How to Develop a Music Streaming App that Users Love?

Music has been around for as long as humankind has existed. We have music for parties and events, work and study, dancing and meditation. Portable players allowed us to take music anywhere – and now we can also walk, jog, ride a bicycle, and drive a car listening to music.

With the wide expansion of mobile Internet, music has firmly settled onto our smartphones. Now we have the entire wealth of the world’s music available to us – thanks to mobile streaming applications. This is what we are going to talk about today – music streaming apps and how to build them.

What are music streaming apps?

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Music streaming means delivering audio directly from the Internet to your device. The file is delivered in small packets forming the “stream”, hence, the name. The packets are buffered in the device, thus you can play the music immediately and with no interruptions.

If we compare the traditional way of listening to music that was popular about a decade ago – downloading the music to a player – with music streaming, we will immediately see a number of advantages:

  • No need to download the music files. With music streaming directly from the Internet, you are not limited to the playlists that you have stored and prepared beforehand. Listen to anything you like switching to any tracks that you feel like playing.
  • No memory space used to store audio files. Since you don't need to download your music to your device, there's no need to worry about how much memory space it takes. With our smartphones loaded with applications and various other content, any application that can save memory space will be appreciated.
  • Less costs required. When you download the music, you often need to pay for a licensed track or album. Of course, this system has its benefits, too – once you buy a track, you own it, while with music streaming, there is no ownership.

At the same time, for fairness sake, we also have to mention the features where offline music is superior to streaming:

  • Music quality. All streaming applications use compressed music files, which affect the quality of the sound. Of course, you can set the streaming quality to the highest but it will consume more of your mobile data capacity.
  • Not all tracks are available for streaming. Some artists do not allow their tracks to be distributed through music streaming apps due to lower revenues that they get from them. In addition, it may be difficult or even impossible to find some rare or old pieces in the streaming app libraries.
  • Not all apps support offline work. This point is clear – no Internet, no music. However, some applications support caching or downloading which allows playing the music when you are not connected to the Internet.

The pros definitely outweigh the cons, as when you are on the move, the most important thing is that you have your music with you. The sound quality is more for home listening, as are the rarest tracks. It is the availability that matters and this is the key to the popularity of music streaming apps. This is why if you are thinking of creating a music streaming application, we think this is a good idea and we are going to see how it can be done.

Public Performance License

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If you want to make your own music streaming app like Spotify, Pandora, or SoundCloud, there are certain things you should consider besides developing the app software. One such thing is the matter of licensing the tracks you are going to stream. All musical content is licensed and copyrighted, thus you cannot just take any track and offer it to your listeners.

To be able to legally play streamed music through your app, you need to obtain a so-called Public Performance License. The license can be issued by a specialized company operating in the area of licensing music and other creative works. In the US, you can apply, for example, to ASCAPBMI or SESAC. In the UK, your public performance license can be issued by PPL PRS.

In addition to issuing the license, such companies will arrange royalties to be paid to the artists for their music to be used in your app.

How to build a music streaming app?

Now that we have sorted out the legal matters, let’s proceed to the music streaming app development. There are a number of features that, when properly implemented, will make your application effective and user-friendly.

Cross-platform application development

This point concerns not only music streaming apps but any mobile application. To reach the maximum audience, you must plan your app so that it can operate effectively both on iOS and Android operating systems. The market is almost equally divided between these two platforms, thus any mobile app should be planned for both iOS and Android.

There are two ways to make an application for the two major mobile platforms – develop two versions or use a cross-platform solution, such as React Native. We recommend the latter, as it can greatly save both time and costs of the application development. By choosing React Native, you are going to get a product that will run on both iOS and Android with similar effectiveness.

Accounts and authorization

It's a fact that you can create a music streaming app without mandatory authorization. SoundCloud does not have it and it performs just fine. However, logging in with an account provides much more opportunities than using the app anonymously. In SoundCloud, you can listen to music without an account; however, to download tracks or upload your own content, you need to log in.

Thus, the best solution will be to provide an option of creating an account while maintaining the possibility of using the app without one, although with somewhat limited functionality. We do recommend supporting account creation through social networks, such as Facebook or Google. Users are going to like it, as it makes the registration procedure easy and straightforward. At the same time, social login is going to bring you more users, as you are getting access to your subscribers’ contacts.

