For any glimmer of hope to be one of the best, a streaming site needs more than just bells and whistles …

Unless you’re one of those hip types only sifting through CDs and records at the thrift store, you’re probably one of the projected 198 million people in the country who partake in one of the streaming services available online. Between Soundcloud, Spotify, Apple Music and whatever the hell else there are these days, they all share a few key ingredients in trying to woo you over to their services.

Dollars and Sense

One of the most crucial elements a streaming site needs is banking a shit-ton of money. Whether it comes from subscription payments, ads or rich backers, a site needs capital to keep the servers running while paying artists enough to stay on Taylor Swift’s good side. Spotify pays rights holders 70 percent of all revenues on a per-play basis, but that comes out to pennies for artists, leaving barely enough for the company to get by. Conversely, TIDAL has shown that just being rich does not equal success.

Make It Easy For Mom

Like every other damn piece of newfangled technology in the world, Apple Music got this part right, too. Since just about everyone is familiar with the design and functionality of iTunes, it’s a safe bet that decent streaming services will look and work similar to it. SoundCloud loses functionality often because it changes layouts every week and adds or subtracts functions for the hell of it. A good streaming service should have foolproof navigation and be easy enough your mother can handle it without any help.

Straight Up Permission

Next to money, having permission from rights holders to host music on a streaming site is imperative. Big record labels are not to be trifled with. In 2011, Grooveshark fucked itself by violating copyright after copyright, and was slapped with a $17 billion lawsuit — eventually leading to its shutdown and seizure of all assets. Reportedly, SoundCloud might be next on the legal chopping block for similar reasons if it can’t solidify label deals. Any streaming service worth its salt should have its legal bases covered.

Tell Me What I Like

Though it’s easy to overlook when comparing streaming services, the ability to suggest new content based on what a user already likes is an important feature to consider. A good streaming service will make musical discovery virtually effortless by presenting an array of new, somewhat-related tracks. A bad streaming service will try shoving Meghan Trainor down your throat even though you’ve clearly been jamming to Slayer all month. As they say, anything worth doing is worth having someone else do it for you — the same is true for finding new music.

Streaming By The Numbers


contributed of total industry revenues by music streaming services in he first half of 2015


8.1 million

number of US paid subscriptions to on-demand services (note: Apple Music launched after the current RIAA report was released)


+$95 million

chance in subscription service revenue from first half of 2014 to first half of 2015


1.03 trillion

number of plays on Pandora, Rdio, Spotify, SoundCloud, Vevo, Vimeo and YouTube combined in the first 6 months of 2015

Source(s): RIAA's 2015 Mid-Year Shipment and Revenue Statistics Report and