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The Best Music Apps for 2016

Let's face it. Most of us can't live without music! It is a part of our everyday lives, and we have an insatiable appetite for songs and discovering new artists. Thanks to streaming becoming the dominate way to digest our music, we now have access to wide far reaching catalogs of songs to choose from. We also turn to apps to learn our musical preferences and help us discover new songs that we may love. I have been searching for the perfect app that will allow me to play the exact songs I want to hear when I want to hear them while also helping me discover new artists based on my preferences. This desire started me on a search for the best music apps of the moment. Here is what I uncovered about the leading apps in the category.

Apple Music
With the whole iTunes library at their disposal, Apple was perfectly positioned to provide the next big solution in music streaming. As an iTunes user for many years, this service already seems familiar and safe to me, but I promised to keep an open mind and explore all my options. According to the website, they offer 3 different options. Listen for free, but get limited access to their services. Sign up for a solo paid membership for $9.99 and get access to all their services. Lastly, sign up for a family sharing membership for $14.99 per month, but that allows access for up to 6 people under one account. So what do you get for free? Well the free version is basically like Pandora. Get access to their radio stations but you are subject to limited amounts of skips. As a member, you get unlimited access to the iTunes music library allowing you the freedom to listen to songs you want to hear on demand. You can also download the songs for offline listening and add the content to your personal library. The only downside there is if you ever unsubscribe any songs that you downloaded and didn't individually pay for will no longer be available to you.

YouTube Music
Google presents their solution to music streaming via the power of YouTube. With a YouTube Red subscription for $9.99 per month you get access to music videos as well as music for online or offline listening. YouTube Music also boasts access to remixes and live performances, which is something that definitely piqued my interest. Listen to music or have videos playing while you are using other apps or when you screen is off in rest mode. Content saved offline will remain useable for 30 days, so it is more for short stints where you will be offline such as camping or traveling. A YouTube Red subscription gets you access to the Google Play Music library. If you already have a subscription to the Google Play Music Library you automatically get free access to the YouTube Red app. If you choose not to purchase a subscription you are still allowed to search for and play music, but you will be subject to ads and you won't have access to all the app's features. YouTube Music also incorporates its vast knowledge of user behavior from Google and YouTube to better predict what songs sound good together as well as what songs are trending and up and coming. If you consider that YouTube is now the place where many new artists get their start, it is exciting to think of how that reputation will be used to introduce new artists through the app. Another added advantage is access to live concert streaming from your favorite performers. All together it makes for a pretty impressive package.

You may have heard about Tidal, because of it's high profile owner, Jay-Z. Although Jay-Z is not the only thing that makes this service interesting. Their point of differentiation is high quality streaming, where all the audio is cd quality. Because of the higher audio quality of the tracks, Tidal does not offer free access to the music. Listeners must sign up for a $9.99 subscription or opt for even higher quality, premium audio for $19.99 per month. To stand out from the crowd, Tidal also plans to offer exclusive content from popular artists such as Rhianna and Lil Wayne. Tidal is still a much smaller service than it's competitors though and there have been rumors that the company has been off to a rocky start, but there is a ton of potential here still making it a big contender.

The controversial Spotify is definitely a top dog in the music streaming scene. They offer access to 30 million tracks for free listening, although listening to ads is of course required in the free version of the app. You will also be tied down by a limited number of skips, and you will not be able to choose songs to play on demand. The free version is like Pandora where it shuffles songs for you based on your preferences. A paid subscription for $9.99 per month does give you access to ad free listening and you can choose songs to play on demand. You can also save music for offline listening. Cancel your subscription and songs you had saved for offline listening will no longer by playable. If you are a student, Spotify offers a student discount! Like Apple Music, they also offer deals for families that sign up together.

What service do you use for music streaming? Have you taken the plunge and signed up for a monthly subscription, or are you streaming for free? I'd love to hear your thoughts as I wade through the pros and cons of the many viable contenders out there.

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