More than half of the entertainment I enjoy is streamed. I don’t have cable TV; instead, I have subscriptions to Hulu Plus, Netflix and HBO Now, and when I like a movie enough to own it, I purchase a digital copy and stream it through Amazon Prime. I don’t take my iPod to the gym; instead, I make mixes in Spotify and Google Play Music, and purchase my MP3s through the iTunes store and Bandcamp. (In fact, the only forms of physical media I still buy are books, magazines and vinyl LPs.)
There are dozens of video and music streaming services out there, enough for you to be choosy. Why not begin 2017 by clearing out your bandwidth, literally and figuratively?
Video. With an Internet connection, you can get Netflix ($8-$10 monthly, depending on the number of screens you’d like to use simultaneously), Hulu Plus ($8 monthly for one screen, with an optional $4 “no commercials” add-on) and HBO Now ($15 monthly, three simultaneous screens), and see virtually every show your friends are talking about, from Game of Thrones to Stranger Things to Saturday Night Live, without having to flip past the Hallmark Channel each time. And there’s talk that Hulu and YouTube will begin streaming entire networks live in 2017, including Turner Classic Movies and ESPN.
Music. At first blush, all of the major music streaming services—Amazon Music Unlimited, Apple Music, Google Play Music, Spotify and Tidal—look remarkably similar. All of them boast music libraries in the 25-30 million artists range, and all of them have a basic, $10 monthly subscription fee. But look more closely, and the individual touches appear: Spotify and Google also offer podcasts; Amazon, Apple and Google allow you to store your own MP3s on their servers; and Tidal live-streams concerts and offers a lossless audio streaming option (1,411 kilobits per second, versus their competitors’ 320.)
I’d recommend Spotify or Tidal. Apple still doesn’t play nicely with non-Apple hardware, Google’s mobile interface is deeply confusing (and you can use its MP3 server storage without a subscription) and Amazon’s service seems almost an afterthought. Just remember: No matter which service you choose, if you like an artist enough to support them, buy their MP3s directly from Bandcamp, or simply get their stuff on vinyl. It sounds better, anyway.