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Should you get a streaming music subscription?

Spotify on iPhone 6S
Spotify on iPhone 6S (Image credit: iMore)

Streaming music services are all the rage right now, and I don't mean that they're merely trends to be blown away by the winds of change — they're the future of music. My favorite CD store, HMV, just closed up shop in Canada. Now there's nowhere to buy physical CDs, aside from the dwindling and tasteless selection that Walmart peddles.

I've always resisted streaming music services in favor of more "purist" listening practices, like burning my CDs onto my laptop and then having them on my iPhone, rather than relying on Apple Music and the internet so I can stream. But gone are the CD drives and quickly dwindling is my patience for connecting, burning, waiting, transferring, and so on.

My sister recently added me to her Spotify Premium family, and I must say that I'm falling in love with streaming music. Here are some pros and cons to help you decide.

Why you should get a streaming music subscription

Convenience

Right off the bat, convenience is the biggest reason to get a streaming music subscription, be it Apple Music, Spotify Premium, Pandora, or whatever. You don't have to sit and wait for music to transfer from your computer to your phone; you can listen to that service on just about any device you might have, and if you want a friend to hear a tune, they can just go onto their service and listen — no need to email or bring a thumb drive over just for one song.

It saves space

The iPhone doesn't have an SD card slot (WHY NOT?!?), and if you've opted for the lowest storage option, you'll run out of space real quick once you start transferring songs and downloading apps. Have a streaming music subscription means you can carry all of your tunes with you all the time, without having to worry about your storage capacity.

New music!

I play the drums, and drumming to the same set of tunes can get kind of boring after a while. Luckily, with a streaming music subscription, I can just go find a curated playlist of music I like and I get to discover all these new tunes that I otherwise wouldn't have heard of. If you like a particular genre of music, but you're sick of the same bands, just search up the genre on your service of choice and you'll be introduced to new bands and new sounds.

Share it!

Many music streaming services let you share what you're listening to on Facebook and Twitter, allowing you to connect with other folks who have similar tastes. Using social media to share your tunes is way easier than sending people individual songs, and it lets you discover new tunes when other people share stuff with you.

Futureproof

As sad as it is, physical forms of music are falling by the wayside (despite the resurgence in vinyl). Music is moving in a completely digital direction, and if you can't and/or don't want to keep up with changing music formats, then a streaming subscription is the perfect way to futureproof yourself. You don't need to worry about file formats or any of that nonsense because the service takes care of it all for you.

Service exclusives

Artists are now releasing songs exclusively to specific streaming services. For instance, Jonathan Coulton's new album comes out soon, and he's only released the first single to Spotify. There are also other great contests and events that go on for specific artists, like ticket and instrument giveaways.

Why you might not want or need a music streaming subscription

$ Moolah $

If you're anything like me, you likely have a ton of CDs and have bought a bunch of your favorite music off of iTunes. Why would you want to pay a monthly subscription fee when you already have all the tunes you want?

You don't listen often

I listen to music all day while I work, but I just throw on YouTube and away I go. Otherwise, I don't have the time to sit down and listen to music as much as I'd like. To be perfectly honest, if my sister didn't already have Spotify Premium and was already paying for it, I don't think I'd have an account for myself. I just can't justify the cost when I know I wouldn't use it enough.

Connectivity

I work for a magician on the side and we make many a road trip to rural Canada. I mean rural. Ever heard of Lemberg, Saskatchewan? Me neither until a week ago. We rely on Apple Music to stop us from killing each other on 8-hour drives, and when you hit a dead zone, there's nothing worse than starting a song and having it stop dead 10 seconds in, never to return.

If you're not receiving an LTE signal, streaming can be a pain in the ass. 3G can do just fine, but only if it's a strong 3G signal (trust me). If you live somewhere where your carrier doesn't exactly provide LTE, then streaming might suck, and that just plains sucks.

You hate music

Who blackened your soul?

To stream or not to stream?

If you're into music at all, the pros certainly outweigh the cons. You can discover new music all the time and you'll even find songs that you won't find anywhere else. At the end of the day, it's not a huge expense, usually starting around $10 per month.

If you're sick of filling up your devices with music and you'd love to just have the world of tunes with you wherever you go, then a streaming music subscription is definitely for you. Even if you're the stationary sort and don't feel like YouTube hopping all day, a music streaming subscription can provide you with all the tunage you need to see you through your work day or your chill sesh while you lurk on Reddit.

Do you stream?

Do you have a streaming music subscription? To which service do you subscribe? Tell us in the comments why you love or hate it!

Mick is a staff writer who's as frugal as they come, so he always does extensive research (much to the exhaustion of his wife) before making a purchase. If it's not worth the price, Mick ain't buying.

