HOW TO CHOOSE THE RIGHT STREAMING MUSIC SERVICE

The State of Streaming Music Services

Physical music sales have plummeted, but that doesn't mean that people have stopped listening to their favorite tunes. Thanks to streaming music, people are listening as much as ever in their homes, offices, or any other location where their devices can connect to the internet.

Streaming music services are so vital to the industry that the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) now factors music streaming into its Gold and Platinum album certifications. In fact, Kanye West's The Life of Pablo was the first album to go platinum based entirely on online plays, streaming more than 3 billion times worldwide. Streaming music services are a big deal.

 

Music Quality and Other Features

The RIAA's move is a wise one, as streaming music services have become a part of our everyday lives. Most streaming music services have some base-level commonality, such as letting you create customizable channels, but a handful stand out from the very crowded pack due to their unique feature sets.

 

For example, Amazon Music Unlimited, Primephonic, Qobuz, and Tidal pride themselves on sound quality, delivering premium Hi-Res Audio tunes that boast uncompressed audio that surpasses your typical music stream. Considering that most online music services' streams are in the compressed, 128Kbps to 320Kbps range, this trend is impressive.

 

Some services, such as LiveXLive Powered by Slacker and Spotify, have free options that let you try before you subscribe, while others, such as Amazon Music Unlimited and Tidal, are strictly premium experiences (typically starting at the $10-per-month mark). Many services have lyrics, too, so you can sing along, word-for-word, with your favorite song. In addition, family plans, a relatively recent industry feature, let six household members sign up for a shared premium account for $14.99 per month.

There are many differences between the free and paid streaming music tiers in most services. Free accounts typically limit your ability to skip songs to just six per hour, and they feed you ads in either audio or video form. The free tiers are for more casual listeners or people who don't find it worth spending a dime on music. Premium accounts, however, offer unlimited song skips, on-demand playback, and other goodies. The for-pay levels of service are aimed at customers who really want to explore the depths of what a streaming music service offers.

In addition, each of the reviewed services offers mobile apps, so you needn't be tied to your PC to enjoy tunes. A valuable feature that you'll find in these services' mobile apps is the ability to cache music for offline playback, a feature generally reserved for premium subscribers. This is a technological godsend for folks who are frequently in locations that have spotty signal coverage.

The Best Music Streaming Service Deals This Week*

You'll find even greater streaming audio diversity should you dig deeper into the space. LiveXLive, for example, differentiates itself with ABC News updates, so you can stay on top of trending happenings. The service also has Stories, a hosted program that features interesting tales, ranging from love to horror. Tidal sells concert and sports tickets, and has an expert editorial staff that produces feature-length articles. Amazon Music Unlimited lets you upload your own audio files and stream them along wiht the songs in the company's catalog. Most services have a robust selection of comedy albums.

 

There's a lot of content to explore beyond simple music. These platforms are quickly transforming from streaming music services into overall streaming audio services.

 

 

 

Some Stumbles

Unfortunately, all isn't swell in this musical wild, wild west. Thanks to—you guessed it—money, some platforms have either gained or lost content. Taylor Swift, Prince, and other artists have seen their catalogs vanish from streaming platforms (and later reappear) due to low royalties. The issue of artist compensation has always dogged the recording industry, and it hasn't disappeared with the advent of streaming music—quite the contrary, in fact.

Tidal aimed to stand out from the crowd, as a platform built on the idea of properly paying artists. It was also the only service to host Prince's catalog for a hot minute (though that's no longer the case). In some cases, you're unable to play particular songs on demand; those tracks are only available within the scope of a themed channel. Content restrictions and missing artists and tracks are still a problem in the space, though—Swift notwithstanding—the situation has improved markedly in recent years.

 

Trying to figure out where things live and how you're able to access them can prove quite vexing to the uninitiated. It's one of the entertainment challenges that we face in the digital age.

It's Your Move

Thankfully, you don't need to wade through the numerous services to find the one that best suits your listening needs. PCMag has reviewed both popular and niche streaming music services to separate the musical wheat from the auditory chaff. Below, you'll find capsules that link to our full reviews of 10 streaming services; up top, you'll find a chart that highlights the features you should expect in a high-quality service. Check out the reviews and chart to discover which streaming music services are best suited for your music listening tastes.

 

If you're curious about why certain streaming music services aren't featured in this story, here's the skinny. It's very likely they've been surpassed by the 10 superior services highlighted here, absorbed by a rival, or gone out of business. For example, AOL Radio is no more, and Rdio sold its tech to Pandora. I expect to see more shakeouts in the space in the next few years, as there are so many players providing broadly similar services.

 

That's not to say they are the same, however! Read on to find the pros and cons of the best online music streaming services we've reviewed. Put on a pair of headphones or crank up your speakers and explore the options below.

 

If you're concerned about streaming your favorite tunes over, say, a Starbucks Wi-Fi signal, you need to get yourself a VPN. A virtual private network safeguards your mobile devices from snoopers and, depending on the location of the VPN server, may let you access music licensed to other regions. Using a VPN to get around licensing restrictions probably violates Spotify's terms of service, though, so tread carefully.

Do you have a favorite music service, or is there one that particularly grinds your gears? Let us know in the comments below.

 

 

Where To Buy

Streaming Music Service Reviews

written and shared by PCMag

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5 Easy-to-Care-for Plants to Liven Up Your Office Space

Office life usually consists of being so busy you forget to eat lunch, wrapping up in a blanket in the frigid temperatures, and totally abandoning everything the second 5 p.m. rolls around on Friday. But that doesn't mean you can't incorporate a little life into your space. A plant—particularly a low-maintenance houseplant that can thrive in lower light and bounce back after a missed watering or two—is a great way to add color and warmth to even the most boring of cubicles. Sticking with an easy-to-care-for plant means you don't have to stress about its survival alongside your workload, which is definitely important.

