that behave by learning your preferences. Now some of these music platforms provide all of these services while others might be more focused on being really good at providing one service like programming. And finally there’s “cloud” service in which your entire collection is placed in the cloud to access from any device whenever you’re online.