It seems as if every other month, a new music streaming service comes out. Or, more accurately, you hear about a music streaming app that you’ve never heard of before. They just keep compounding on top of one another, and the list keeps growing and growing with no signs of stopping or slowing. There’s Spotify, Tidal, Google Play, Apple Music, Amazon Music, YouTube Music, Pandora, iHeart Radio … the list goes on and on.
It seems as if everybody wants a piece of the music streaming pie. And for good reason … music is one of those forms of media that is consistent, from a revenue standpoint. It is one of the most consistently in-demand forms of art and entertainment. No matter how the other of media industries are doing – film, television, talk radio, etc. – there will always be a high demand for music.
There is something about music that speaks to the human spirit unlike any other form of art. Perhaps that is why it is so consistently in demand. People relate to music, it seems, on a different level than they relate to film or TV. Sure, we all love to get sucked into a binge-worthy series and forget our lives in the drama of a classic film. But nothing comes close, at least on an emotional level, to the connection that people tend to have with music.
We use it as the soundtrack to our lives. We work to it, we exercise to it, we mourn to it, we party to it, we dance to it, we make love to it, we cook to it, we put it on to cure bad bouts of boredom, we listen to it to find catharses from depression. It reminds us that we are not alone. It motivates us to keep moving through our hardships. There are a few moments, in fact, that are not made better by music. This is why it is especially important that we find the perfect music streaming service for our unique listening needs.
And with so many apps and sites out there to choose from, each offering its own strengths and weaknesses, it is not exactly an easy task, figuring out which audio streaming service is right for you. The key, though, I think, is to ask yourself an important question before you decide on an app: how do you prefer to listen to music? Each music streaming service caters to a different style of listening, I think. And today we will be seeing how a lesser-known music streaming service, Qobuz stacks up against the ever-growing competition.
Qobuz (pronounced “co-buzz”) is a French streaming service. Founded in 2007 by Yves Riesel, Qobuz has gradually expanded into across European borders and overseas. Initially, it grew to partake in the markets of the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Spain, Germany, and Italy. And, as of May 2019, Qobuz has been on trial in the United States.
Qobuz is more closely aligned, I would say, to Tidal than it is to Spotify. That is to say that it values sound quality above all else. If you are a serious audiophile, I think that you will find much to be excited by thanks to Qobuz. Plus, as a relatively young music streaming platform, there are so many directions left for this scrappy streaming service to grow. Who knows where the road will lead to Qobuz.
If I had to sum up Qobuz’s site design in a word, I would probably have to say that it is “dynamic.” It employs a simple, minimalist approach that does not feel any less modern than it should. Scrolling down the page, you find that the layout is beautifully simple (elegant even), but graphics and text bounce and jump out at you to catch your eye … in a tasteful way … just enough to be interactive without being cheesy or feeling sophomoric in any way.
Qobuz is clearly marketed toward professionals. Not necessarily professionals in the music industry, although I’m sure that this site would satisfy even the pickiest audio engineer out there. But the images on the site, for instance, show mature individuals allowing themselves to be lost in soundscapes of lush music.
The site just flows and flows onward like a symphony the further down you scroll. This results in a web experience that matches the listening experience. Qobuz is all about escaping, allowing yourself to be immersed in the music. And the website reflects that well, I think.
Qobuz sits nicely alongside all of the most popular streaming apps on the market. In terms of the number of songs, Qobuz actually beats out Spotify and YouTube Music, boasting an impressive 40 million tracks. Additionally, Qobuz allows you to either stream or purchase individual songs to be enjoyed offline if you so desire.
Enjoy expertly curated playlists as well. Or, in the words of Qobuz’s site, “Enjoy premium access to new releases, selected by our expert team, dedicated to artistry, creativity, and quality.” There are also plenty of playlists dedicated to unsung heroes of world music, making for a truly unique listening experience, as well as a means by which to discover tons of new music.
Qobuz seems to want to set itself up as the vinyl equivalent to a digital streaming world. And their strategy for pulling this off, in addition to superior sound quality, lies in content, it would seem. In addition to 40 million+ songs in studio streaming quality, users can also enjoy exclusive interviews with artists and digital booklets of albums, scratching the nostalgia itch for anyone who misses the delights of possessing physical albums.
Desktop and Mobile Experience
Well, the web browser player seems to be just as well-designed as the app itself when it comes to Qobuz, No matter what device you are listening on, you can be guaranteed a superb listening experience, with expert sound quality, flawless streaming, and beautiful design.
I am not alone in this opinion either. Taking a look at the Apple App Store, Qobuz has an average rating of 4.7 stars (out of 5) after 2.6 thousand ratings. Take the intimate and excellent Qobuz listening experience with you no matter where you go.
Pricing and Plans
This is where things start to go south, I’m afraid. As I said before, Qobuz seems to be marketed toward mature professionals, and the price seems to reflect that target demographic. No matter which tier subscription you go for, it is going to run you a bit more than the competitor services. The prices do fluctuate quite frequently, but at the moment, these are the prices:
Studio Premiere: $14.99 per month gets you hi-res and studio-quality streaming, offline listening, exclusive interviews/content, and the first month free
Sublime Plus: $24.99/month gets you everything that Premiere offers, plus discounts on purchases and exclusive deals. Oh, and the first month isn’t free for this option.
Suggestions that I have for Qobuz
Well, speaking of pricing … my main suggestion for Qobuz is to find a way to get those price points down! It would probably behoove Qobuz to appeal to a slightly larger demographic by making it cheaper. A $10/month option would be a good start. That or even offering a freemium model with ads and limited skips or features would be a good way to get more people lured in. As of now, though, I don’t know many people who are going to fork over $15 a month on a prayer that Qobuz is the right streaming service for their needs.
Oh, and if you are going to offer a tier that is $25 each month, you really have to offer something more than discounted downloads. I mean, come on, part of the point of downloading a music streaming app is so you don’t have to download files to your computer or phone, right? The pricing tiers of Qobuz need to be seriously reconsidered, I think.
All in all, Qobuz has a great deal of potential, in my opinion, when it comes to possibly one day becoming the best music streaming app on the market. It has excellent branding, great site and app design, superb and lossless studio sound quality, and a unique sort of edge to it that no other competitor app really comes close to catering to. However, Qobuz really needs to figure out how to bring the price down; or, alternately, offer significantly more features for the price that it asks currently.
However, if you are looking for a listening experience that comes as close to vinyl as you’re going to get in the digital age, Qobuz is it.