I’m a month into my three month free trial of Apple Music, and I’ve been a very happy customer so far. With a few caveats (you can’t load Apple Music tracks onto an iPod Shuffle? Really?) it’s been a fantastic service that’s exceeded my expectations. The addition of yet another monthly fee for a streaming service did give me pause. I fled traditional media sources (mainly cable TV) because it had become so obnoxiously expensive without providing a level of value I felt matched the cost. With the explosion of streaming services (and more on the way) will things just go back to the way they were?
In short, I seriously doubt it. While I can envision a day that I pay as much for my streaming services as I did cable, the market is structurally different. Should I find that any of the streaming services don’t live up to my expectations or just aren’t used that often I can easily end that particular service. Comparably, I might have kept Comcast’s TV service had I been able to rid myself of the chaff and pay for what I was going to watch. In years past when I had one of the huge old C-band satellite dishes it was possible to do just that; ESPN, movie channels, and a few select others came to $200 A YEAR. Between surcharges for premium channels, HD content, and DVR I have friends that pay almost that much per month.
Selecting different outlets/services allows you to better tailor your media experience as well. Each video service tries to differentiate in certain ways- Hulu has movies, but specializes in TV. Netflix is primarily known for movies but is branching out (very successfully) into original content. Sling TV was the first serious effort at providing traditional TV service via internet, but providers like Comcast have already jumped into the market (and Apple is still hotly rumored to have a service coming in the near future). While Spotify and Apple Music try to be everything to all listeners there are boutique streaming services for special niches. Even audiobooks (Audible) and books (Oyster) have online services.
While most content is readily available (save football- get with the future, NFL) consumers need to be aware of all of their options and the mounting cost of subscription. That $10 monthly fee may seem like nothing, but it can add up quickly- Hulu, Netflix, Crunchyroll, HBO Now, and Apple Music (my current providers) come to over $60 a month. Much like cell phone plans or TV services you can minimize your expenses by keeping an eye on your habits and what you really use. Relying on iTunes or Amazon movie rentals can be more cost-effective if you love movies but don’t watch that many. Opting for Spotify’s or Pandora’s free ad-supported service can be a better option than a paid Spotify or Apple Music account for some. As an earlier post indicated I’ll be saving a couple hundred a year by allowing my complimentary Sirius XM account to expire in favor of streaming Apple Music from my phone.
No matter what your tastes are there’s a streaming service that can cater to your needs. The first hurdle is the switch from passive enjoyment (just turn it on and veg out) to active enjoyment (having to consciously play a role in what media you get, and what content you want to experience)- one that I believe pays dividends through better quality entertainment. The second is understanding what options are available to you and making an educated selection: would cord cutting save money and provide more of what you’d like, or maybe a traditional media source fits your needs better? Would buying/ripping CDs (or even vinyl) suit you, or do you prefer buying from digital sources like iTunes, Amazon, or Google Play? Do you crave to ‘own’ your music, or would having access to a colossal library through a subscription service suit you better? Only you know your needs. There are so many options, and each can be deceptively priced, so caveat emptor- those subscription fees can add up quickly.