Selecting A Music Program for Your Family

I felt it was time to synchronize my house with one music app so I did some research on what made the most sense for us. My objective was to find solid music app I could listen to regularly, as well as use with the kids. Seems easy enough. I decided to sample the big three options for a week at a time, and here’s my observations:watch full film Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides 2011 online

Apple Music:

  • $10 per individual or $15 for family plan of 6 per month.
  • 30 million songs.
  • Some radio stations.
  • Saving locally seemed inconsistent.
  • Works nicely with iTunes, but not everyone in my family has that.
  • Interface was a little difficult.
  • Supposedly lower audio quality (256kbps), but I couldn’t tell the difference between the higher 320 KBPS.

Spotify

  • $10 per individual or $15 for family plan of 6 per month.
  • 30 million songs.
  • Definitely the best interface. Clean and intuitive.
  • Great job of making playlists I thought were pretty awesome.
  • Improved sound quality of 320KBPS.
  • It had a weekly 30 recommended songs that was always a success.
  • Never had any playing problems. Google and Apple would occasionally stall (but not frequently).
  • It’s the only option for Linux, not that you care.

Google Play:

  • $10 per individual or $15 for family plan of 6 per month. A BIG limitation on the family plan is that the signup account must be a DROID phone user. It didn’t work for me when I tried a Nexus.
  • 50 million songs.  Don’t be deceived by this figure as a lot of the songs are performed by unknown artists “inspired by” the real artists. An example was Memories By David Guetta that is performed by someone else. This essentially just clogs up my search trying to find the real song.
  • Easy to save locally to your Google Play app, but can’t copy like a regular Mp3.
  • Reasonably good interface and easy to make playlists, but not as good as Spotify.
  • They do allow you to upload 50,000 of your own MP3 songs which will probably be mixes you’ve stolen off of youtube (up to 90 minutes in length). However Google is one step ahead of you because they have intelligently brought YouTube into the equation, see next point.
  • YouTube Red is included (not to be confused with RedTube…). This gives a user:
    • Ad-Free Youtube. Let me tell you that this may not seem like much, but once you have it, it’s painful to return to the land of waiting five seconds, then click “skip” every time you want to watch a video.
    • Ability to listen to youtube on your phone, with the Youtube App minimized. Again, this may not seem like much, but once you get used to it, it’s tough to forget.
    • Download videos locally to your phone. This is quite useful for me as a traveler, if I want to scramble to find 4 hours worth of content to watch on a flight, it’s easy to catch up on my “watch later” playlist..
    • Original YouTube content that’s trying to compete with Netflix, Amazon and Hulu. I haven’t seen any of these, but they look professional.

Between the big three, the Google Family Plan proved the most optimal choice and I had to beg my Droid-using brother to sign us all up under his account. Spotify was the clear victor based exclusively on Music, but the Youtube element was too enticing.

I really would have preferred to go with Apple this year as they stood up the US government on Privacy contrasted to Google’s Eric Schmidt infamous dismissal of privacy . But I can’t say I’ve regretted my choice.  I don’t get cable, as my kids fulfill all their “TV viewing” on YouTube, so the removal of adds, sometimes ones that were not okay for kids to see, is a big win.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Amazon, Netflix or Hulu purchased Spotify just to form a package that can compete. As it now stands, it seems like a pretty obvious choice for Google Play and I would predict others reach the same conclusion as me.

While doing research, I did consider a couple less well known music options. My comments on them:

Rdio.com:

Tidal:

  • $20 for Lossless compression (wave files). I doubt that makes a difference, but again some people who live and breathe music may think so.
  • 35 million songs.

Pandora:

  • $5 a month or free with ads. Actually most of the above ad-supported free versions. I couldn’t stand them though.
  • Can’t pick your own songs, only rate them, so it’s effectively like the radio.
  • Low quality sound of 192 KBPS.
  • Amazingly only 2 million songs… ouch.

Target Red Card is Better Than You Think

Everyone knows Target as a reliable source for reasonable prices, without going to the ultra-cheap Walmart status.

Most people are also reasonably familiar with Target’s Red Card. A quick recap from their site lists the benefits of:

  • 5% off everything.
  • Free delivery of most items.
  • Extended return times.

To me, this alone was convincing enough to signup. Target served as a good one-stop shop for a lot of family stuff, plus the delivery was enticing. I also use Amazon, but Target’s return policy is favorable of having to repack and ship something back to a vendor in hopes of getting a refund.

However, another advantage emerged, that I strangely discovered while researching tips for taking my kids to Disneyland.  The 5% also applies to… Gift Cards. This really shocked me, as I’ve used gift cards before as a vehicle to wrack up points or cash in on rebates, and it seems like these are always guarded by the store manager as cash only sales, and no discounts, or anything. Yet Target seems quite comfortable giving you a 5% gift cards, no limits.

The gift cards vary by store and there are quite a few, but in addition to Disney the ones that interest me are: Southwest, Chipotle, Subway, Ebay, Starbucks, Flemings and Netflix.

I fly Southwest pretty frequently so that savings is most rewarding. Southwest does have a pretty decent return on their Chase Credit card, but by my calculation it’s about 3.4% when booking travel with them. That’s not bad, but compare that to immediate cash savings, and I’d prefer the gift cards.

The only Red Card limitation is that the 5% can’t be applied towards a Visa or credit card prepaid card, nor can it be applied to a Target Gift card. Additionally, if you try to outmaneuver Target by paying for part of it with your credit card (hoping to get points), and part red card, the discount only applies to the Red Card amount (I only tested this out of technical curiosity as it was a hassle to actually execute).

So keep that in mind if you’re considering taking a Southwest flight Disneyland, with eating plans including Subway, Chipotle, Starbucks and Olive Garden…