TIME Media

There’s Finally a Cheaper Alternative to Spotify

Rdio Select will let you listen to a small number of songs on-demand every day

For years, $9.99 has been the standard price for ad-free, on-demand music streaming services like Spotify and Beats Music. But now it looks like companies are finally experimenting with new business models.

Rdio, a small but longstanding player in music streaming, announced Thursday a stripped-down version of its subscription service that costs just $3.99 per month. The new service, called Rdio Select, will allow users to select up to 25 songs per day out of Rdio’s library to listen to on demand as often as they like online or offline.

Users can also listen to ad-free streaming radio stations and skip past tracks on these stations whenever they want. The service will also feature curated playlists to help users find new songs to place in their rotating selection of 25 on-demand tunes.

Rdio Select is an interesting compromise between the free, ad-supported streaming tiers that struggle to make money for artists or the companies that run them and the $10-per-month plans that have so far appealed to only a small sliver of the music-listening public (Rdio still offers services in both those categories). The company points out that its new service costs less than $50 per year, which is around the price that the average music buyer spends on recorded music each year. Services like Spotify, Beats Music, and Rdio’s high-end tier are asking users to spend $120 per month on songs, more than double the consumer average.

Rdio isn’t the first company to try the straddle the line between a free service and full-on premium subscription. Rhapsody last year unveiled its unRadio service, which also allows users to listen to radio ad-free and download a select number of songs for $4.99 per month.

TIME Web

The 5 Best Music Streaming Services

woman-listening-music-smartphone
Getty Images

Spotify isn't your only option

Correction appended, May 15

Owning a library of music on physical media is rapidly becoming an anachronism. Physical album sales have been plummeting since we first plugged our earbuds into iPods, and digital downloads are now on the decline, too.

Instead, Americans are streaming their music online via a growing crop of music services that offer infinite choices for listening to and discovering new music.

Pioneer streaming services Pandora and Spotify remain the heavyweights of the industry with 80 million and 60 million listeners respectively. But internet radio services such as Slacker have gained traction thanks to their music discovery features, while curated streaming sites such as Songza offer what may be the killer app of streaming 2.0: songs and channels hand-picked by humans and based on themes and moods.

On the flip side is YouTube, the top destination for music streaming with over 1 billion unique monthly users. YouTube is great for hunting down that super obscure B-side song with the banned video, but it pales in comparison to other services when it comes to playlists and music discovery.

So what should you look for in a streaming service? We dug into the Internet to find the best music streaming services based on these factors:

Song library Most of the major streaming services clock in with similarly sized song catalogs — 20 million or more, covering a good range of genres, hits and rarities.

How can you find new music? A radio feature that lets you build customized channels based on songs or genres you like is handy for discovering new music, as are playlists curated by real people, whose skills outstrip machine algorithms in building particular vibes or themes.

Offline access If you can’t get online, you may still want to be able to access your music library.

Sound quality A 320 kbps bitrate offers excellent sound quality for most listeners when played from a computer on speakers. Audiophiles may prefer higher bitrates.

Best Curated Music: Songza

The killer feature of this music recommendation site is its human-curated playlists based on mood, activity, genre, era and “situations” from breaking up to waking up and themes as specific as barbecues or pregame. In fact, Songza’s strictly about its playlists; you can’t search for particular songs or artists, although you can browse from a mind-boggling selection of soundtracks and musical vibes.

Songza Daily’s Tumblr-esque design showcases the editors’ playlists of the day, quirkily titled (“The ultimate songs from Piscean musicians”) or chosen for timeliness (“The best original songs from the Oscars 2015”). You’ll also find clips of interviews and single songs interspersed with retro photos.

You can star favorite playlists or click through to similar playlists. Rating particular songs with a thumbs up or thumbs down improves its Concierge feature, which recommends particular songs and styles based on time of day and your liked and disliked songs. Our personal favorite that just kept giving? “Your Personal Indie Rom-Com,” which ran through dozens of grungy, riff-laden, highly nostalgic hits.

