Caught in the Stream

By Ravyn Salas

Music sales are steadily declining, 16 percent lower than they have been in over 2 decades, but it is not as if less people are listening to music. This has allowed streaming services to emerge in an attempt for artists and albums to learn how to profit in this digital age.

Smartphone users now have Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal, and Google Music at the touch of their fingers, which may seem excessive, considering the similarities between each platform. Aware of similar outlets out there, companies try to differentiate themselves in the catalogs they offer, such as artist-exclusive content and sound quality.

Each streaming service offers a catalogue of around 30 million songs, and though that is enticing, services market artist-exclusive content to set themselves apart. For example, Tidal offered the highly anticipated Beyoncé’s "Lemonade" and Kanye West’s "The Life of Pablo," the latter with the bold statement that his latest album would never be for purchase via hard copy.

“My album will never never never be on Apple. And it will never be for sale... You can only get it on Tidal” he said in a tweet.

Kanye was not the only star to speak against Apple Music. Taylor Swift publicly criticized the company for not paying artists when users play their music during their free 3 month trial. Apple Music then compensated artists who were streamed during non-paid periods.

The rap mogul behind Tidal, Jay Z, followed suit and promised to pay the artists on his streaming service a higher percentage than any other service can offer, but that comes with a cost to listeners.

Tidal does not have a free tier, unlike its competitors, which explains why many students have never heard of it. It is more costly the other subscriptions at $19.99, for hi-fi losses music, but in its first year, Tidal has gained 3 million paying subscribers. It seems Jay Z got 99 problems but the future of Tidal ain’t one.

Chaffey student, Nicole Cedano, 20, uses three different services. She thinks Soundcloud and Spotify are the most limiting out of the three services, because Spotify doesn't let you change the song and Soundcloud remixes songs. "Pandora is the best one out of all of them," Cedano said.

Angelica Harper, 18, also a Chaffey student, says free streaming services are the way to go for the bulk of her music. “If it’s my favorite artist then I’d just buy their album and then download it to my phone but I usually just use Spotify’s free version,” Harper said.

Even with the millions of available songs and the exclusivity that each service has accumulated, no single service can offer the unparalleled vision of unlimited music, in one place, for free.