That’s where the (free) music takes me…

One of our Tipsters was telling us how her younger sister had come home this week aglow with excitement.  “It’s so cool!” young sister exclaimed.  “I’ve just bought a record player.  It can play albums!”  She apparently then spent an afternoon at a discery in Soho buying “old school” albums.

Another Tipster with a background in radio was telling us about the excitement the industry felt when Dire Straits made the then momentous decision to issue their latest album (‘Brothers in Arms’, one of my all time favourites) on the brand new CD format.  Then came iTunes, then music players and now today we don’t need to buy anything other than a streaming subscription.  A what?  Well, you no longer have to upload your entire music collection to every device you own.  You can sign up to a music streaming service, where the music is played to all your devices over the internet.  And in many cases it will cost you nothing.

If you decide to sign up, the good news is that you’re spoilt for choice. Whether you go for Apple Music or Spotify, you’re guaranteed to find a huge catalogue of music, a host of playlists to help you discover something new to listen to and offline playback so you’re not eating into that mobile data package on your phone.

But which one stands out from the rest and will give you the best overall music streaming experience?

We’ve been using –

 

over the past few months here at Tipster Towers to cover the leading contenders.

Our informed Tipster tip is… try them all!  That might sound like a bit of a cop out, but they all have at least a 30 day free trial. Apple Music has a three month trial.

Amazon music is included if you have an Amazon Prime membership and you can play it through your Alexa/ Echo device too. There’s not that much to choose between them all, for general use, although Spotify has a free version that runs ads.  If you want the full service they all cost around £10 per month although there are higher quality options of around £20 per month.

They all sound great.  Having said that, the most exacting of audiophiles using the most expensive of headphones or speaker setups should probably only consider Tidal or Deezer’s Elite option.  If you own a Sonos, the multi-room speakers are set up to work with both Tidal and Deezer’s high quality services, as well as with Spotify and the others at their standard quality.

My personal favourite is Spotify, but it really comes down to which one you like the look of and how easy you find it to navigate. As always, please get in touch if you need a Tipster’s Touch to tickle your tech.

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All I want for Christmas is a Dukla Prague away kit

Half Man Half Biscuit are an obscure satirical rock band from the 1980s and my husband  wants their “Back in the D.H.S.S.” album for Christmas.

Half+Man+Half+Biscuit+-+Back+Again+In+The+D.H.S.S.+-+LP+RECORD-226238In the olden days, I’d have bought the CD so that he could unwrap something on Christmas Day (before copying it into iTunes and sticking it in a box in the attic).

The modern alternative then became a download straight from iTunes. If I chose this route, I could send my husband a romantic Christmas Day email from the iTunes store to tell him that “All I want for Christmas is a Dukla Prague away kit” and 16 other Half Man Half Biscuit tracks were now in his iTunes library. He says iTunes downloads are too compressed, but I can’t hear the difference and at £7.99 it’s £2 cheaper than buying the CD.

That’s expensive beside this year’s option. Over the last year streaming services like Screen Shot 2013-11-29 at 10.15.33Spotify have started to take over and they are free. A seismic shift is taking place: CD sales are in freefall and iTunes downloads are down for the first time this year. So whilst those of us over 35 (see last week’s blog) are just starting to get our heads around “owning” an intangible download from Apple, those born after 1978 have moved on.

spotify-logo-primary-vertical-light-background-rgbWith Spotify you don’t own the music, but you can listen to any of their 20 million songs whenever you want, so “ownership” becomes a less meaningful concept. If you pay £10 a month for Spotify’s Premium service, the quality is higher than iTunes and you can download tracks for when you’re offline.

We’ve got Spotify in the Fingertips office and the greatest benefit is not cost or convenience, but the way you listen to music. Suddenly you are free to explore, discover and rediscover without the emotional and financial commitment of buying. You can even just set Spotify to auto-pilot and let the “Radio” service select music based on a starter track that you choose.

Spotify Jake BuggToday we listened to Maria Callas (we tried to count how many Maria Callas albums Spotify have, but gave up at 250), Roxette (they’ve got a song called “Fingertips”!), the new Lissie album, Jake Bugg and, yes, Half Man Half Biscuit (they are truly awful). I’d never have bought any of those albums, so although there are lots of people in the music industry who don’t like what’s happened, I think – with the artists getting royalties for being on Spotify – that everyone’s a winner.

The best of both worlds is to combine a streaming service with your own music collection. This is exactly what Apple’s iTunes Radio service will do, if they ever decide to launch it in the UK. In the meantime I’ve taught my husband how to use our Spotify account and bought him a ticket for Half Man Half Biscuit at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire. I couldn’t bring myself to buy a Dukla Prague away kit – it’s yellow.