Sound quality: 256 kbps — very good quality on desktop and mobile

How can you find new music? Pick your mood, activity, genre or era, and Songza suggests the rest.

Is it available offline? No

You’ll love: The curated playlists and soundtracks for times and moods as particular as “Kitchen Dance Party.”

But: There’s no search function to find particular tracks or artists, nor the ability to build your own playlists. You’ll have to trust that the humans behind this digital music service will post songs that will suit your day.

Can you listen to it on your phone? Yes: Android, iOS, BlackBerry 10, Windows 9

Price: Free with ads and max of six song skips per week; $0.99 per week ad-free, 12 song skips per week

Site: songza.com

Best Radio: Slacker

There’s no shortage of internet radio with stations personalized around your personal music tastes, but Slacker is our favorite for its minimal, discovery-centric home page. Hit the search box with an artist, song, genre or activity; entering “writing” (while writing this article, self-referentially enough) turned up an eponymous song by Woody Allen as well as an eclectic selection of stations including an ambient electronic station called Mensa Mix and Going Steady, a collection of love songs.

Like Songza, Slacker’s channels are curated by real people with a goal, as the site says, of forging those unexpected connections between songs that are the foundation of great radio. We love Slacker’s non-music channels, including live radio, news, sports and weather.

Sound quality: 320 kbps on web and Sonos, 128 kbps on mobile with 320 on the way

How can you find new music? Create radio stations from familiar artists, or browse 200+ stations of pop, rock, electronic and more.

Is it available offline? Yes, paying subscribers can download songs, stations or playlists.

You’ll love: Being able to stream particular artists and songs on demand and listen to curated stations, news and sports.

But: Finding songs by activity, such as working or cooking, didn’t always turn up soundtracks as pleasing as those Songza provided.

Can you listen to it on your phone? Yes: Android, iOS, BlackBerry, Windows

Price: Free version with ads and max of six song skips per hour; $3.99 for ad-free and unlimited skips; $9.99 for offline playlists, on-demand streaming and the ability to create radio stations based on artists

Site: slacker.com

Best All-Rounder: Spotify

The juggernaut of music streaming counts personalized radio, on-demand music, people-curated playlists and a social feed among its feature set. Of all the services, Spotify probably apes the sensation of using your own music collection the best. You can easily save artists or albums to your library from a one-click Save tab, while Spotify’s clean, comprehensive interface always shows your playlists for easy scrolling. Drag and drop songs to create playlists, or browse and save other user-created playlists.

If you’re stuck for listening inspiration, Spotify updates its home page daily with human-curated playlists for various moods such as “Weekend Hangout” or driving-friendly tunes.

With a song catalog clocking in at over 30 million and licensing deals in dozens of countries, Spotify covers an excellent range of independent artists and electronic music as well as major pop and rock stars. Its catalog includes an exclusive for Metallica, although a few other major artists have removed their music from the service in high-profile fallouts over royalties.

If you’re the proud owner of a large digital music collection, Spotify supports uploads of up to 10,000 of your tracks into your Spotify library.

Sound quality: 96 kbps — standard quality for mobile; 160 kbps — standard quality on desktop; 320 kbps for premium subscribers — high quality on desktop

How can you find new music? Create a radio station based on an artist or song, or browse the curated playlists.

Is it available offline? Only for premium subscribers

You’ll love: Saving artists by playlists, which means you can browse your collection much as you would a library you owned.

But: Notable omissions from its catalog include Taylor Swift, The xx and Radiohead’s post-2011 albums.

Can you listen to it on your phone? Only premium subscribers: Android, iOS, BlackBerry, Windows

Price: Free for ad-supported version; $9.99 for premium version with offline playlists and smartphone listening

Site: spotify.com

Best Online Music Locker: Google Play Music

If you’re as attached to your digital music collection as you are to the infinite amount you could store in the cloud, a streaming service that offers online backup for the tunes on your hard drive could be your best bet.

