The Pros And Cons Of Streaming vs Downloading MP3s

Bakari Chavanu 17-10-2011

The Pros And Cons Of Streaming vs Downloading MP3s screenshot1356I’ve been a long-time user of streaming music services – from Pandora, to the now defunct online music locker, and now as a monthly subscriber to Since I started streaming music online to my computer and iPhone, the iTunes Music Store is a place I rarely go shopping, other than for iOS apps and a few e-books. I paid for music downloads on, but not anymore because it doesn’t compare to the advantages of streaming music services like [Broken URL Removed], Music-Streaming Service Spotify Finally Arrives in the US [News] Today, all the social networks are buzzed about the arrival of the European-based popular music-streaming service, Spotify, to the U.S. market. Similar to other streaming music sites like Pandora, Spotify delivers up a huge music... Read More , and Spotify Music Streaming With Spotify: What You Get For Free The long awaited streaming music service, Spotify landed in the U.S. last week. Unlike other streaming services, however, Spotify offers an ad-supported free option, which makes millions of albums and songs available to you through... Read More , each of which now have free subscription options that could possibly satisfy most of your music listening needs.

If you have a computer and a good Wi-Fi connection, streaming music services are arguably a better way to listen to music than downloading MP3s. Allow me to make my case.

Unlimited Storage

The biggest problem with storing digital music on your computer or external drive is the risk of the music library being corrupted, deleted, or mismanaged. While iTunes helps users manage their music library, you need to regularly back it up on CDs, DVDs, or to an external drive. Only music you buy from the iTunes Music Store gets backed up on your account where you can re-download it if need be. If you want to backup non-iTunes music files, Apple will charge you a fee for storing or accessing it on your account.
The Pros And Cons Of Streaming vs Downloading MP3s musiccollection
When your music library grows into the gigabytes (mine is 120gb, even though I stopped buying MP3s over a year ago) it gets harder to manage, and it takes more and more internal or external drive space.

With streaming music services, you ever growing music library is stored in the cloud, and you have no need to back it up. And though you build a collection of streaming music in your online account, the entire mammoth catalog of a music streaming service is stored and accessible to you as a subscriber.


With streaming music sites, your music is accessible to you everywhere you can get Wi-Fi access, and 3G access if you subscribe to a premium service. It’s quite easy to set up almost any computer these days to stream music to wired and Bluetooth speakers, just as you would to an analog stereo.
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You can also manage your online music library pretty much the same way you can in iTunes–e.g., create playlists, sort by artist and recently played songs.

Admittedly however, playing streaming music on mobile devices or in your car is not quite as reliable as having a few hard file favorite playlists stored and playing on a mobile device.

Social Network

With streaming music services, the other members you follow on the site become your bonafide DJs who introduce you to their favorite music and artists. You in turn become a DJ for other members as you play songs.
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With Rdio, you can browse the music collections of your member friends, as well get constantly updating music recommendations of “Heavy Rotation” songs and albums of people in Your Network, or Everyone else in the Rdio space.
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You can also discover and add new friends by seeing who else plays the artists that you like.

More Affordable

Now that streaming music sites like MOG, Rdio, and Spotify are offering free membership to stream a limited amount of music, it means a huge savings in purchasing song downloads.
The Pros And Cons Of Streaming vs Downloading MP3s screenshot1351
But if you’re a heavy music listener, you will probably eventually want to get a premium-based service so you can have an unlimited access to streaming music whenever you want it. Even if you pay the lowest monthly fee of $5 per month, you will likely play ten times more tracks then you would purchasing single $9-$15 album downloads which you may only play a few times before you need to feed your appetite for new music.
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Some Disadvantages

A few disadvantages to streaming music include the audio quality, which of course is not as high as MP3 files, though most listeners can barely distinguish the difference. Subscribing to a streaming music services means you never own the music you pay to listen to; however, you can pay for and download selected songs and albums from music cloud sites just as you would from the iTunes Music Store. And if you’re a music fan who likes to keep up with the newest releases of your favorite artists, streaming music services may sometimes lag behind music store sites for new releases.

Despite these limitations, streaming music services seem to be expanding, and the market should continue to grow for them. Let us know what you think about cloud-based music sites. Are you a member of one? Have you reduced the amount of MP3s you download and purchase? What are the advantages and disadvantages of streaming music sites that you have experienced?

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  1. Eric
    January 7, 2019 at 10:41 pm

    Streaming services decide what you can listen to and when. Kind of like Netflix. One month an artist and songs you like may be there but next month they may not. They never have new music. Just popular music.

  2. Laurence
    September 3, 2017 at 1:25 am

    Spotify nightmare. I just got fed up. I purchased Spotify Premium so I could listen offline. I was often without Wifi in Asia. I'd repeatedly download 10 gigs of music whenever I had free Wifi. Then Spotify would lose my library: I wouldn't login under their time restrictions, have complicated authentication problems. Their customer service in often unreachable, doesn't solve issues and makes matters worse. So I cancelled and will NEVER< EVER give them a dime more. BTW I think their download limits, time restrictions are BS. We're paying after all. You should be able to download a collection once and keep it without restrictions for the length of your membership. I hope another service buries Spotify.

