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Mix with Marissa: The best music streaming services

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Music streaming services have been gaining major traction in the digital landscape. The music industry has long fought to maintain its status quo, but as music download sales continue to plummet, the flurry of activity in the music streaming service sphere has sparked both positive and negative responses.

Here’s a breakdown of some music streaming services available and my take on each of them.

Tidal
The brainchild of Jay Z and the biggest names in music is the latest music streaming service. But not everyone seems to be as excited for its arrival. Mumford and Sons and Lily Allen have put in their 2 cents on Tidal.

According to its website, “Tidal is the world’s first music service with high fidelity sound quality, high definition music videos and curated editorial by music journalists, artists and experts.”

Basically, high fidelity is the sound experience that was made in the studio; how it was intended to be heard by the artists. Perhaps I’m no music quality connoisseur but I couldn’t really tell much of a difference.

A new addition that has not been covered elsewhere is the introduction of a visual component to accompany the music . Tidal claims to feature high definition music videos along with its music — essentially combining the services of YouTube with a music streaming service.

Tidal’s subscription service is divided into two tiers: Premium, which is $9.99 a month and HiFi, which runs $19.99 a month. The premium offers regular sound quality and no ads while the HiFi includes the high definition sound quality Tidal is pushing. The search engine is also a tad wonky. The order of the results are randomly scattered instead of being organized by category, track, artist or album.

Tidal’s combination of regular and innovative features goes beyond simply accessing music, making it comparable to a music information website. The curated editorial feature allows users to browse through recommendations, playlists, features and interviews done by experienced music journalists. If you are familiar with the music searching app Shazam, the audio search feature uses the same concept allowing you to locate songs easily without even knowing the artist or song title.

Spotify

This Swedish import is the poster child of music streaming and for the most part, Spotify lives up to its expectations.

The music player and social network integration allows users to share their music on platforms like Twitter and Facebook. Don’t want people to judge you on your Britney binge? There’s an option for a private session which allows users to give in to their musical indulgences free from judging eyes.

One of its cool features is the tabs on their browse page, which uses different methods for users to discover new music in. Browse through chart toppers and new releases from all around the world.

Got Coachella on your mind but not the funds to get there? Tune into the playlists of your favorite music festivals. On the “discover” tab, Spotify will offer suggestions based on what you’ve been tuning into. Listeners can even create playlists from genres and moods like workout, sleep, travel, focus to rock, country, EDM and on and on.

The free version only allows you to listen to albums on shuffle mode but still allows users to browse artists and songs and create their own playlists.

Users also have the option to upgrade to Spotify Premium, which offers a way for you to tune in ad-free at $9.99 per month (or $4.99 for students). Sadly, there will be moments where you are without access to data or WiFi. During my 19-hour flights to and from Malaysia, the offline mode on Spotify Premium definitely kept me sane. Using the Spotify application on their tablet or smartphones, premium users are able to store their music (a 10,000 song limit or 3,333 songs maximum per device) on their devices.

8tracks

Remember the mix tapes full of sappy love songs you used to slip into your crush’s locker? 8tracks allows you to make the virtual version of that, complete with the option to add a title and cover art. It almost feels like eighth grade again.

The user roles in 8tracks are split into two categories: DJs and listeners. The DJs, who represent roughly 1 percent of users, upload music to create an online mix with the option to classify the mix by genre, activity or mood by attaching tags. Although there isn’t a paid version, the catch is that there are only a limited number of skips you can perform.

Romantic dinner in order? Need a study playlist to help burn the midnight oil? Listeners, in turn, select playlists based on their mood or occasion instead of selecting them solely based on artists or algorithms. 8tracks prides itself for being “Internet radio created by people.”

In an interview, 8tracks co-founder and CEO David Porter said, “The right way to think about recommendations (for 8tracks) is that we’re essentially matchmaking between listeners and DJs.”

Pandora

Maybe you don’t want to go through the hassle of creating your own playlists. Pandora offers a pure radio experience that uses music analytics to curate a stream based on your listening preferences. Though not a play-on-demand service, through the selection of a single track or artist, the algorithm helps identify similar music. Listeners can also discover new music by listening to stations by category.

A Pandora One subscription costs $4.99 a month. The ad-free version has more daily skips allotted, but both versions have no rewind or repeat function, which can be annoying. Users can create up to 100 stations, which can be deleted as they please.

I’m not a fan of the constant beeping coming from my alarm clock in the morning, so the option of having Neko Case croon me awake seems like a great idea to me. The alarm clock feature allows you to wake up to your favorite Pandora station in the morning. At night, use the sleep timer to hear music before you go to bed.

Need to bust out an impromptu karaoke session? You can find lyrics to your favorite songs as well. You can even listen to local radio stations by selecting your current city, choosing to browse by talk, music or entertainment radio.

Marissa Iqbal Hakim can be reached at [email protected] or @daenamarissa on Twitter.

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Mix with Marissa: The best music streaming services