Once you upload your tracks to Google Play Music, they’re accessible on any device from anywhere in the world — a neat way to bring your music collection wherever you are without having to fuss around with USB sticks.

Like Spotify, Google’s 30-million-track catalog covers a great range of rarities and hits, including artists who’ve snubbed Spotify such as Thom Yorke’s band Atoms for Peace. If you can’t decide what to listen to, the service offers a Concierge feature (like Songza, which Google purchased last year), where Google’s algorithms try to predict what tracks constitute, say, a “Chardonnay soiree.” As seems de rigeur for any self-respecting on-demand music service, there’s also a radio customizable by artist and your own taste.

Along with this lineup of Spotify-esque powers, Google Play Music currently offers one final arrow in its bow. Signing up now gives access to the invite-only beta of YouTube Music Key, a paid add-on that lets you stream music ad-free from YouTube’s gargantuan collection of classic tracks, rare mixes, hit singles, bootlegs and other unofficial takes. (Nonsubscribers can sign up for a YouTube Music Key invitation at YouTube).

Sound quality: 320 kbps — excellent sound quality on desktop and mobile

How can you find new music? Try the Concierge recommendation feature or the customizable radio.

Is it available offline? Yes

You’ll love: The ability to upload 20,000 tracks you can access anywhere, along with your streaming library.

But: There are no social features, so it’s not as easy to share music with friends or followers.

Can you listen to it on your phone? Yes: Android, iOS

Price: $9.99 per month (no free option)

Site: play.google.com

Best Sound Quality: Tidal

If you’re a serious music listener with the speakers to match, this celebrity-owned service launched by Jay-Z could be the high-fidelity streaming service you’ve been searching for.

Along with streaming music at a CD-quality, loss-less 1,411 kbps—all the better to hear the shades of percussion and detail of the high notes—Tidal claims it will have first dibs on music videos from stars like Rihanna and Beyonce.

The service also offers on-demand access to 25 million tracks, playlists curated by music journos and 75,000 music videos. It’s all accessed via a Spotify-esque web-based player, allowing similar playlist creation and the ability to build your own music library by starring artists and albums you like.

While Tidal hasn’t received the warmest reception, audiophiles with high-end speakers may find it compelling enough to offset the cost, double that of Spotify.

After all, when Neil Young launched high-fidelity streaming service Pono last year, uptake was low, and the service still only has 2 million tracks — peanuts in today’s crop of streaming services. But as ultra-fast internet begins to creep across the United States, funneling super-high-bandwidth music down the fibers just might become a more popular — and affordable — business model.

Sound quality: 1,141 kbps for $19.99 per month — extremely high quality; 320 kbps for $9.99 per month — very good quality on desktop and mobile

How can you find new music? Browse the playlists and recommendations curated by its panel of music experts.

Is it available offline? Yes

You’ll love: The high-fidelity, CD-quality sound or exclusive content such as music videos from pop stars (even if thus far, they’ve been promptly pirated and posted on YouTube).

But: For the average customer, Tidal’s uber-high sound quality may not be worth its price, especially compared with similar competitors.

Can you listen to it on your phone? Yes: Android, iOS

Price: $9.99 per month for 320 kbps; $19.99 per month for CD quality

Site: tidal.com

Streaming Music Services Compared

Songza Slacker Spotify Google Play Music Tidal
Song catalog 20 million 13 million 30 million 30 million 25 million
Radio? Yes Yes Yes Yes No
Playlist creation? No Yes, for Premium users Yes Yes Yes
Offline listening? No Yes, unlimited tracks Yes, for Premium subscribers: 10,000 tracks Yes Yes, unlimited tracks
Sound Quality 256 kpbs 320 kpbs 320 kpbs 320 kpbs 1411 kpbs
Platforms Android, iOS, BlackBerry 10, Windows, desktop Android, iOS, Windows, desktop Android, iOS, BlackBerry 10, desktop Android, iOS, desktop Android, iOS, desktop
Price Free with ads; $0.99/week ad-free Free with ads; $3.99/month ad-free; $9.99/month for Premium with offline listening options Free with ads; $9.99/month ad-free $9.99/month $9.99/month for 320kpbs; $19.99/month for CD-quality

This article originally appeared on Techlicious.