 

Whether you're lucky enough to have a sunny office or you're stuck in a dark corner cubicle, these great plants will thrive at your job—even if you feel like you aren't. From cacti and succulents to the trendy ZZ plants and golden pothos, these are the best plants for sprucing up your workspace. And the best part? You can buy them all online (on Amazon, even!). Although we would urge you to check out our local garden spots first!!! Especially our friends Township Four on North Street in Pittsfield.

written by House Beautiful

BY LAUREN SMITH MCDONOUGH, SIENNA LIVERMORE AND BRITTNEY MORGAN

Using these low light friendly plants will have

you enjoying green things year round

LOCAL OPTIONS

Township Four

excerpt take from Township Four Website---

Cloche Terrarium Kit

A small, yet elegant cloche, 6” high by 4 ½” wide; perfection with a single lovely foliage plant - great for a shelf, a side table, or as part of a plant statement. Instructions and premium natural accents such as a mineral specimen or hand-foraged lichens and seed pods are included.

Brown paper packages tied up with string... dozens of DIY kits ready for local delivery and packed up for shipping. Let us know if we can put together something special for you.

 

Visit the link in the header here on our page or go to www.township.four and click shop. Thank you all for your love and support.

Township contact info

flowers@townshipfour.com

413-347-3244

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Ergonomic Tips

If you’re working from home amid the COVID-19 pandemic, you might find that your makeshift office is a literal pain in the neck.

 

Many people don’t have proper office chairs, and working for extended periods of time at your kitchen counter or hunched over a coffee table is not great for your body and overall health, Eric Robertson, a physical therapist and spokesperson for the American Physical Therapy Association, tells CNBC Make It. That means you have to be extra cognizant of your posture and routine, so you can combat the stress and strain that might come from working in a compromised position, he says. 

 

Luckily, there are cheap and creative ways to trick out your WFH set-up to make it more ergonomic, Karen Jacobs, occupational therapist and certified ergonomist, clinical professor of online post-professional Occupational Therapy Programs at Boston University College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, tells CNBC Make It.

 

Here’s how to stay comfortable and avoid back pain while you work remotely for the foreseeable future.

Change your posture often

It’s crucial that you vary your posture throughout the day, because sitting in the same position or chair all day can lead to back, neck and shoulder pain, Jacobs says. For example, you might start your day at your kitchen table, then transition to a standing position or sit on your soft couch. It’s best to alternate every hour, Robertson says.

Put a pillow on your seat

Placing a thin pillow underneath your seat can go a long way to making an ordinary chair a lot more comfortable, Robertson says. If you don’t have a pillow, you could also fold up a fluffy towel for the same effect.

Draping a soft towel over the back of your chair is also a small thing that can make your chair feel plush, Jacobs says.

Add a rolled towel for lumbar support

If you’re someone who struggles with lower back pain, lumbar support pillows that rest on the back of your pelvis have been shown to increase comfort while seated. You don’t need to buy a fancy pillow to accomplish this effect; Jacobs recommends rolling a towel and placing it between your chair and lower back.

Put your feet up

Supporting your feet on an elevated surface, or stretching your legs long increases circulation and can feel nice, Jacobs says.

Ideally, your hips and thighs should form 90-degree angles when you sit in your chair, but you can move your feet back and forth for exercise, she says.

If you’re lucky enough to have a chair that reclines, “that would give you some nice support for your legs as well,” she says.

Elevate your laptop

“Laptops are never going to be ergonomically good, because the monitor is either going to be too low or the keyboard is going to be too high,” Robertson says.

Ideally, the top of your monitor should be just below eye level, so you don’t have to strain your neck to read. If you’re working on a reading-intensive task, prop your laptop up on objects (like a stack of books or shoeboxes) so it’s eye-level, he suggests. Then, when you need to type, you can lower it to a level that allows your arms to be bent at 90-degree angles.

Take breaks

Most people take breaks to walk around when they’re in the office, but when you’re at home “we have a tendency to just be focused,” so you might forget, Jacobs says.

Set a timer to go off every 30 minutes to take a break for three to five minutes, she suggests. Get up and walk around, or do some quick stretches at your desk, Robertson says.

“Adding regular exercise, even if it’s low-level activity, is really important to keep your body healthy and avoid back pain,” he says. 

If you want to buy a chair

If working from home stretches on and you want to invest the right office chair for your set-up, you should look for ones with adjustable features, such as seat height, back rest, arm rests and lumbar support. A chair that’s on wheels will allow you to move an appropriate distance away from your computer (Jacobs says you should make a fist and sit an arm-length away from your screen). 

Here are three in various price ranges to check out:

 

Affordable: The BBE Clearance Corner is filled with affordable options from just $50-$150. Chair options are new and lightly used and include features such as adjustable arms, seat tilt and posture supporting back support. If you cannot stop by our showroom please call and we can email options and offer local delivery.

 

Mid-price: An adjustable seat height, arm rests and a shallow seat depth mean multiple people in a household can comfortably share the $199 Solerno Office Chairs--which comes in 5 Fun Colors

 

Splurge: One of the Cadillac of desk chairs, the All Seating You Chair ($469.99), has back supports that are meant to mimic your posture when you stand, comes with a 12yr warranty and maximizes support of the back, leg and lumbar areas.

Article written by Cory Stieg @CORYSTIEG for CNBC

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