Tidal vs. Spotify: Which Is Better?

As we quickly are being pushed into a world of online music consumption, music streaming services are popping up all over the place. By now, I am sure we are all aware of Spotify, the leading streaming app in the world. Whether we are using the free or the premium service, almost everyone has a Spotify account. So when Jay-Z annouced the launch of Tidal, his new “for the artist, by the artist” music streaming app, many people were very skeptical about making the switch. For those of you who may not be familar with Tidal, it is a music streaming service, simular to Spotify that was launched by Jay-Z and other artists as stakeholders including Rihanna, Nicki Minaj, Madonna, Deadmau5, Kanye West, Jay Z, J. Cole, Calvin Harris, Chris Martin, Jason Aldean, Jack White, Daft Punk, Beyonce, Arcade Fire and Alicia Keys. The idea behind this streaming service is that it gives back more to the artists. There has long been a debate and outrage of streaming services offering a free option for consumers, that results in artists not getting their proper amout of royalties. Backlash from this included Taylor Swift taking her entire music catalog off the Spotify and artist like Adele refusing to put her album on any streaming service. Thus, Tidal was lauched by major artists, to better advocate for all artists. Music politics aside, as someone who works in the music industry and is an overall music ethnusitist, always looking for ways to consume my music on the go, I decided to share my thoughts on both streaming apps.

I have premium accounts with both Spotify and Tidal. So I will be comparing the two apps as a paying consumer of both services. I have had Spotify for much longer than Tidal, as it is an older company, so testing out Tidal was a little harder for me as I have already invested a few years into building my music library, likes, and playlist in Spotify. That being said, once I did give Tidal a shot, I found I very much enjoyed it as well, so let’s look at the 3 main things that stood out to me about the two services.

Note: One thing I do want the reader to keep in mind about this, is that Tidal is a very new company, and is still growing, things are not going to be perfect and up to par with a company that has been around for years already. You cannot expect a startup to be the same as an established company.

Design/Usablity

I am always on the go, thus 90% of the time I spead listening to music, is via mobile app. So the ease of use and the design is highly important for me.

As you can see, both a fairly simular in layout. Let’s start with Spotify. I have long been a fan of Spotify’s interface. It is sleek and very appealing to the eye and they are always updating to stay current. It is easy to navigate, it is colorful and overall works well for on the go. For Tidal, because they have more content options, (which i will cover next), their layout is a little different. However, I actually enjoy Tidal’s layout more than Spotify. It is more visually appealing to me. I can easily scroll through the browse and “What’s New” section and see songs and artist I enjoy. For me, it is better organized by tabs than Spotify is. I can get to all the sections with one tap rather than going through a series of tabs to get to my playlists or offline content. So winner for layout design goes to Tidal on this one.

Content

This is obviously the most important for music listeners, or maybe just for me, but the content is fairly simular between the two apps with a few exceptions. As far as your general musical content, both apps will carry it. Where the differences come in are additonal services and exclusive content. So, let’s start with Tidal. One of the reasons I have grown to love Tidal is the amount of content they offer for your money. I will get to pricing in the next section, but for right now let’s focus on what they offer. With Tidal you still get your typical sections like browse, what’s new, playlists and my music. What is additional here, that Spotify does not offer are the following.

  1. Tidal Rising — This is a section that highlights new and upcoming artists. It changes every day to let users discover new musicians. I love this, because I am always looking for new music. I get tired of seeing the same Billboard top 100 artists in my face everytime I open an app, so the fact that Tidal has offered this to highlight lesser known artists, tickles my soul.
  2. Videos — Tidal offeres videos both music and non, where Spotify does not. These videos include music videos, exclusive interviews, web shows, backstage footage, making of footage and more. It’s a great little addition for you money.
  3. Exclusive Content — Because Tidal is created and funded by artists, there is a lot of exclusive content you get on Tidal. For example Beyonce, Rihanna and Kanye West all released their albums exclusivly on Tidal. There are music videos that you can only find on Tidal. One of the reasons I got Tidal in the first place was for Prince. It is the only online service that Prince has put his entire music catalog. Aside of music, they also offer ticket pre-sale codes, free tickets to concerts and live concert footage for certian shows. So yeah, free concert tickets or watching Beyonce slay live, ain’t bad for under $15 a month.
  4. Celebrity Playlists — While Spotify does have celebrity playlists, they are not nearly as extensive as Tidal. Tidal has hundreds of Playlists created by celebrities and I must say, some of them are pretty fun. Some of their most recent is a playlist that is all the orignal songs that were sampled in Drake newest album “Views”, Angie Martinex’s “My Voice Playlist” that includes sonfs from Sugarhill Gang and Grandmaster Flash. Beyonce’s Backyard BBQ is also a playlist and so on. It’s just a fun little addition that I think spices up the playlist appeal a little more than Spotify.