More from Techlicious:

Correction: A previous version of this post misstated Slacker users’ ability to create playlists. Premium users can create them.

TIME Technology & Media

Music Streaming Website Grooveshark Shuts Down

The music stops for the pioneering website

The online streaming website Grooveshark lost its battle with the music industry on Thursday, shutting down immediately as part of a settlement agreement.

The company was been being sued by a slew of record companies, including a $15 billion suit from Universal Music Group.

According a notice posted on the company’s website, they must also wipe clean any records of copyrighted material, hand over their online and mobile platforms, and surrender their patents and intellectual property.

Grooveshark also issued an unequivocal apology.

“Despite our best of intentions, we made very serious mistakes. We failed to secure licenses from rights holders for the vast amount of music on the service. That was wrong. We apologize. Without reservation.”

A March 25 ruling by a U.S. Federal Judge granted EMI Music North America a motion for summary judgement on claims Grooveshark had violated its copyrights, a decision that could have found the web company liable to pay upwards of $420 million.

Grooveshark was founded in 2006 by three college students at the University of Florida and for years has been a thorn in the side of major record labels who claimed the website was illegal.

MONEY

Your Digital Music Purchases Have Hit a Milestone

Last year, digital music sales matched physical platforms like CDs and vinyl for the first time.

TIME Media

Apple Reportedly Working on New, Cheaper Streaming Service

Apple Launch iTunes Music Store In London
Ian Waldie—Getty Images Steve Jobs, Chief Executive Officer of Apple computers, stands by a projection of the iTunes website as he launches iTunes Music Store in the territories of Great Britain, Germany and France, on June 15, 2004 in London.

Beats Music may be integrated into new service tied to iTunes brand

Apple may be close to finally getting some real mileage out of its $3 billion purchase of Beats. The tech giant is reportedly planning to launch a rebranded music service that offers many of Beats Music’s features but undercuts competitors in price, according to 9to5Mac.

The new service would be part of the default Music app on mobile devices and iTunes on desktops, according to the report. It would make use of Beats-specific features, such as playlists curated by experts and context-sensitive radio stations. Users would be able to stream tracks as well as download them to add to their iTunes library.

Ultimately, none of that sounds too revolutionary compared to what you can do with Spotify or Rdio, but Apple is also reportedly looking to launch the service at a price of $7.99 per month. That would be $2 cheaper than other similar options on the market, which could help spur sales.

Interestingly, 9to5Mac also claims that the new service would be available on Android devices as well as iOS ones. While iTunes has long been popular on desktops, Apple has kept the service off of non-iOS mobile devices to this point. Launching on Android could offer an opportunity for an expanded audience not only for the new streaming service but also for the legacy iTunes Store.

Though Apple has historically been a dominant force in digital music, it’s hardly a given that a new Apple music service will trounce its competitors. iTunes Radio, launched in 2013, aimed to take on Pandora in the realm of the Internet radio, but Pandora has continued to gain users despite Apple’s offering.

TIME Media

Why Jay-Z’s New Music Service Won’t Beat Spotify

Celebrites Attend The Miami Heat Vs Brooklyn Nets Game - May 12, 2014
James Devaney—GC Images/Getty Images Jay-Z attends the Miami Heat vs Brooklyn Nets game at Barclays Center on May 12, 2014 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.

