Adjust contrast

Streaming music services by Dr. Mike Townsend

(Note:  This article is based on a presentation given at the TAVIP Tech-A-Break 2018 event.)


I enjoy music and have a large CD collection. However, it now remains largely untouched! I also have a large number of downloads which I have collected over the years. iTunes was the 1st reason for abandoning my physical collection. iTunes match meant that all my music was available in the cloud. The Windows interface was rather clunky, but the iOS interface on my Apple devices proved easy to use.

Now I have a virtually unlimited music collection. Streaming services, even over 4G, mean that I can have almost any music almost anywhere. I just couldn’t believe it! I was sitting in clogged traffic in central London with Anne Rigby and she said, “go on let’s have some music” and she just played anything I suggested in the taxi.

This was Apple music.

A straw poll of delegates at the tech a break event showed that mainly 2 music streaming services were in use in the group. These were “Spotify” and “Apple music”. Amazon Music was gaining some support.

I first started to use “Spotify” three or four years ago. It is pretty clunky under Windows, but Brian Hartgen’s “Leasey” came to the rescue. Brian uses his own powerful scripts to make Windows “Spotify” work. There are also many other tools in the “Leasey” package of scripts for Jaws.

Do you ever get an “ear worm”? Quite often in a radio play there is a piece of music that just stays with me! “the sunshine of your smile” was the song that got me hooked on “Spotify”. It was quite a “haunting” rendition. But my 1st search just produced some rather scratchy early 20th century versions. I had to revert to YouTube and unearthed the correct version by Mike Berry. The quality of YouTube is not particularly good! However, after a lot of searching on “Spotify”, they eventually “got it!” (I think searching improves their collection). I then tried “the sunshine of your smile” with Apple music to no avail. They have all caught up now.

During the session, I tried to add a song to 1 of my “Spotify” playlists. It was not very successful, as the updated “Spotify” screen was very cluttered. In contrast, the Apple music screen is very clean. I was able to add my chosen song to my “autumn” playlist.

My autumn “earworm” goes like this: “the leaves are falling, the summer is gone. Winters calling, I’ve got to move on!” Every autumn for the last couple of years I’ve tried to “unearth” this song. None of the services found it! Even a text lyrics search on the Internet only discovered an obscure reference to “1 of those old songs” in a homily. But this summer, I tried Amazon music Unlimited. What a revelation! I asked Amazon to play “the leaves are falling” and up came my “earworm” on and Alexa said “the leaves are falling” by the Overlander’s. Found!

Streaming music is fun. But my experience shows that making the right choice is important. The 3 I have used extensively are as follows:

“Spotify” has a good range of music, streams at a reasonable quality, but struggles a bit in the accessibility area. I have uploaded my own collection of music using the “source” feature. I have connected “Spotify” to my Alexa devices. A big bonus is that “Spotify” has a completely free, advertising supported, service.

Apple music is easy to use on mobile devices with a very clean interface. The streaming quality is pretty good, and I find that the range of music is excellent. My collection of CDs and downloads is readily available although I need to search that collection separately. Siri is probably my preferred way of using Apple music. It does not connect to my Amazon devices.

Amazon music Unlimited is a great service. When I tried it, it was a bit rigid to the voice interface. But I’m told that it is now much more flexible particularly through the Alexa apps on mobile devices. The quality played through my Amazon devices was fine, and the range is clearly good. I have used Plex to connect to my own music collection.

There are many other streaming services. The new kid on the block is YouTube music which replaces Google music. If you want really high quality offerings, then you might well look to “Tidal” and “Qobuz”. But these are very expensive.

This is a very personal look at the services, and I welcome your comments through the usual TAVIP (BCAB) channels.

Unfortunately, I cannot afford to pay for all the services!