Now let’s move on to Spotify’s content difference. While they don’t have all the things Tidal does, they do have some things Tidal does not.

  1. Podcasts — Spotify recently added podcast to their content, so now if you are a podcast listener (like myself), you can listen to everything all in one place, which can be great for you. For me, didn’t really make much of a difference as I enjoy using my podcast app on iphone.
  2. Comedy/Spoken Word — A little known secret about Spotify is that they actually have comedy albums and spoken word scuch as poety, some audio books and even speeched like Malcolm X and MLK. I stubbled across them by accident and was plesently surprised. It’s an interesting addition. How much it matters to consumers? I am not sure but it is there.
  3. Overall Playlists — I have to admit, whatever program Spotify uses to create playlists is phenominal. One of my complaints about Tidal is that they don’t have very good pre-made playlists. Spotify has hundreds and they are fantastic. Now this might just be a result of them having more users and us users have had years to create playlists but either way, Spotify is winning in the playlist catagory.
  4. Running Mode — For people who workout, Spotify lauched a cool feature within their app called Running, which basically matches the tempo of your run to music that has the same bpm (beats per minute) so you can run in synch with your music. I use equipment like the treadmill, and I discovered it cannot measure if you’re on the treadmill so it did not work for me. It’s also possible Iwas doing it wrong, but either way, if you can get it to work, it is a pretty dope addition.

Pricing

Yes, now we get to the most important aspect of it all, how much it costs. Cost has been one of the things that has worked against Tidal, because it does not offer a free options, for the reasons discussed above, but in my opinion if you’re paying for a streaming service anyway, either service is equally appealing. As I said before, I have the premium subscription for both apps.

Spotify has a wide varity of pricing options that has helped them become the largest streaming app in the world.

Free & Premium— They have the free option. That being said, free comes at a cost.

As you can see, you really can’t do much with the free option. It’s bascially Pandora shuffle, you can’t pick any song you want, it just shuffles. In addition, there is an insane amount of annoying ads that cut into your listening time. For me, the free option just is not worth it.

The premium service is pretty great, you get access to whatever you want and can create as many playlist as you want. In addition you can use it on up to 3 different devices and have all your info sync across them all. The premium service is $9.99(USD)/month.

Student Discount and Family Sharing — Spotify offers a 50% off premium service for college students upon verification of their edu email. This price ends up being $4.99(USD)/month. However, this option currently only applies to U.S. institutions.

The next option which is a fairly new addition, is their family sharing plan. To keep it simple, you get Spotify Premium for up to 5 seperate accounts for 1 discounted monthly price of $29.99(USD). There are also options for $14.99 (two users), $19.99 (three users) and $24.99 (four users). So if you’re looking for something for the whole family or even if you just want to split costs with friends, it’s a good deal.

Now for Tidal’s pricing options. Currently they only offer 2 different pricing tiers.

Tidal Premium — Same price and accessablity as Spotify’s Premium service at $9.99(USD)/month. When Tidal first lauchedm it started at $12.99/month which caused some contraversy. I personally didn’t see the issue, it’s a couple extra dollars and as discussed in the context section, you’re getting way more for those extra $3. Also, to bring back what I said before, it is a new company so yeah, it took a little time to get the price down to a competive price. So don’t write things off just because they’re new. It will take some time.

Tidal HiFi — I personally have never tried this service. But the difference between the two is the quality. From what they have been marketing and what I have heard from HiFi suscribers is that the music sound quality is vastly different and the videos are in High Definition. This service is $19.99(USD)/month. I don’t care enough to pay the exra $10/month but hey, if you have the money, why not.

Student Discount — Tidal also offers a Student discounted rate for $4.99(USD)/month. Same services as preimum and same price as Spotify.

Overall, both services are great. But if I absolutly had to choose one, I would go with Tidal. For all the reasons listed above and now being offered at the same price as Spotify, I have to go with the app that offers me more for my money and allows me more access to discovering new artists. Tidal is newer and has some catching up to do in terms of competive pricing and winning over customers, but they have been doing so fairly rapidly and I think with time, they will be successful. Spotify has been dominate in the streaming industry and pretty much has every avenue covered, and will only continue to grow. I will more than likely continue to pay for both services as they each fullfill a different need for me. Spotify, with its ease and familiarity and Tidal with it’s vast content and discoverablity. This is what works for me, other may feel different, but I reccomend you give them both a try and tell me what you think. At the end of the day, choose the service that gets you the music that you want to hear.

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