Most people don't want to pay more for higher audio quality

Business mogul Jay-Z has a new acquisition to add to his collection of night clubs, clothing lines and luxury champagnes. The rapper’s company, Project Panther Bidco, is picking up European streaming music service Aspiro for $56 million, according to Reuters.

But while the Oslo-based service has managed to rack up 580,000 paying subscribers in Europe with a Spotify-like service, the company’s bet on high-priced, high-fidelity music streaming isn’t likely to take the world by storm.

Back in October, Aspiro launched Tidal, a new service for the U.S. and U.K. that offers millions of songs in a high-fidelity, lossless FLAC format, with essentially the same audio quality as CDs. Tidal boasts a library similar in scale to Spotify’s, but its tracks are higher in audio quality. That improved quality comes at a price: Tidal costs $19.99 per month, while Spotify’s ad-free version is $9.99 per month.

And if the last 15 years of the music industry’s fortunes tell us anything, it’s that people don’t want to pay more for high-quality audio files.

An entire generation of music lovers have now grown up without being regularly exposed to CD-level audio quality. Whether ripping CDs to create low-fidelity MP3s, downloading compressed audio files off of iTunes or streaming tracks from Spotify, most young music listeners have gotten used to low-bitrate listening. Audio quality on YouTube varies wildly and is often quite poor, but it’s still the most popular way for teenagers to listen to music.

Moreover, convincing people to pay $9.99 per month for music is already a tough sell, let alone $19.99 per month. Only about a fourth of Spotify’s 60 million users pay for the service, and it’s the platform with the largest paid user base by far. The industry may never convince fans to pay $120 per year (or in the case of Tidal, $240 per year) en masse considering that even at the music industry’s peak in 1999, music buyers were only spending $64 per year on songs, according to an analysis by Re/code.

(Read more: 8 Spotify tricks that will change the way you listen to music)

Of course, there is a precedent for a previously price-sensitive market suddenly being flooded with popular premium products. Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine convinced millions of consumers that their flimsy iPod earbuds weren’t good enough. They have since created a billion-dollar empire selling expensive Beats headphones that produce higher-quality sound. Like Beats, Tidal will now be helmed by a big-name music star who is also a deft marketer. Perhaps Jay-Z will find a way to make high-fidelity audio cool, too.

But with so many competitors crowding the market and offering, to the layman’s ears, more or less the same product—25 million or so songs that you can stream whenever you want—it’ll be a challenge to lure customers at a higher price. Aspiro and Tidal may find a successful niche among audiophiles, but Jay-Z’s new music service probably won’t unseat the industry’s giants.

TIME Media

Spotify Now Has 60 Million Users

NYC Mayor Bloomberg Joins Spotify To Make Announcement
Mario Tama—Getty Images People gather in Spotify offices following a press conference on June 27, 2013 in New York City.

Including 15 million paying subscribers.

Spotify is ringing in the new year with a new userbase milestone. The music streaming service announced Monday that it has reached 60 million active users and 15 million paying subscribers who shell out about $10 a month for an ad-free experience.

The new figures imply that Spotify’s growth rate is accelerating. The company announced in May that it had reached 40 million users and 10 million paying subscribers. In November, amidst controversy over Taylor Swift pulling her entire music catalogue from the service, Spotify revealed that it had 50 million subscribers, 12.5 million of whom were paying customers. Now the company has increased its user base by another 10 million over the course of just a few weeks.

Spotify leads the market of on-demand music streaming services by a large margin. Deezer, the second-place service, has 16 million active users and 6 million paying subscribers.

Read next: 8 Spotify tricks that will change the way you listen to music

MONEY best of 2014

7 Ways Tech Made Your Life Better in 2014

A new reason to ditch your cellphone contract, safer credit cards, and five more bright ideas that can help you save money in the year ahead.

