Streaming Platforms Are Great — If You Have Really Basic Taste in Music
Jonny Coleman digs into each major streaming platform to determine whether streaming is really the best way to discover new music.This article originally appeared on LA Weekly
All of the major streaming platforms tout the fact that they are an amazing way to discover new artists. But for more serious listeners, that claim is usually empty. I’ve never “discovered” an artist I didn’t know through an “if you liked X, you’ll probably like Y” algorithm, all of which only seem capable of delivering the most obvious results. And all of these services have giant holes in their catalogs, which, for musical completists, makes them not worth crossing the paywall.
Every major streaming service has its own unique set of flaws, which we’ll get into in a moment. But it’s important to note that the underlying cause might be the same. Ultimately, these are all the creations of tech people hoping to create fortunes based on cutting out the rights holders of the music as much as possible. A combination of bad business practices, poor application of technology, and unrealistic expectations so far has delivered nothing but inferior products. They may serve the most casual of listeners, but for both the artists themselves and their most ardent fans, so far, no service has delivered everything it's promised.
YouTube is the oldest entity on this list and has grandfathered its way to legitimacy — kinda, sorta — along the way. But it’s far from the ideal way to discover or listen to music. It’s still great at what it originally set out to be: a place for amateurs to host their own videos. But as a music streaming platform (or as a source for professional, scripted content), it leaves much to be desired. YouTube is riddled with ads and unofficial uploads. And the site — like every other streamer on this list — pays artists, publishers and labels like garbage. In broad terms, streaming companies are taking most of the payouts that would have gone to artists or other rights holders, and YouTube is arguably the worst offender of the bunch.
On a technical level, the sound quality on YouTube is generally atrocious. Songs often sound compressed and tinny. And as a discovery engine, it's even worse. The videos it recommends to me on the right hand column never offer any suggestions beyond the obvious — or the totally irrelevant, thanks to major labels paying for more exposure and higher search results.
Read the full analysis of Soundcloud, Spotify and Tidal by Jonny Coleman at LA Weekly