Authorization with Facebook and Google profiles usually takes about 50 hours to develop – 20 hours for the front-end and 30 hours for the back-end. If you’d like to include a regular registration feature, then you should add 15 hours for the front-end.

Search

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Obviously, a music streaming app should include the search function. Your users should be able to search for tracks, albums, artists, playlists, and genres, so they can find the perfect music for their taste. A good idea is implementing the recommendation feature that can suggest tracks based on the user’s previous searches or playbacks. With recommendations, you will allow your users to discover new music that will match their preferences.

Developing the search function takes approximately 15 hours – 8 for the front-end and 7 for the back-end. Recommendations require around 16 hours for the front-end and 40 hours for the back-end development.

Music streaming function

Music streaming is the core function of your application. Naturally, it should support uninterrupted streams of audio files, so that your users can enjoy high-quality playback.

While developing the streaming function, your developers should include the following components:

  • Supported audio file formats
  • Transmission protocols
  • Encoding methods
  • Streaming technology

If you prefer building an audio streaming feature from scratch, we recommend considering Node.js as the environment for developing a music streaming application. This platform has proved to be a reliable tool for creating data streaming applications, thus it can be a good choice for your app, too.

If time-to-market is a critical point for your organization, then using ready-made components will be the best option. In this case, music streaming won’t be that substantial in terms of time and costs, as it will take about 10 hours to build (5 hours for the front-end and 5 for the back-end).

Playlist arrangement function

This feature is what the users are going to absolutely love. We prefer different music for different situations and we like to have an uninterrupted series of tracks setting a specific mood. We like to have playlists for work, parties, meditation, workouts, driving, and romantic dates. Give your users the option of putting together different playlists – and win a big thumbs-up from your audience.

The playlist functionality development needs about 16 hours for the front-end and 8 hours for the back-end, that is, 24 hours in total.

Offline use

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Image source: MusicOomph

We have mentioned already that music streaming apps heavily depend on Internet availability. By including the caching function allowing to play music in the offline mode, you are going to greatly enhance the overall usability of your app. In this case, the audio data is cached in the local storage of the mobile device.

With offline use, your users will remain with you even on board an aircraft or somewhere deep in the country where a strong Internet connection can rarely be found.

If you add the offline use function to your app, make sure to plan about 68 hours to implement it – 60 for the front-end and 8 for the back-end.

Social functions

Who could refuse the urge to share a track they found and loved instantly? Or to tell friends about a new album of a favorite band? Include the ability to follow the artists and be the first to know their news – and you are on the way to becoming your users’ favorite app! Include the social functions, such as making friends, sharing content, subscriptions to pages or accounts – and get the benefits of viral marketing, too! Music is an extremely emotional substance, so allow your users to share their emotions.

The development of the social functions for your app will take about 24 hours, if we are talking about React Native app development. Add 5 hours for the back-end development, which means that you are going to spend 29 hours building the social environment for your users.

Total time and cost of building a music streaming app

We listed just a bare skeleton of the music streaming app functionality. Of course, you can choose other functions, for example, file downloading and storage either in cloud storage or locally, or push notifications, which are always nice to have – they remind users of your app and inform them of updates and improvements. You may also think of adding the audio upload function to reach young artists wishing to present their work to your audience.

The final set of features that you select will directly influence the time required to deliver the app and, consequently, the cost. If we calculate the time required to deliver the basic functionality, we will see that to create a music streaming app similar to Spotify or Pandora you are going to have the following rough project plan:

Authorization50 hours
Search15 hours
Music streaming10 hours
Playlists24 hours
Offline use and caching68 hours
Social functions29 hours
Total196 hours

The cost of development directly depends on the location of your development team. While the developer rates in the US and Western Europe may be quite high, you can choose to cooperate with a development company from Eastern Europe. The developers in that region have proved their ability to deliver high-quality software products, while their rates may be more attractive than those in the US.

If you are thinking of launching a music streaming application, talk to us about it. We will be happy to consult you every step of the way – from planning your project to MVP creation or full-scale project development. Music makes the world go round – so let’s give music to the world together!

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