Every year, there are innovators who come up with fresh solutions to nagging problems. Companies roll out new products or services, or improve on old ones. Researchers propose better theories to explain the world. Or stuff that’s been flying under the radar finally captivates a wide audience. For MONEY’s annual Best New Ideas list, our writers searched the world of money for the most compelling products, strategies, and insights of 2014. To make the list, these ideas—which cover the world of investing, retirement, health care, college, and more—have to be more than novel. They have to help you save money, make money, or improve the way you spend it, like these seven tech innovations.

  • Best Side Effect of the Hacking Mess

    Chip and Pin credit card transformed into a lock
    Image Source—Alamy

    Safer Credit Cards…Finally

    Chip-and-PIN credit cards include a special chip that makes them harder for hackers to replicate. Though you’re legally protected from having to pay most charges when a card number is stolen, more-secure plastic can save you a lot of hassle. Card companies had been slow to roll out chip-and-PIN—until millions of credit card numbers were stolen from major retailers such as Target and Home Depot. “The frequency and size of the breaches absolutely are driving more rapid adoption of the technology,” says Paul Kleinschnitz of First Data, a payment technology firm. Here are two more things to know about the new cards:

    They don’t eliminate all your risk. Chip-and-PIN makes it harder to create fake plastic but doesn’t stop numbers from being used at online stores. So you should still check your statement regularly for weird charges. Chip-and-PIN is already common in Europe; the new cards work in automated machines there that don’t accept old-fashioned plastic.

  • Best Smartphone Savings

    No-Contract Plans

    Old way: Commit to a contract and pay $200 for a smartphone that really costs $650. Of course, you still pay for the phone as part of your monthly bill.

    New way: Wireless companies are making it easier to separate the cost of the phone and the price of service.

    You can shop for a new plan with your old phone. Low-cost players and now the big carriers offer no-contract plans, which may be $100 cheaper per month for a family. Check with carriers for phone compatibility; look up network quality in your area at rootmetrics.com.

    Or get a new phone. You can buy a phone outright or on installment, and combine that with a no-contract plan. Sometimes, but not always, the total price beats the comparable contract option, so run the numbers. If you do go contract, mark your calendar: After 24 months, switch to no-contract if you don’t care to upgrade.

  • Best Reason to Rent, Not Own, Your eBooks

    Amazon Kindle

    All-You-Can Read Subscriptions

    As with music, books are moving toward an all-you-can read subscription model.

    The Services: The service you pick will hinge on the device you prefer to read with. Scribd ($8.99 per month) lets you read an unlimited number of books, and it quintupled its library this year to 500,000, with 30,000 audiobooks. The service now includes many titles from the big publishers Simon & Schuster and HarperCollins. Works on: iOS, Android, Kindle Fire (but not e-ink readers), Nook tablets.

    Though Scribd is the better service overall, it doesn’t work on Kindle e-ink readers. If you’re devoted to that device, Amazon has its own options. With an Amazon Prime subscription, you can choose from thousands of titles to read for no extra charge (one per month). Kindle Unlimited ($9.99) is like Scribd, but customers and reviewers say it’s hard to find books from the “Big Five” publishers. Works on: iOS, Android, Kindle Fire, and Kindle readers.

    The Gadget: Phone and tablet apps are fine for many readers, but e-ink devices provide a more booklike experience. The new Kindle Voyage has a screen that’s 39% brighter than its predecessor.

  • Best Reason to Rent, Not Buy, Your Music

    Streaming Services

    Why buy songs that you’re rarely going to listen to in a few months? What if you could listen to just about anything—except for a few famous holdouts, like Taylor Swift and the Beatles—for less than the price of one CD per month? (Remember those?) A smart new pricing plan could make 2015 the year you make the switch from buying music to legally streaming it.

