How you’ll never miss a beat

Los Angeles Times - - MONDAY BUSINESS -

BY RYAN FAUGH­N­DER AND SID­DARTH VOD­NALA >>> Ap­ple’s stream­ing ser­vice of­fi­cially launches Tues­day, putting the tech gi­ant into what has evolved into the fastest- grow­ing way that con­sumers lis­ten to mu­sic. ¶ The Cu­per­tino, Calif., com­pany hopes many of the 800 mil­lion users with iTunes ac­counts will sign up for the new Ap­ple Mu­sic ser­vice, which will launch with a 90- day free trial. Mu­sic and tech in­dus­try observers ex­pect Ap­ple devo­tees will sign up for the of­fer in droves to take the stream­ing ser­vice for a test spin — but, there’s still a long way to go be­fore it knocks out in­dus­try leader Spo­tify. ¶ Mean­while, a bevy of com­pet­ing ser­vices are hop­ing to hook lis­ten­ers who pre­vi­ously used CDs, dig­i­tal down­loads or just lis­tened to the ra­dio to get their sonic fixes. Here’s a re­fresher.

Ap­ple Mu­sic

Based on Beats Mu­sic. In­cludes a paid ser­vice, a live ra­dio sta­tion called Beats 1 and a so­cial com­po­nent. Avail­abil­ity: 100 coun­tries, start­ing on Ap­ple de­vices. An­droid and Win­dows apps ex­pected to launch later this year. Cost: $ 9.99 a month. Free ver­sion: Not for the on- de­mand por­tion, but there’s a three- month free trial. Beats 1 is free. No. of tracks: 30 mil­lion No. of users: None, yet. Pros: Beats 1 could draw lis­ten­ers with playlists made by ex­perts, not al­go­rithms. Users will have ac­cess to new tracks and videos up­loaded by artists them­selves. Cons: Un­less its fea­tures are dif­fer­ent or bet­ter than Spo­tify’s or Rdio’s, it’s hard to jus­tify mu­sic mogul and Ap­ple Mu­sic ex­ec­u­tive Jimmy Iovine’s claim that the ser­vice will be “rev­o­lu­tion­ary.”

Tidal

The Scan­di­na­vian ser­vice was bought by rap­per Jay Z for $ 56 mil­lion this year, and de­buted clum­sily in March. Avail­abil­ity: 43 coun­tries. Cost: $ 9.99 a month for nor­mal stream­ing; $ 19.99 a month for high- fi­delity sound qual­ity. Free ver­sion: No, just a 30- day free trial. No. of tracks: 30 mil­lion No. of users: 900,000 Pros: Tidal bets ex­clu­sive tracks, videos and con­certs can en­tice users, though an­a­lysts ques­tion the strat­egy. Re­views have praised Tidal’s sound qual­ity. The ser­vice also pro­motes new artists and pledges to pay higher roy­al­ties than ri­vals. Cons: Mainly, the em­bar­rass­ment of its os­ten­ta­tious launch. Putting 16 of mu­sic’s high­est earn­ers on stage to com­plain about pal­try roy­al­ties did noth­ing to help the com­pany’s im­age.

Rdio

Started by Kazaa and Skype founder Janus Friis. Pro­vides ac­cess to online ra­dio sta­tions with dif­fer­ent lev­els of on- de­mand ac­cess. Avail­abil­ity: 85 coun­tries. Cost: $ 9.99 a month for top tier. “Se­lect” ver­sion al­lows sta­tions and 25 down­loads at a time for $ 3.99. Free ver­sion: Yes. Ad- sup­ported ver­sion gives ac­cess to sta­tions, but lim­its skip­ping. No. of tracks: 32 mil­lion. No. of users: Not dis­closed. Pros: Has won praise for its el­e­gant in­ter­face that promi­nently dis­plays al­bum art. The un­lim­ited ver­sion has no cap on mo­bile down­loads. Rdio Se­lect is an ap­peal­ing price point. Cons: Crit­ics have been less im­pressed with the rec­om­men­da­tions from its ra­dio- like fea­tures.