19 Comments
  • I have Apple Music and love it. I can down load any music for off line listening so i don't burnthrough my data by always streaming. I also can put a playlist on my Apple Watch to have music when I don't exercise with my phone. Spotify does the same thing but I can't sync a playlist to my Apple Watch.
  • I purposely picked up the 256gb phone just to have my music that I've bought over the years to be at my convenience. i'll probably will be one of the last ones to convert to stream even with 'unlimited' data with at&t.
  • I feel like I'll be in the same boat for my next iPhone purchase. You're not alone!
  • I recently signed up for Neflix and Deezer after so many years of sourcing all my content from torrents. The experience is wonderful and I feel less guilty. lol. If most services are priced right, most users wouldn't resort to torrents and the likes
  • While I'm an Apple Music subscriber, I also use Pandora free which works just fine. You get 30 seconds of commercials every 4-6 songs.
  • This is probably blaspheme on this Apple focused site but I have been subscribing to Microsoft's Groove Music service for quite a while now. Like most other premium music streaming services it's $10 per month, has everything I could want to listen to, and allows subscribers to store music for offline listening. The main reason I switched over from Spotify Premium is because they didn't have an Xbox One app. If I wanted to listen to my own background music while playing video games Groove was the only option. I think this may have changed recently but I'm not sure. Besides the Xbox One support Groove is also built directly into my Windows 10 PCs and the iPhone app works very well. I can't imagine there are many of us Groove Music users (especially on iMore) given how popular Apple Music, Spotify, and Google Play Music are but it is the best choice for me because of the variety of devices I use.
  • I also use it as I also use a Lumia 950xl on Windows mobile and that's the main music app on there. I just wish they'd hurry up and introduce a family plan like Apple Music and Spotify etc. Sent from the iMore App
  • Oh and gotta love the fact it syncs with OneDrive too Sent from the iMore App
  • How are you able to stream on your network, in Canada? Are you using freedom mobile? Sent from the iMore App
  • I guess I'm one of those old fashioned "behind the times" types that still buys music. I do stream with SoundCloud (and download when available) since it's the service the most of what I like. I'd love to be able to subscribe to a service that offered me similar stuff at higher bitrate, but right now neither Apple Music, Spotify or Tidal give me what I'm after.
  • I have my subscription with Apple Music and stream all the time. Mostly for reasons mentioned in this article... saves on storage and convenience. But also for integration purposes. I have used Shazam since the beginning to search out music that is played around me or on a tv show that I know I would love to have. Shazam searches and finds it and Apple Music plays it... and the only cost I incur is if I decide to purchase it.
  • No i don't stream. I don't have a need to. I have an enourmous music library. I've barely sold back a record that I've bought and i've been buying music since 1977. It's a monthly expense i don't need. $10 bucks here. $10 bucks there and they start to add up. i've had trials and i barely use them. I'd rather listen to my own music for free and i have plenty of albums i got that i've barely listened too. I never run out of music to listen too. Also the curation on these services always leaves a lot to be desired. Like their suggestions strike me as without a ton of logic at times. People use it to find new music. That's fine but I'm most new music hasn't been my thing. I'm old. fine. lol. It's just money spent for something i don't need. Another big thing is my LTE is so spotty with mountains and oceans i can't rely on streaming much of anything. I tend to download all my podcasts too because tons of times when i try to stream i get stuck in a store with a bad signal. I'd also add in the past two years the bulk of the time i'm listening to podcasts or audiobooks as opposed to music so i'm dedicating less time to music listening. Oh one last thing is my entire library is uploaded to google play so if I need music i have all of that to listen too remotely, again for free.
  • Does it count as streaming if I use offline cache on Spotify? :)
    Joke aside, I think Spotify is the best app for this purpose.
    I had Spotify way before I had an iPhone, so I didn't switch to Apple Music, just to be brand friendly :D
    I checked it out though, but I stayed with Spotify.
  • I'm currently almost done with the free 3 month trial for Apple Music and really tried to implement it into my routine, to no avail. I will not be renewing, just didn't seem all that great to me. I download all my music to all my devices and don't see any reason t change. I do from time to time use Amazon Music as I'm a Prime member and its included, it is nice perk. Apple could offer Music as a free service with purchase of say an iOS device.
  • I have Apple Music, and Spotify and love them! Sent from the iMore App
  • I use Google Play Music. It comes with YouTube Red. Which gets rid of the ads. So well worth it for me. I also have Amazon Prime. But, I rarely ever use Amazon Music. Posted via the iMore App for Android
  • Amazon Prime has music, just never the latest stuff. I often forget about it though. Problem for me is that I like a lot of underground stuff. For example, you can't get Alienhand on any service, but you can just download it for free. http://www.alienhand.dk/ Sad thing is, on iOS, you can't add that music to the Music app. At least not without a Mac… 7 years into the "Post PC" era. And, with Apple Music, it's probably never going to happen. Which is sad because it is a bad user experience.
  • "Why you might not want or need a music streaming subscription"
    Another reason high fidelity music or atleast higher bitrate MP3 just listen to Apple Music on any high end headphones you will know the difference its so pathetic.
  • You totally didnt mention the free streaming services, like iHeart Radio, free Pandora. So money isn't necessary if you are will to not set up your own playlists.