    The Service: Spotify lets you listen to any song you want in its vast catalogue. A free version, with ads, works on desktops or allows you to play artists or albums on Shuffle on your phone. Paying up for Spotify Premium ($9.99 a month) gets you no ads and total control on any device. Spotify has rolled out a family plan that lets you add new users for $4.99 each; that way two people in your family can play their own tunes at the same time. Works On: iOs, Android, desktop

    The Gadgets to Listen On: Docking stations are easy to use, with no setup or wires required. The $130 iHome iDL48 works with most iPads and iPhones. A portable speaker lets you get your music off your little earbuds and carry it to any room. The reliable Jawbone Mini Jambox ($130) connects to smartphones, tablets, and most computers through Bluetooth. If your existing stereo has an auxiliary input, an easy fix (in you’re not a hi-fi purist) is to run a cable from the headphone or line-out jack on phone, tablet or PC. Cords are $5 to $10 at Monoprice or Amazon.

  • Best Retro Tech

    2015 Ford Focus
    2015 Ford Focus

    Dashboard Knobs are Back!

    For years cars have become more tech-laden, with systems to let you make phone calls, find local pizza joints, or answer email. Which is nice, unless you prefer to keep your focus on driving. Interiors became a maze of numeric keypads and other control points. Ford says its research shows drivers don’t use or want all that tech. Now it’s retro time. For the 2015 model year Ford Focus, the automaker has eliminated many buttons, and added old-fashioned knobs to systems such as heat and A/C. In the next Fusion, the company is even getting rid of touch screens. — Bill Saporito, Time assistant managing editor, car reviewer at Money.com

  • Best Online Security Fix

    Two-Factor Verification

    Worrying about bank and brokerage hacks is understandable. But money can be replaced—and you have legal protections. What you should worry about is a hacker mining your more vulnerable iCloud photos, Facebook page, or email account and impersonating you. Two-factor verification, a login protocol, makes it vastly harder for hackers to steal your digital life. Here’s what you need to do to set it up:

    Select “login approval” or “two-factor verification” under settings at sites you want to protect. The first time you visit that site on a new computer, you will have to enter a code that’s texted to your phone. (You only need to enter this code the first time you log in from a new computer.) In case you lose your phone, you can print out backup codes, which work once. Once you’ve done this, a hacker would need to guess your password and have physical access to your computer in order to steal your data.

  • Best Apps to Get Before You Travel

    Chi Birmingham

    Taxi Apps

    It’s not always easy to scare up a cab in an unfamiliar city. (Where are the best streets to try to hail one? Should I find a taxi stand? Call ahead?) But smartphones are making it much easier to get around. The Uber app can summon a for-hire private car in numerous cities in 45 countries (though the service has recently come under fire in a few cities). In some big towns, like New York, it will also hail a traditional taxi. Curb and Flywheel also grab regular cabs—check first if they work in the town you are visiting. Want help navigating subways and metros? Hopstop has stop-by-stop directions and travel times, as do the transit directions on the Google Maps app.

TIME Media

Spotify Still Doesn’t Make Any Money

SWEDEN-MUSIC-COMPANY-SPOTIFY
Jonathan Nackstrand—AFP/Getty Images This photo illustration shows the Swedish music streaming service Spotify on March 7, 2013 in Stockholm, Sweden.

Music streaming service lost $80 million in 2013

Music streaming service Spotify likes to crow about how it hands 70% of the revenue it generates right back to artists in the form of royalty payments. Such a massive expense has led the company to be wildly unprofitable in recent years — but Spotify may be slowly crawling its way out of the red.

A new regulatory filing released in Luxembourg shows Spotify had revenues of 747 million euros (around $1 billion) in 2013, up 74% from 2012, according to The New York Times. The startup posted a loss of $80 million, but that was smaller than its $115 million loss in 2012.

Spotify has long claimed that as it gains more users, it will be able to both pay artists more handsomely and begin earning some profits itself. The company’s financial trends indicate that the plan may actually work, assuming they can keep adding new users at a steady clip.

