The Best Music Subscription Service for Students: Spotify

The Best Music Subscription Service for Students: Spotify

This year marks a new era in the history of music streaming. It'll be hard to forget the lawsuit facing Kanye West after the "exclusive" release of Life of Pablo on Tidal. And we'll remember how Beyonce's Lemonade video nearly broke the internet when it dropped in April.

Even as pirated music is still widely available, we find ourselves paying out-of-pocket for monthly subscriptions because of the robust features music streaming services offer. But with the proliferation of Apple Music, Spotify, Pandora, Tidal, Rhapsody, Soundcloud and other companies vying for our attention comes the hard choice of deciding which one to throw your money at.

Spotify and Apple Music are the clear industry leaders with more than 30 million and 11 million paid subscribers respectively. But which one is best for The Professional Student?

Below I have compared Spotify and Apple Music based on pricing, ease-of-use, music catalog and playlists, and connectivity.

PRICING: Tie

Both Spotify and Apple Music now offer student pricing at $4.99/mo and a family sharing plan at $14.99/mo which can be shared with up to 6 people. If you can corral a few family members and friends together that comes out $2.50/mo each. Just be sure to ask for the annual free up-front, shaking down family and friends for money isn't easy.

EASE-OF-USE: Spotify

I have to give the ease-of-use category to Spotify. It works well on Android and iOS as well as Windows and OSX. Apple Music is available on the same platforms but requires downloading iTunes on your Windows computer which is slow and bulky. The interface can be confusing and it took me a while to figure out how to put a song on repeat on my computer. I also have this strange issue of songs sometimes deleting off my iPhone from time to time, which Apple acknowledges but hasn't quite fixed. It's easy to download the songs again from the cloud but annoying, particularly when I don't have internet access.

MUSIC CATALOG AND PLAYLISTS: Apple Music

Spotify features a robust library of more than 30 million songs with 20,000 added daily. Apple Music boasts a similarly large catalog of tunes. They both provide limited access to music videos and you can even listen to some of your favorite comedians like Richard Pryor as well.

However, the differences become more apparent when reviewing the playlists and radio stations. Personally I find Apple Music to have the better playlist experience. They tend to be highly specialized with jams like Trappin' on the Treadmill for those who prefer to exercise to trap music. They also do a good job of updating their playlists at the right time. Soon after Prince passed (RIP) they released a playlist of the "13 Greatest Prince Songs that Were Hits for Other Artists". It also suggests some pretty good playlists based on your favorite artists but it can be off at times.

Overall, I think Apple Music has the better playlists while Spotify is better for finding new music.

CONNECTIVITY: Spotify

In terms of social media, I find Spotify to be the clear winner. The ability to share playlists with other spotify listeners - not just family members - is great. For Apple Music users, sharing your music through social media requires the other person have an Apple Music account to listen. With Spotify they can listen online for free without having to download any additional software. Thus I can listen to my Spotify playlists on any computer with an internet connection.

Spotify also connects more readily with third-party apps like Uber, Starbucks, and my personal favorite DJ app, Pacemaker.

Apple Music offers Apple Connect which allows you to "connect" with some of your favorite artists as they share photos backstage from concerts and other exclusive content. However, I find it to be more of a glorified Twitter account than a unique feature.

WINNER: SPOTIFY!

Based on the numbers, SPOTIFY is the clear winner but you can decide for yourself. Spotify offers a three-month trial version for $0.99 while Apple Music offers the same trial period for free.

Additionally, there are a number of free alternative music services.

I find Pandora to have some of the best "radio stations" around although you can't control which specific songs play in the free version.

NoonPacific.com is a great web-based station for discovering new music and DJ mixes. Mixtapes are uploaded every Monday at 12:00pm Pacific Time.

Finally, for those interested in more underground music, rare remixes, and DJ mixtapes, SoundCloud is a great alternative. Independent artists like Chance the Rapper have a number of tracks on SoundCloud that you can't find on Spotify or Apple Music.

What's your favorite music streaming service?

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