  3. diamond
    August 24, 2017 at 2:44 pm

    stupidddddddddddddddd duck

  4. Lenard
    July 23, 2017 at 3:28 am

    I get so frustrated with every streaming service out there. Everyone just seems to have it's own frustrations. I don't like that Spotify has most artists, but omits certain others. I don't like certain features/quirks of every streaming app/service available. I don't like being tied to the app the streaming service requires just to listen to music. There are tons of mp3 players/apps out here, (and some decent one's are even free). I believe many of your mp3/music frustrations are related to your reliance on the apple ecosystem. For the record, apple is still way too possessive over music playback, and which apps they will/won't allow. I invite you to try other platforms. Please don't confine yourself to one tightly guarded music prison like apple's.

  5. EleEng
    April 12, 2017 at 11:17 am

    I find it disturbing that so many individuals are settling for the poor audio frequency response and stereo separation provided in music downloads and streaming. Many times I have run music from streaming outlets (XM, Pandora, & etc.) and audio download files into an audio spectrum analyzer and then compared it to the same song on a CD; the difference is shocking. I always wondered what happen to the bass and stereo separation when listening to some of my favorite old songs from a streaming service or from a downloaded file. The answer is the bass notes and stereo separation is just not there. Now some car makers are no longer installing CD players in their new models. This leaves only your local FM stations as the source for good quality music audio and stereo channel separation while driving.

  6. aelson
    January 19, 2016 at 5:18 pm

    If u hate to buy a 16 gb sd card you can do like me
    I hve a cloudd! mega lets u hace 50gb for free and I uploaded my whole 16gb music library
    Also if u like to be like me and customize your music with their right volumen gain and with their shiny beautiful tags u would hate to listen but not own a track
    If you like to download in alac or flac streamig is a nono
    I use a cracked version of spotify and its helpful for discovering new music
    Or tryin to ckeck some groups u never listen to. Man i hate to pay for somethun im to young for a credit card, and mostly. I hate ads. So F streaming un mobile devices

  7. Philip Harris
    April 27, 2015 at 4:36 pm

    the audio quality IS MP3, but just at a Lower bitrate to make data easier to stream over the internet because it takes lower bandwidth

    • Bakari Chavanu
      April 27, 2015 at 6:18 pm

      Philip, thanks for your feedback.

  8. Shaun
    October 28, 2011 at 7:49 pm

    I like to listen to a lot of new music and it was just getting too expensive to buy the CDs or download from iTunes, so I installed Spotify a few weeks ago. It's brilliant. All the new albums seem to be on there at release or no later than a week after. I've been going through their catalogue and listening to albums from my youth in the 80's. Albums I'd lost years ago and probably wouldn't have shelled out to buy again. I've started with the free version but I love it so much I'm planning to upgrade to the paid version. I haven't noticed any drop in sound quality compared to listening to my CDs ripped into iTunes. If you've got broadband and listen to a lot of different music I would recommend streaming.

    • Bakari Chavanu
      October 29, 2011 at 12:30 am

      Couldn't agree more, Shaun. Not a week that goes by that I don't listen to at least one new album on Rdio. This would be impossible if I stilled purchased MP3s on iTunes. 

  9. Bakari Chavanu
    October 26, 2011 at 6:00 pm

    Thanks, Pump. I'm surprised we haven't written about Kiwi6 in MUO yet. I'll look more into it. 

  10. Pump Up the Volume
    October 20, 2011 at 10:39 pm

    For me, mp3s on the computer are the way to go, because there's very little in the way of new music that I actually listen to -- and those "new" songs are ca. 2004-2007 or so.

    Mostly I'm an oldies junkie; you're not going to get any "new" releases from the old masters, like the Beatles or Led Zeppelin, and FWIW music went entirely downhill for good during the era of Britney, Christina and the "boy bands." I like Lady Gaga's political stance, but her music sucks. A Daydream Belieber I'm not one of either. ;)

    As Bob Seger (of whom I am also a fan), famously said (Tom Cruise in skivvies notwithstanding), "call me a relic, call me what you will; say I'm old-fashioned, say I'm over the hill; today's music ain't got the same soul..I like that Old Time Rock 'n' Roll." :)

    • Bakari Chavanu
      October 20, 2011 at 10:57 pm

      Pump, I don't think you're old fashioned. I think you make some good points about staying with MP3s. I, however, find much of the music I want to listen to on the streaming services, and that in turn saves me forming have to purchase lots of MP3s that I probably won't listen to after about 20 or 40 plays. With streaming, I can listen to new music anytime I want—and it's pennies on the dollar. But for the type of music you listen to, that might not be the case. So yes, appreciate your point.

  11. Phil Fot
    October 18, 2011 at 10:09 am

    Not all "streaming" services actually stream your music. Pandora, for example, pushes the entire track to your device in one pop. Your network kadmin might let you use Pandora when you're in a place where streaming is not permitted (some corporate LANs).

    The services that actually stream (like a shoutcast station) are typically the ones that suck away a network's life and piss off the sa.