Pan­dora

Ba­si­cally syn­ony­mous with In­ter­net ra­dio. Uses data anal­y­sis to rec­om­mend tracks based on users’ tastes and feed­back. Avail­abil­ity: U. S., Aus­tralia and New Zealand. Cost: $ 4.99 a month to avoid ads. Free ver­sion: Yes, with com­mer­cial in­ter­rup­tions. No. of tracks: 1 mil­lion. No. of users: 76.1 mil­lion free users, 3.8 mil­lion sub­scribers. Pros: Ease of use is the key. En­ter an artist’s name or song ti­tle, and you’ve cre­ated a ra­dio sta­tion. Con­sumers don’t have to work very hard to dis­cover new mu­sic and build playlists. Cons: Users have long com­plained about rep­e­ti­tion in Pan­dora sta­tions, partly be­cause of the com­par­a­tively small num­ber of avail­able songs. Lim­ited skips in free mode is a drag.

Rhap­sody

The orig­i­nal stream­ing mu­sic sub­scrip­tion ser­vice, Rhap­sody has been around since 2001. Ac­quired Nap­ster In­ter­na­tional in 2011. Avail­abil­ity: 32 coun­tries. Cost: $ 9.99 a month af­ter a 14- day free trial. $ 4.99 a month for its un­Ra­dio ver­sion, which has online ra­dio sta­tions sim­i­lar to Pan­dora. Free ver­sion: No. No. of tracks: 32 mil­lion. No. of users: 2.5 mil­lion pay­ing sub­scribers. Pros: Techies have praised the ease of use and straight­for­ward de­sign, which is a pos­i­tive for more laid- back cus­tomers who don’t want a lot of clut­ter. Un­Ra­dio is a good op­tion for fru­gal cus­tomers. Cons: Be­ing the first isn’t the same as be­ing the best, and Rhap­sody is of­ten con­sid­ered an also- ran amid the crowded field of newer con­tenders.

Google Play

Mu­sic Online mu­sic stor­age and stream­ing ser­vice provider from the Moun­tain View, Calif., search colos­sus. Launched its Spo­tify com­peti­tor in 2013. Avail­abil­ity: 58 coun­tries. Cost: $ 9.99 a month. Free Ver­sion: Just added a free Pan­dora- like In­ter­net ra­dio op­tion. No. of tracks: 30 mil­lion. No. of users: Not dis­closed. Pros: Sub­scrip­tion now in­cludes the new YouTube Mu­sic Key, which al­lows ac­cess to un­lim­ited mu­sic videos, com­mer­cial- free. You can also lis­ten to YouTube tracks in the back­ground while you use other apps on your mo­bile de­vice. Boasts cloud stor­age for up to 50,000 songs. Cons: There is no na­tive desk­top app for Mac users, but they can use through Web browsers.

Spo­tify

The big­gest sub­scrip­tion mu­sic ser­vice by user count. Avail­abil­ity: 58 coun­tries. Cost: $ 9.99 a month for “pre­mium” ser­vice; also has a three- month in­tro­duc­tory sub­scrip­tion for 99 cents. Free Ver­sion: Yes, with ads. Desk­top users get to play full al­bums and spe­cific songs with com­mer­cial in­ter­rup­tions. The mo­bile free ver­sion is more lim­ited. No. of tracks: 30 mil­lion. No. of users: 20 mil­lion paid, 55 mil­lion free. Pros: Tech crit­ics have praised the ser­vice’s easy so­cial media shar­ing func­tions and sound qual­ity. It also re­cently added pod­casts and video clips. Works with vir­tu­ally all ma­jor mo­bile de­vices and on home au­dio sys­tems. Cons: Spo­tify has faced crit­i­cism from some artists be­cause of low roy­alty rates.

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