Gone are the days of iTunes gift cards, Limewire and burning CDs from your friends’ music libraries. We have entered the music-streaming age. Never before has it been cheaper or easier to have the world of music at your fingertips, and it doesn’t look like we’ll be turning back anytime soon. However, choosing how we listen to music has never been more difficult. With a myriad of streaming services available, all offering unique and exclusive features, how is a lazy college student to choose? Here is my opinion on the best music streaming options for every occasion.
For showing off —
Music streaming and social media don’t appear to mix well. You probably realized this the first time you used Spotify and discovered that everyone on Facebook could see how much Britney Spears you listen to at the gym. Cymbal is music and social media done right. The problem with Spotify’s social media platform is that everyone can see everything you’re listening to unless you switch to the private setting. Cymbal, much like Instagram, allows you to put your best face forward and craft a musical identity. Your Cymbal is your favorite track you’ve been listening to and want to share. The album artwork then appears on a seamless newsfeed filled with the Cymbals of your favorite blogs, artists and friends. Just hit play to hear your feed as one continuous stream.
When it’s your turn to choose the music —
Finding the right music for the party can be a daunting task. Fortunately, there is a number of playlist-generating services available. Songza seems to be tailored to college students’ needs; its home screen “concierge” will automatically show “Putting on My Party Dress” playlists Friday night and “Drinking Gourmet Coffee” playlists Sunday morning. My favorite playlists are actually under the “Brand New Music” tab, which features frequently updated playlists of the most blogged-about music.
For being ahead of the game —
Get your hipster glasses ready because Hypemachine knew what you’d want to listen to before it was cool. This app tracks the most reblogged and talked-about tracks and sorts them by genre. One cool feature is the “time machine,” which can show you the most talkedabout tracks in, say, September 2009, providing evidence that you were listening to Kendrick before he got big.
At the end of the day—
Now for the big question: What streaming service should you use to build your library and curate your own playlists? Although Google Play, Apple Music, Rdio and Xbox Music all offer similar features, I’ve narrowed the debate down to Tidal versus Spotify simply because at $4.99 per month for students, they offer the best selection for your money with ad-free streaming. In case you missed the buzz, music mogul Jay-Z unveiled Tidal this summer, highlighting its high-fidelity streaming and exclusive content and branding it as a “platform owned by artists.” Although I like how Tidal allows you to watch music videos, Spotify seems to stream better around campus (although both cut out around Keck Hall and the central quad). Additionally, Spotify has what I call “the Facebook advantage.” Google Plus had almost 25 million users within a month of is launch in 2011, and there was much speculation that it would replace Facebook as the most widely used social media platform. In the end, nobody switched to using Google Plus because everyone had a Facebook already. Tidal isn’t significantly better or different enough to urge me to permanently make the switch from Spotify. I like following my friends’ playlists and being able to see who else is listening to my favorite artists. Tidal might make you feel one small step closer to being in Beyoncé’s circle, but you won’t be able to follow the Beer Bike playlists come spring.