By Parris Cayer-Leary
If you’re like me, and you probably are, you’re stuck indoors for now, most of the time. This is something that we, as Mainers are used to during the winter, but cabin fever’s best cure is getting outside for some fresh air and sunlight. These days we must keep ourselves distanced from the rest of humanity and the easiest way to do that is to stay indoors. Personally, I think it’s nice to have a reason to stay in and take it easy! But, for many others, this feels like prison.
Streaming your favorite shows and movies can help transport you to a world where Covid-19 doesn’t exist and groups of more than 10 people can gather without the risk of growing the pandemic that is upon us. For me, I wouldn’t be able to get through this trying time without music. I personally use Spotify to stream the wide array of tunes that I enjoy listening to. Spotify has what seems like 99% of all music ever made and can be accessed ad-free for the low cost of $9.99/month plus tax after a 3-month free trial. In my opinion, a small price to pay for any music you could ever want to listen to whenever you want to listen to it. But wait, there’s
As a student, you can get all of this for only $4.99/month. The student discount also
includes a subscription to Hulu with ads, and Showtime. They also offer family plans for
$14.99/month for up to 6 people. If you’re like me and you remember the days when tapes or CDs would cost at least $10 a piece, or when they were $9.99 on iTunes, then you can understand what a deal this is. I also understand that these are times when many people are tightening their belts financially. If you feel like $4.99 a month is too steep, then you can listen to music on Spotify with ads for free, and in most cases, you’re only able to listen to songs on shuffle with an allotment of 6 skips per hour.
Spotify isn’t the only option out there, it’s just the one I use and know the most about. There is also Apple Music which is very popular with iPhone users. This service is nearly identical to Spotify with a few differences. The biggest one being that Apple Music doesn’t offer as much variety from their free tier. Listeners unwilling to pay only have access to Beats1 Radio and their iTunes library. Beyond that, Spotify streams at a higher bitrate which allows you to listen to better quality audio as well. Their mobile app allows you to choose the bitrate you want to stream at if you’re concerned about data usage. For the most part the difference is unnoticeable to the untrained ear.
There are a few other options in the wide world of music streaming that I am aware of. Tidal is the streaming service started by rapper/mogul Jay-Z. Tidal offers higher fidelity audio streaming and claims to pay higher royalties to artists. Because of this, some of the music on Tidal is exclusive to them and can’t be found on Spotify or Apple Music. As frustrating as it can be to not be able to listen to the music you want to, the amount that is exclusive to Tidal is small enough that I rarely run into it as a problem. Like Apple Music, Tidal doesn’t offer the free tier of listening that Spotify does. Though Tidal offers higher quality audio streaming, it costs extra to enjoy this feature. Tidal offers a $9.99/month subscription that streams audio at the same bitrate as Spotify, and a 19.99/month subscription that allows you to stream Tidal HiFi.
There are a seemingly infinite number of options as far as audio streaming is concerned but I’ll only tell you about the remaining two major services. The first being Pandora Radio. Pandora was one of the first to offer a radio station based on music you already enjoy. It allows you to input a handful of similar artists and it will shuffle a playlist of those artists and other artists like them. This is a great way to find new music that you might not find otherwise. Pandora isn’t as popular as they were when they first started pioneering music streaming. They still offer their free radio service that works similarly to Spotify’s free service. Beyond that they do offer competitive services with their subscriptions. Their $4.99 subscription, which isn’t limited to students( as with Spotify or Apple Music), and offers listeners an ad-free experience with the ability to choose what you listen to if you watch ads. You can skip any music that you aren’t
enjoying as well as listen to podcasts and save music for offline listening. The next tier of
subscription is $9.99/month like most other streaming services and offers everything the
previous tier offered as well as choosing the music you listen to without ads and the additional ability to make and share playlists. This top tier does have discounts for students, family plans, and even members of the military.
The last service I will talk about is Soundcloud. Soundcloud is primarily for the independent artist. When I was in high school and had dreams of becoming a famous rapper, I created a Soundcloud account that still exists but hasn’t had any new music uploaded to it in over a decade. Soundcloud offers a $9.99/month subscription with a 30-day free trial that provides users with ad-free listening, unlimited offline listening, and the ability to hear full songs that in some cases can only be previewed with a free account. I use Soundcloud very rarely, but there are some artists that only release their music on Soundcloud and some who release mixtapes that aren’t as polished as the studio albums you hear on major services.
In closing, everyone should stay safe and help keep others safe, especially those at a
heightened risk. I implore you to utilize the many great options for music therapy that are available to us in the 21st century. Be well and rock on.