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Choosing The Music Streaming Service That Best Suits You

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- If you watched the Grammy Awards, you may be pleased to hear that music is as popular as ever.

But how people are listening is rapidly changing.

The most popular way to consume music is to stream it online. Neilsen reports 80 percent of music listeners have listened to music online in the past 12 months.

It's a long way from records, CDs or even digital downloads. Streaming means listening to music in real time, instead of downloading a file to your computer.

In a world of over-stimulation, the streaming world is no exception. The possibilities are endless and it's hard to keep up.

When it comes to consuming music, WCCO found four students who are aficionados. They are products of IPR, a Minneapolis creative arts school.

"I specialize in audio engineering and production," said Denver native De'Arris Judkins.

All four are skilled in music production, and each have an acute ear. They are also impassioned. Ash Morrow is from Minneapolis and hope to be a sound artist.

"Music is one of those things that brings everybody together because it's one of those languages that everybody talks," Morrow said.

And the way we listen to those words is changing. Two of the students said their favorite streaming service was Spotify, while the other two said they use Apple Music and Pandora.

Everyone has their own preferences, but the folks at Billboard say one thing is certain: streaming is America's favorite way to jam.

All four of our experts say they regularly stream music. And it's much more than child's play.

"I just got my mom onto streaming. My dad just got a smartphone instead of his flip phone, so I started showing him how to stream music and he just does everything by himself, and he's like 'Look at this new song I'm listening to right now!'" Morrow said.

Spotify is Morrow's favorite service, and it's also one of America's favorites. They have a free service and one that costs $10 a month.

"You can really listen to what you want to without having to buy the song itself," Morrow said.

In case you're confused, we'll pause right here. Dr. Joel Waldfogel from the University of Minnesota is an economist with an interest in the exploding popularity of streaming music.

"Streaming is basically renting as opposed to streaming music through streaming services," Waldfogel said. "What you do is you press a button and listen to a song."

He says there are two different kinds; interactive like Spotify -- where you pick a particular song -- and non-interactive like Pandora -- where you tell them a song or artist, like Michael Jackson, and they play songs by different artists in that same genre.

"What people are able to do with streaming is to find a set of narrowly-tailored songs that they like," Waldfogel said. "So we're not all listening to the same thing anymore, but we're all listening to different things that we like quite a lot."

Back to the specifics. Judkins, an artist himself, uses Tidal and several other services, but favors the virtual DJ service Pandora. You can stream it free with audio ads, or go add-free for $5 a month.

"I discover so many new people who are in that realm or genre that I like," Judkins said.

Ryan McCready is a recent IPR grad and an Apple loyalist. He says he doesn't mind the monthly fee one bit because if you like a streaming song on Apple, you can permanently download it to your device.

"With all the songs I download now, probably got to be $50, $60 a month is what it would have equaled," McCready said.

Ian Ayala, a sound engineering student from Iowa, is also on team Spotify, the service to which all four subscribe.

"I was spending at least $15 a month on iTunes a bare minimum, so why not just pay $10 and stream it off of Spotify?" Ayala said.

Amazon Music also has a new service where you can voice-command the newest song. It is in the attempt to make music social again.

McCready says music is also social for him.

"I love my Bluetooth speaker. Fills up the whole apartment, especially when you have friends over on the weekend pre-gaming," McCready said. "Sorry Mom!"

And that's the thing about music that's never changed: the fun, which never skips a beat.

Dr. Waldfogel says music lovers should not fear: music production is booming despite the evolution of the industry.

And more change is on the way. Pandora plans to launch an on-demand service to compete with Spotify sometime this year, which will cost $10 a month.

Here's how the top music streaming services break down:

  • Amazon Prime Music
  • $99/Year
  • Voice Command Requests
  • Apple Music
  • $10/a month
  • Downloadable
  • Pandora
  • Free - $5/Month
  • Virtual DJ
  • Spotify
  • Free or $10/Month
  • Choose song/artist
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