There are several digital music streaming services. Spotify is undoubtedly the most popular, but Tidal has become very popular lately. Which one is the best option?
Digital music consumption surpassed physical sales long ago. Streaming has been revealed as a viable business model, and, consequently, not just a few platforms have wanted to get involved in the benefits of this new era of music consumption.
In addition, we find other platforms like Apple Music, Google Play Music, Amanzon Music, YouTube Music or Deezer, and among all of them, why are only two attracting the most attention? Before comparing them, let’s see the reasons.
Spotify and Tidal: a bit of context
When it comes to popularity, Spotify has no rivals. Although founded in 2006, the Swedish company did not enter the market until October 2008. As a pioneer, it quickly established itself as the go-to choice for many music lovers around the world.
Early this year it had 271 million active users, of which 124 million are premium users. Numbers that place it well above the rest of the services. For that reason, and not on a whim, at Drop.Show we give so much importance to the statistics generated in this platform.
Spotify showed a new way of consumption. Facing the illegal downloads that Napster encouraged, based on the free exchange of files in .mp3 format through a P2P network, and the legal purchase of songs that the Apple company launched through its iTunes service; Daniel Ek’s company offered users a system that avoided storing files on our devices.
Now everything was in the cloud. A wide catalog of artists from all periods and from anywhere in the world was instantly accessible, secure, legal and free, revolutionizing the music industry forever.
For its part, Tidal was created by the Norwegian company Aspiro, and hit the market in October 2014. In January 2015 the company was acquired by New York rapper Jay-Z, who relaunched the service in March of the same year. As a novelty, the new platform was presented as “a more sustainable and practical model for the music industry”.
As explained from their web:
“Tidal pays the highest ratio of royalties vs. incomes to music creators from any streaming service, and artists are paid the same fees regardless of whether they are signed by a major record label, an independent label, or not at all. “
Tidal advocates a more direct system of music consumption between artists and followers, in a way that leaves out the businessmen who act as intermediaries between both factions, as is the case with the rest of the services. This is not an ordinary company, and other artists and groups such as Alicia Keys, Arcade Fire (Win Butler and Regine Chassagne), Beyoncé, Calvin Harris, Claudia Leitte, Clifford “IT” Harris, Coldplay, Daft Punk, Deadmau5, Jack White , Jason Aldean, J. Cole, Kanye West, Madonna, Nicki Minaj, Rihanna, Damian Marley, Indochine, Lil Wayne and Usher are listed as co-owners of the platform.
A kind of cooperative in which the musicians look out for their interests and those of their fans. Although if they are attracting the interest of many music lovers, it is because of the great audio quality it offers, as we will see below.
Tidal, like Spotify, has a very similar interface, sections, and options. The difference is not much less significant. Both offer playlists of news, genres, recommendations based on your listening, the option to create your own lists, etc.
As for the number of songs, Spotify claims to have over 30 million, while Tidal raises the bet to 60 million. We have searched their catalogs for the most underground bands in our country, and both have yielded satisfactory results. So, in that sense, the amount is not significant to tip the balance towards one or the other. All users will have at their disposal the albums of their favorite bands.
Where we do find a marked difference is in podcasts and music videos. While Spotify shows a wide range of the named above, in Tidal this format is anecdotal. They have exclusive podcasts in which the artists themselves participate, but it does not give the user the possibility to share their own projects. For its part, it does show an interesting music video service. Many are in short supply. In fact, they currently have 250,000, but the proposal of integrating videos to have the artists’ creations in the same place is interesting, without having to go to alternative pages such as YouTube.
The main feature of Spotify is its freemium model, which allows you to enjoy all the music for free in exchange of inserting punctual advertisements and avoiding downloading the songs to listen to them in offline mode.
Spotify Premium price
- Individual: 1 account for 9.99€/month
- Duo: 2 accounts for 12.99€/month
- Family plan: up to 6 accounts for 14.99€/month
- Students: 1 account for 4.99€/month
For its part, the Jay-Z platform does not have a freemium mode. Those who want to enjoy Tidal for free will have to settle for a 7-day free trial. However, if you decide to pay for a subscription, they will give you a month free.
- Premium: 1 account for 9.99€/month
- HiFi: 1 account for 19.99€/month
- Family Premium: up to 6 accounts for 14.99€/month
- Family HiFi: up to 6 accounts for 29.99€/month
- Student Premium: 1 account for 4.99€/month
- Student Premium HiFi: 1 account for 9.99€/month
As we see, the different plans do not differ on both platforms. In the case of Tidal, we have omitted other models aimed at the military and at emergency teams (emergency medical technicians, police, firefighters and postal service employees) because they are exclusive to the United States.
Surely the two variants that the service offers of each plan have caught your attention: one normal and the other HiFi (high fidelity). And this is the biggest attraction of Tidal, the attention they put on sound quality. That is why it is necessary to address that point.
Sound quality depends on the compression that audio files undergo so that they can be transmitted smoothly online, and is measured by the amount of information transmitted per second, generally in kilobytes. Surely you have seen before the initials “kbps” associated with .mp3 files. The lower the bit rate, the higher the audio compression and therefore a lower sound quality.
But the Quality doesn’t only depend on the format, but also on the place where you play the songs and the equipment you have for it. So listening to music on web players is not the same as on other devices such as computers, mobiles, tablets, audio equipment, with headphones or others, etc.
Having established the above as a starting point, Spotify establishes 5 options to choose the quality of the music you listen to, as long as you do not do it from the web player, which by default establishes an ACC compression format at 128 kbps for free users and 256 for premium subscribers.
Spotify audio quality
- Automatic: it depends on your connection.
- Low: 24 kbps.
- Normal: 96 kbps.
- High: 160 kbps.
- Very high: 320 kbps (only available for premium users).
Tidal audio quality
- Normal: quality adapted to slow connections.
- High: 320 kbps.
- HiFi: 1411 kbps o 16 bits / 44,1 kHz. FLAC format. CD quality, without data loss due to compression.
- Master: 96 kHz / 24 bits. MQA format. Sound quality comparable to that obtained in the studio. Remarkably sharp. Only available with “HiFi” plans.
The last two are the main tricks Tidal plays with, the main claim for audiophiles. Although the second is not always available, it is common in the work of renowned groups and artists such as The Smiths, some works by The Beatles, David Bowie, Pink Floyd and the works of those listed as owners of the platform. According to their website, they have more than a million songs labeled “MASTER”.
Of course, this quality implies a higher consumption of mobile data, so if you are outside a Wi-Fi network, you better have an unlimited data plan on your mobile. Of course, like Spotify, it also has an offline option with which you can download the songs to your device to listen to them offline. But higher quality also means more use of space on the device. On the other hand, proper equipment is required to enjoy “master” sound.
If you are not willing to pay for music, Spotify is your best option. While if you are a premium user or are willing to pay for a plan, both platforms are good and have satisfactory quality standards for any listener. In this regard, your predilection for podcasts, music videos or the intention that artists obtain a fairer remuneration for their work may be decisive.
Now, if you are one of those music lovers who enjoys every nuance, every arrangement and every sound, in the diversity of registers and the space between tracks, Tidal is your platform. If you already have countless playlists on Spotify and you don’t plan to leave them behind, don’t worry, you can import them to Tidal through other platforms such as Tune My Music or Soundiiz. Then, what is the best? Well, it depends on your tastes, your listening habits and needs.
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