I’m sure everyone has their preferred way of listening to music these days. Whether it is buying it online from a music store like iTunes or listening via their favorite app, everyone seems to have something they have locked on to. I figured I’d share my experience and what I use. I’m currently doing a little of both, putting music files on my phone and streaming music for things I don’t have.
First, the music I have, I put in iTunes. I hate iTunes. It sucks. It is buggy, it is slow, it doesn’t handle big music libraries very well. BUT, if you are using an iPhone and want to store music on your phone (and have access to control the music from most newer car audio systems), it is pretty much the only real option. I wish there was better, but I just haven found it. So my tip, what I do is convert everything to mp3 before putting in iTunes. Almost every player will support that. Then I use the program mp3tag to ensure all the tagging/artwork/etc is all filled out and consistent. I may do a blog on that piece of software later on, it is really handy. then I put in iTunes. I also go through iTunes and rate songs with the star rating system. I do that so I can set up smart playlists using genre and rating. (My country playlist is all songs with a genre Country and rating 4 stars or better). It takes a little time but it makes for easy management of a few favorite playlists.
I also tried Sirius radio for a while. I have it in the car (a small bank of time transferred from our other vehicle when we sold). They have an app too for streaming. It was alright, but I found what you pay for isn’t worth it. After a while the channels start to play pretty much the same playlists and you are at the mercy of what they play. I also found live sports were hard to find or non-existent, a benefit this should have. I took my Sirius budget and put it into streaming instead.
For streaming, I’ve tried a bunch of options. I tried to give Apple Music a try because it has better pricing for families and *should* integrate with iOS better. Problem is, it doesn’t. The UI is awful, and it is confusing what is on your phone and what isn’t. It also doesn’t integrate very well. I was expecting it to work great with my two vehicles since they support iPhone, but it is buggy and only a few auto generated playlists show up. I couldn’t seem to find a way to make the apple music play nice like the music on the phone. All the things Apple Music should be, it isn’t. It is just a streaming app with access to a large music library and a weak interface. Maybe the next version in the fall will be better.
So I ended up with Spotify. I like it quite a lot. They have support for many platforms, including Windows, iOS, Android, etc. In it you can search for Artists/Albums/Genres/Moods/Etc. You can create your own playlists or pick from other playlists already curated. You can even share playlists. If you pay for the app $9.99 per month, you get no music ads and can skip and pick/choose to your hearts content. The free version (Apple Music doesn’t have one) is ad supported and limits skips/etc. The other benefit of buying is that you can sync playlists down to your device so you can listen to it without using mobile data or needing a connection. It has a large music library, not everything is there, but a large chunk can be found. I don’t find I’m missing much. I also find sound quality suitable to my taste.
There are still some downsides to Spotify. It won’t integrate with your car stereo super well. You will need to pick what you are listening to on your device first and then you may be able to skip forward/backward/pause from the head unit. I’m hoping it will have Siri integration in the future to make that better. Secondly, the pricing isn’t great in Canada. $9.99 per month per user, no family discount. And you can only stream on one device at a time. they have family pricing elsewhere but haven’t brought to Canada yet. It would be nice to be able to get for the family for $15-20 per month for all the devices. And lastly, I find that all the curated playlists are fairly short and quality wise don’t seem to be the greatest. What that means is that you can be constantly searching for a new or better playlist. I’m hoping as more people come on board and share, this will get better. If you are hunting for a playlist, I have created a Coffee Cafe playlist that is currently at 74 songs and growing. You can add it to your Spotify here. I hope to keep adding to and working on my playlists as I continue to grow my library.