Streaming v Downloading: Where Should You Put Your Money?

By Ashley Campbell.

With the recent assessment that digital music sales will surpass the $5 billion barrier this year, it was the add on that streaming of music will be the main revenue generator with services such as Spotify, Napster and Pandora (USA) becoming the preferred choice of listening to our favourite artists and groups.Personally, being an iPhone owner I’ve gravitated towards downloading my music and have found the service a breeze to use, and with the addition of the ‘iCloud’ integration allowing all downloads to automatically update on all devices you have registered means I use my iPhone a lot more to download the tracks/albums in the first place.Before my iPhone days however I was a regular user of Spotify on my desktop PC, albeit when it was a free service with advertisements after every couple of tracks and found not only was it a quick way of listening to my favourite music, it also became a great source of discovery for music that I wouldn’t normally listen to. Interacting with Spotify was a joy as well even down to the cool gun metal and lime green interface.So with this in mind I thought I’d put a head to head together. Note this is my personal opinions as opposed to a general collation of information (I’ll leave that to the paid articles!).


 I’m taking into account the packages that come with full mobile integration rather than cheaper or free versions as the full memberships are the ones that go toe to toe with download services. Napster and Spotify both make this available for around the £10 per month mark. That comes with every song on their service which is typically in the millions. Compare this to downloading a song either on iTunes or Amazon and you’re looking at a maximum of 99p per single and between £7-£10 for a new album. On the surface the gulf is tremendous and I’m literally typing wondering if I’ve spent about 4 year’s worth of Spotify/Napster membership costs within the last 2 years on my iTunes account. WINNER: STREAMING


As mentioned earlier I found my time using Spotify to be a great experience, and using a trial of Napster in the office (via SONOS) to be an easy enough process also, I like the playlist feature they both have and even thinking of what songs I haven’t heard in ages to search and play was always cool too. However this is a department I think downloading music owns considerably. Firstly your music streaming service is only as good as the internet connection you are running it through, if it’s a healthy wifi signal then no problem, but if in a troublesome area or out and about on your mobile with little to no 3G/4G and you might as well forget it. With downloaded music however it is mine to play anytime and anywhere since it’s not being streamed, even on a flight I can delve into my iTunes and song hop to my heart’s content. Beyond this I can burn cd’s of the songs I’ve downloaded for my car’s use or simply hook my phone directly up via Bluetooth or auxiliary cable. Not until the days of Android head units that can stream via a solid 3G signal will these services be able to compete in that department. Worth mentioning that finding and downloading music online or on iTunes is a task which has the one flaw of seeing ‘album only’ when trying to get a particular track.

(NOTE: It’s worth mentioning that Spotify have an offline mode allowing you to have 3,333 songs available on your device without an internet connection with the premium account. How this affects storage and speed of use if you take up the full allocated amount I do not know.) WINNER: DOWNLOADING


I thought I’d throw this one in there as well, how does belonging to/or using anyone of these services make you feel as an individual and to those around you. I think there’s a definite coolness factor to streaming services, and if coupled with a home system such as SONOS or similar then you’re looking at something you probably saw on MTV Cribs several years ago. There is the risk of course of being that boring person who has to talk about their set up before using it to anyone who will listen! As for downloads the only thing that comes close to this is iTunes, as like anything from Apple you buy you become part of something greater than the particular product you own, coupled with the fact that chances you’re downloading your songs and playing them on your iPhone and the cool points keep on building. It’s obvious however that the iTunes experience is the only download service that comes close to this, Amazon and Sony haven’t captured this whatsoever, even with their respective devices that you can use alongside it, you just can’t recreate what owning and using Apple products does to your feel good factor. WINNER: ...?

WINNER: TIE (Purely on the strength of Apple and iTunes against the entire streaming community, otherwise streaming would have won comfortably)

It’s a close one between these and I think the answer realistically is a combination of both. For sheer variety for music at home streaming is definitely the way forward, being able to set up playlists for hours on end and have them feeding through whatever audio system you have at your disposal is a dream combination, and would realistically cost you a lot more than the £5 per month it costs for a home only subscription. However for music on the go then there’s no competition for being able to download your music collection and taking it wherever you go. Until we get affordable faultless 4G connection wherever we go, or if one of the streaming companies has a ‘rental’ feature being able to download select tracks to your mobile for a set number of days then it’s iTunes/Amazon/Sony all day for me.

Taken from: http://ashdigitalupdates.wordpress.com/