    • Bakari Chavanu
      October 18, 2011 at 8:37 pm

      Phil, thanks for pointing this out. It's something to think about when considering the streaming service.

      • Phil Fot
        October 20, 2011 at 2:30 pm

        I'm glad I had some info you could use. Noting your comment below, I'm using a 4G phone and I never have to wait for song from Pandora. The network where I work now is fairly high-traffic and streaming is not appreciated. Before I started using my phone for music, the small downloads every few minutes passed by unremarked.

  12. just say no to streams
    October 18, 2011 at 4:34 am

    If you listen to music on an unplugged mobile device locally stored music is way better. Streaming sucks your battery dry real quick.

    • Bakari Chavanu
      October 18, 2011 at 8:36 pm

      But if you want to listen to streaming music for an extended time, then you'll probably want to have your device plugged in anyway. But I get your point.

    • Phil Fot
      October 20, 2011 at 2:34 pm

      I used to use a Slacker Portable Radio. The battery on it lasted about 4-5 hours. In fact, I get about 7 hours on my phone if I'm listening to an audio book (all radio stuff turned off). Can you get a whole work day (include an extra couple hours to cover the commute) from your phone if you only listen to local music?

  13. mick register
    October 18, 2011 at 3:31 am

    I like to own hard copies of anything. Be it music or not, I am constantly downloading things. I find it really neat to be able to stuff days of music in my pocket.
    One reason for this is the unreliability of the internet. Any given day, anything could happen. One example is: I was hit by hurricane Irene. I had no internet for 13 days. But, I had all my favorite songs and videos stored amongst my hard discs for quick and easy viewing.
    Another reason is actual internet speed. I have a garbage internet provider, am on their worst plan, and have too many Netflix users on my block. Needless to say, I would be waiting for every song I want to listen to if I used streaming.

    • Bakari Chavanu
      October 18, 2011 at 8:34 pm

      Mick, you make a very good point. If you don't have good Internet access, streaming services are not the best idea. Hopefully over time, Internet speeds will improve all of the world.

  14. Taallen
    October 18, 2011 at 12:04 am

    I concluded that streaming services, Rhapsody in my case, make a lot more sense than buying. I've realized after 60 years that some of the music that I thought I would listen to forever when I was 20 is boring at best today. On the other hand there are several albums that I have purchased three and four times over the course of my life because I lost them for various reasons. So did I really own them or did I just rent them for as long as the tape lasted?

    For those who have poor connectivity some services, at least, allow downloading/caching during the subscription period

    • Bakari Chavanu
      October 18, 2011 at 8:33 pm

      Yes, I share your experience the most. I rarely go back and listen to R&B music that I grew up with in the 70s and 80s. And I have pretty much purchased all the modern classical music that I will ever want. With streaming services, I can constantly access new music without having to pay full price for it.

  15. Anonymous
    October 17, 2011 at 11:14 pm

    WOW nice shill for the streaming services. Personally I like to own everything outright, not "rent" my favorite music for a monthly fee. 

    • Bakari Chavanu
      October 18, 2011 at 8:28 pm

      The problem i have with owning is having to keep music backed up. And I only have small number of artists that i keep coming back to. Typically i play a new album like 10 different times, then i might not play it again for a long while. 

  16. Rodrigo
    October 17, 2011 at 11:02 pm

    If you live somewhere in the third-world countries, where you will pay an arm AND a leg for a really crappy and low-capped 3g plan, and where public wi-fi is only a dream, music streaming is pretty much stuck to your home or office environment. Still, it's a good way to constantly discover new songs and artists from your favorite genre, but there will be some good 5 or 10 years before we (third-world citizens) can replace music downloads (or any local-based service) for cloud-based technologies.

    • Andrew Gould
      October 18, 2011 at 3:48 am

      It's not just the so-called 'third world' countries. I live less than half an hour outside the capital city of Australia, and I have no alternative but a capped plan. Streaming and cloud services are absolutely off the table for me and my family.

      • Bakari Chavanu
        October 26, 2011 at 6:02 pm

        Andrew, Rodrigo, and Suhel, thanks for pointing this out. Bandwidth and streaming speed is something I should haven pointed out in the article. 

    • Suhel
      October 18, 2011 at 5:01 am

      "where you will pay an arm AND a leg for a really crappy and low-capped 3g plan, and where public wi-fi is only a dream" LMAO, so god damn true if this would had been in makeuseof/answers it would had been the BEST answer of the week looooool

    • Suhel
      October 18, 2011 at 5:04 am

      btw just fyi, I use TuneIn Radio app on my android and it streams pretty well on normal gprs too. They allow you to choose the stream too so if sometimes you are in a real low signal area you can switch to 32kbps stream and it can kill your boredom :)

  17. SpyrosKoutsogiannis
    October 17, 2011 at 9:38 pm

    Owing is better than lending

  18. Agustin
    October 17, 2011 at 9:17 pm

    Sometimes the streaming is slow and the song never loads...

    • Bakari Chavanu
      October 18, 2011 at 8:26 pm

      Hmm, I don't experience that problem much, except over 3G.