But Spotify’s biggest threat is growing dissatisfaction in the music industry with the service’s free tier, which allows users to listen to Spotify’s entire song library while hearing a few ads in between tunes. It was this free offering that compelled Taylor Swift to remove her catalogue from the streaming service, while a Sony Music executive recently expressed concern that the free version of Spotify might deter people from signing up for paid subscriptions. The new financial figures show why Swift and others are wary of the ad-supported model: Spotify made just $90 million in revenue from its ad business in 2013, less than 10% of its overall revenue. That’s despite the fact that free users outnumber paid users on Spotify by about four to one.

Spotify maintains that many free users are eventually converted into paying customers, so the free offering serves as a valuable gateway. But it’s likely that industry players are going to become increasingly fixated on the growth in paid subscribers instead. That’s where the money is.

TIME Music

Taylor Swift’s Spotify Paycheck Mystery

Photograph by Martin Schoeller for TIME

Spotify and the pop star's record label provide new figures to defend themselves in the battle over profits from the streaming-music service

Read TIME’s full interview with Taylor Swift.

Taylor Swift has been paid less than $500,000 in the past 12 months for domestic streaming of her songs, Scott Borchetta, the CEO of Taylor Swift’s record label, the independent Nashville-based Big Machine, told TIME Wednesday.

His statement is the latest salvo in an increasingly heated disagreement between Swift and Spotify. The disagreement has sent ripples through the music industry, with the country’s most successful musician removing her work from an admired new online music model.

According to Borchetta, the actual amount his label has received in return for domestic streams of Swift’s music—$496,044—is drastically smaller than the amount Spotify has suggested the artist receives. That sum represents only a portion of the amount paid out by the streaming service. Spotify CEO Daniel Ek said Tuesday that the label for an artist of Swift’s popularity could expect to receive $6 million in the next year from the streaming service as the site’s audience grows. Borchetta said his label had made more from streaming Taylor Swift’s videos on the video site Vevo than it has from putting her music on Spotify.

A Spotify spokesperson told TIME that the total payout for Swift’s streaming over the past 12 months globally was $2 million.

MORE: Spotify CEO “really frustrated” with Taylor Swift

“The more we grow, the more we pay artists, and we’re growing like crazy,” said Jonathan Prince, Spotify’s global head of communications and public policy. “Our users, both free and paid, have grown by more than 50 percent in the last year, which means that the run rate for artists of every level of popularity keeps climbing. And Taylor just put out a great record, so her popularity has grown too. We paid Taylor’s label and publisher roughly half a million dollars in the month before she took her catalog down—without even having 1989 on our service—and that was only going to go up.”

On Nov. 3, Swift pulled her entire catalog from the streaming service, which claims over 50 million users, more than 10 million of whom have paid subscriptions. No artist today can match Swift’s popularity: her new album 1989 has sold nearly 1.7 million copies nationwide in its first two weeks on sale, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

Swift and Borchetta both say that removing her music from Spotify is meant to make a larger point.

“The facts show that the music industry was much better off before Spotify hit these shores,” Borchetta said. “Don’t forget this is for the most successful artist in music today. What about the rest of the artists out there struggling to make a career? Over the last year, what Spotify has paid is the equivalent of less than 50,000 albums sold.”

At first, Spotify asked Swift to come back in a blog post. But after Borchetta said on a radio show on Nov. 7 that he had been hearing from other artists and managers who also want to leave Spotify—country star Jason Aldean just pulled his latest album from the service—Ek posted a broader defense of Spotify’s model. He claims Spotify has paid $2 billion to labels and publishers since its founding in 2008, and says the service, through its mix of paid and ad-supported subscriptions, is replacing revenue the music business had lost to piracy.

This isn’t the first time a major recording artist has tussled with Spotify. In October 2013, Radiohead’s Thom Yorke pulled his solo songs off the site to protest the size of its payouts.

–With reporting by Matt Vella

Read next: Taylor Swift on 1989, Spotify, Her Next Tour and Female Role Models

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