Unless you’ve been living under a rock or sequestered in a hotel room for jury duty, you will have undoubtedly heard of the battle that is raging on between the artists and the streaming services. This is quite important that you as consumers understand what the issues are. Eventually, it will be you who ultimately pays the price for the settlement of them. I would first like to give you some background on the payment structures regarding the artists, before we get into our conversation. The artists are all up in arms and fighting for their financial lives to explore ways to get their music played, while not allowing it to be given away by those who would determine its value, without even consulting with them on the price they will receive for it.
You see, a digital download gives the artists and labels 60% of the revenue from the sale, or approximately $6.00 for the label and artists to distribute between them, per their recording deals. Streaming on the other hand pays an amount equal to $0.002 per stream. That means, it will take approximately 3,000 streams on average, for the same amount of revenue to be generated that an artist would receive, on one digital album sale. Adding to this sad state of affairs, is the fact that Pandora uses a loophole, claiming they are allowed a terrestrial radio Internet exclusion component, which allows them an exemption to pay only $0.001 per play, or half as much as the other streaming services! This is absolutely heinous to anyone attempting to make a living in this music business! This is not the way to foster a dialog or make for a long lasting relation between the content creators and the streamers, but we’ll discuss that in the future.
I only bring this up to enlighten you to the fact, that streaming is far from established or set in stone, from where it will be in the months and years to come. The changes in pricing will eventually be charged to you, the consumer, as content creators petition Congress for changes to the rules governing them.
The option to streaming, Satellite Radio, in this case (Sirius XM), pays a bit more to the artists. All the funds for both the streaming services and satellite radio are collected for the Artists and Repertoire owners (the labels) by SoundExchange. They are set up to collect the digital performance royalties on a monthly or quarterly basis.
Let’s first look at some of the top streaming services such as Pandora, Spotify, Tidal, and Apple Music. There are more such as Deezer and Rdio, but they pretty much come in as second tier to the examples that I’m using here. Pandora and Spotify have a “Freemium” component, meaning that you get to listen to the music for free, following advertising which funds the service. If however, you are willing to pay a monthly fee ($4.99 for Pandora and $9.99 for Spotify), then you can listen commercial-free without interruption.
Both Tidal and Apple Music charge you $9.99 per month for the service, but Tidal offers you a “High Fidelity” listening option for $19.99, for true music aficionados. I will not rate these services at the moment, as this is more for you the listener to do, as you see which fits your needs, and check off your want boxes.
Sirius XM offers the listener tiers of access with different pricing for each. The most common one, is the “all music package” giving you 32 channels for $11 a month, and goes up to the full package which offers access to 165 channels for around $20 per month. As you can see, you have choices, but it’s what you want as a listener, that will determine what you go for and which service is right for you.
Streaming allows you to either listen to a preprogrammed channel of the music such as jazz, quiet storm, EDM, rock and more, while also offering you the capabilities of creating your own personalized channel. When you create your own channel, it’s like making a pre-recorded party tape that you would prepare for an evening for your listening pleasure, or when you decide to have guests over. You make the choices and limit or expand the genres to your personal tastes. You may even opt to delete songs that you hear come up randomly that are not your taste, and then you will not hear them or others like them, from that point on.
You also have the option of allowing the computer establish a profile of what you like and dislike. It will begin to collect data and information on your choices, tastes, and even tempos and lyrical content of music that you listen to, as well as determining whether you listen mostly to males of females. From that point on, it will utilize that data in making suggestions to you, programming “what it feels that you will enjoy”, based upon your data! This can be a blessing or a curse, as you lose the option of being surprised and receiving suggestions that might fall outside of your normal range of taste. Remember, it is a computer and not a human who is making suggestions. This is not what I would opt for, but clearly in today’s “do it all for me” society, the benefits are, that you maintain complete selectivity of what you are listening to and what you want to include to avoid, during your day or evening of music listening pleasure.
These playlists can only be made if you subscribe to the premium service, as they require the absence of advertising to create one that flows for the evening.
Some people like the ease of Pandora and it’s “Music Genome Project”, which allows you to notate” thumbs up” on songs using this feature, to collect data and make more suggestions that are along that line of listening. Since Pandora acts as a radio station, you have the option to combine multiple stations into one, giving you the illusion of a playlist by cycling through different artists and genres.
You also have channels that have star studded hosts, and some 24 hour entertainment such as “BEATS 1” on Apple Music, but these are geared for specific tastes and do not really apply to all listeners across the board.
The quality and ease of access is pretty standard on all of these services. But Tidal has the ability to deliver the best quality at a premium price, while Apple Music and Spotify have the greatest flexibility for you to be creative, and Pandora gives you the lowest price and quality, while being geared for the adult listener.
Now for Sirius XM and their value. If you love diversity and the option of listening to a real human with personality, with an added option of the unscripted and unpredictable, then Satellite is the way for you to go. It operates more like traditional radio, but for the most part on most channels, you will have no commercial interruptions, and get a CD-quality product that will allow you to get your fill of one type of programming, and then switch over and hear something totally new and unpredictable.
There are much more diverse platforms of entertainment across the board. From Comedy and Broadway Musicals, to two channels of Howard Stern…and everything from business reports, to the Playboy channel. There is even a channel dedicated to alternative lifestyles. The nicest thing with Sirius XM, is the inclusion of human curators who allow listeners to be entertained rather then to be responsible to entertain themselves.
Just as with streaming services, you have the ability to pick a genre of music and hear it non-stop without any commercial interruption. But with Satellite, you can also choose a period of Music such as the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s and so on, as well as multiple channels of diverse dance music across the spectrum from EDM to Studio 54!
Unlike streaming, you can also hear news programs from around the world, listen to old radio broadcasts, hear the NFL and MLB, and get entertained with the their top 40 programs and countdowns such as “Morning Mash Up” and more.
The choice is really yours and it is not an easy one. If you want your music for parties and to be used as the soundtrack of your life, then you may want to subscribe to any of the Streaming Services, as they would most likely suit your needs. If you are an audiophile, then you can consider Tidal, but I believe it’s not long for this world, especially in the unraveling state that it is in at the moment.
If it’s diversity, and want more options then you can possibly imagine, and if you just like hearing from other humans who love music and all gamut’s of entertainment, then I believe the choice for you is Satellite Radio, because if offers you unlimited options while allowing you to take a break from being “a glutton at a one genre buffet”.
Like everything in life, some of us like chocolate and others vanilla, and neither of us are wrong. What you choose has to be something that suits your taste and lifestyle, but at least in this case, you have many good options and should explore them all with free trials before you take the plunge.
As always, make sure you love the music and respect the artists that create it! They give so much of themselves, to allow you and I to experience such joy and fulfillment in our lives, and all they really want in return is the ability to earn a living doing what they love, that you benefit from as well.