I recently read an article on The Verge called "The best music streaming service". It's pretty familiar stuff if you've read similar articles across tech sites or blogs. The problem is that these articles don't seem to capture my use-case or resonate with my priorities when choosing a music streaming service. After reading the article on The Verge, I think I understand why. Before I explain why though, some background for context...
I just ended my Apple Music Subscription after a couple of years. Why? Because I was miserable. Music has always been important to me but I found that my interest in music had completely stagnated; I wasn't finding new music (except for new albums by bands or musicians I already liked), I wasn't even finding music that I did like unless it was in my existing collection. Instead, I found myself listening to the same albums or tracks over-and over. Of course, Apple Music offered plenty of playlists but, even if I liked a couple of songs in each one, I didn't like the whole. There is a "New Music" mix each week but I rarely liked any of the songs in it. Apple Music just didn't understand what I liked - it just didn't get me.
(At this point, the question has to be why I stayed for so long. The rest of my family are iPhone users and so wanted to stick to their native music service and I didn't want to pay for more than one service.)
Earlier this year, YouTube Music relaunched and I decided to give it a try and see what was new. The difference was a revelation - YouTube Music's "Your Mixtape" kept playing music I love. Track after track, it was hitting home runs every time: music I owned, music I had forgotten I liked, music I was hearing for the first time (actually there has been one track I really didn't like so far, but I at least understood why the algorithm thought I might). The playlists are often complete lists of music that I love. That's the second time I've used the word "love" in this paragraph - that's not a word I use lightly. I'm excited about listening to music again.
Circling back then, why is it that the various articles comparing streaming services aren't talking about the experience I just described? Then I read the following in The Verge article:
A good streaming music service has a straightforward user interface that makes it easy to organize a library of thousands of songs or playlists across the web, Android, and iOS apps, and in some cases, a desktop Mac or Windows app.
I realized that I have absolutely no interest in organizing a library of songs or playlists; I just want to listen to good music from the moment I open the app to the moment I close it. In fact, when I thought more about it, organizing anything digitally seems a rather old-fashioned idea - I haven't organized a photo album since Google Photos took over all the heavy lifting; I haven't organized a news feed since a host of services sprang up that would organize the feed for me; even "My list" in Netflix is a surprise when I stumble upon it - why do I need to add things to a list when Netflix will bring up potentially interesting shows front-and-center? The difference between Apple Music and YouTube Music experiences, at least for me, is all about discoverability.
A note for Spotify users: You are probably thinking about the great algorithms in Spotify, if not the "Discover Weekly" functionality. I'm not suggesting that YouTube Music has a monopoly here and, for the record, I have no problem with The Verge's conclusion that Spotify is the best streaming service - that is not what this post is about.
It's my view that music discoverability should, in 2018 and beyond, be a central consideration in choosing a streaming service, and it should be a central element in any review on the subject.
What do you think?