What is the Best Music Streaming Service?
A lot has changed in the music industry as far as how music gets from an idea in a person’s head to production to distribution. Music has become more easy to create, and can even be done on downloaded software programs from your own home. We saw the rise in GarageBand popularity in the early 2000s and it was even introduced into some school music programs to get kids interested not only in classical music but New Age music production. It becomes easy to synthesize your own sound and to share it on the web with others. I guess that left the only difficult part of actually coming up with the ideas for the songs.
Of course, major artists use high-tech sound booths and recording studios to produce the highest quality of music for their listeners. But even the method of getting to the listener has changed. From records to 8-tracks, to cassette tapes, to CDs, to MP3s and iPods, it seems we’ve seen it all in music distribution. Now you can purchase music online and download it to your phone, or stream for a small fee, and some plans for free! So what do users typically look for when choosing to stream new music?
First, if you’re wondering how much this is going to cost you, you should be aware of how much data you have available to lend to streaming.
Which brings us to our first point:
Price: while a lot of services will include a free plan, most users generally choose to upgrade after testing the free plan out for a short time. This is due to the features and perks that are offered by paying a few bucks a month, mainly freeing yourself from ads and the ability to skip songs
Selection: If you’re coming to stream and especially if you are paying for this streaming then you should definitely be aware of what your options will be. If there is not a wide selection then it’s not really worth the dollar amount.
Skips: Are you able to skip through songs that you do not want to listen to? And are you allowed to select specific songs? These are important questions as well
Downloads: Check whether or not you can download music from your streamer, if you’re paying for premium plans then you’re going to want to be able to download
Compatibility: You need to be sure that streaming will perform well on your device as some are not compatible with iOS, Android or Windows and those that are, are not always working as well on some devices as they would on others.
Availability: Check if your service is available offline and/or abroad
Spotify is the number one choice for most music lovers. You can use Spotify for free for as long as you would like. Spotify has been the top choice for years now thanks to its selection, playlists, and accessibility. Many users opt to pay for the premium plan for the skip options and to be able to directly play the songs they choose.
- Price: For Spotify, you can listen for free, for as long as you’d like. To upgrade to the premium plan, it will cost you about $10 monthly.
- Selection: While the free plan offers “Shuffle Play”, which allows you to search for an artist or song and shuffle the channel that it plays on, the Premium plan comes equipped with unlimited skips and the ability to play whatever song your heart desires. The Premium also comes with the plus of being ads-free!
- Downloads: With Spotify Premium, you can download songs from the app while the free plan does not allow for this.
- Compatibility: Spotify is iOS-friendly, Windows 10-friendly as well and Android-friendly
- Availability: Spotify is ranked as partially global friendly, available in the US and some European countries, but it has not yet been made available across the globe.
Spotify Premium is our favorite choice that will appeal to almost anyone. With fast streaming, downloads, a wide variety, and offline options all for the low cost of $10 a month, it’s a no-brainer to jump on the Spotify bandwagon and bump your favorite tunes. Not to mention it is compatible and easy to use not only with your software but with your devices as well. The negative of this plan is that is not available in all countries so if you are traveling or planning to study abroad for a semester, you better check to see if your go-to country is on the short list of Spotify availability.
2. Apple Music
Apple Music of course I had to throw in for our Apple product lovers. But even if it wasn’t just a nod to Apple, we’d include this one on our list. Apple Music comes with lots of features and goodies, as well as an option for family plans where you can join multiple iTunes accounts. This streaming service also comes with a three-month free trial that can be canceled at any time.
- Price: After the free, three-month trial, you have the option of several plans. The first is specifically designed with students on a budget. The “Student Plan” for college students cuts the price of Apple Music in half to $4.99 a month. This makes the “Individual Plan” $9.99 and for just $5 more, you can create a “Family Plan” for $14.99. The Family Plan allows for you and five of your friends or family members to be on the same plan with you and share iCloud Family.
- Selection: Apple boasts having 45 million songs available on Apple Music and the number definitely has potential for growth over the coming years. You can also listen to live radio stations and music playing under the “For You” section you can search a keyword and view all of the options live or otherwise. For example, if you search keyword: “country” you’ll pull up a wide selection of chosen playlists, songs and artists, and even radio stations under this genre.
- Downloads: You can download as many songs as you would like to when you pay for any of the plans, and stream popular songs as often as you want.
- Compatibility: while Apple Music is most compatible with and works better with Apple devices (iPhone, iPad, Mac) it has also been made available for Windows 10 and can even be found in the Google Play Store for Android.
- Availability: Apple Music is available in 113 countries already. Apple has spanned its reach into Africa and Asia as well as being available in the Americas and most of Europe.
If you aren’t completely against Apple products and the software setup, then this service is a great option for you. Available across the world, and streaming millions of songs, it provides not just accessibility but compatibility and for the same low price as many of its competitors. The best part is that Apple Music is ad-free, always!
Pandora has been a long-running favorite for radio play. Pandora music is found streaming in stores, in the home, and even in your car. Just type in a genre, artist, or song title, and a radio station will pop up specifically chosen to include your choice as well as other music you may enjoy. Recently, Pandora unveiled its “on-demand” option so that it plays not just as radio but as your personal selection of tracks. With a free version and a low price for a paid plan, Pandora is great for listeners who enjoy the radio music atmosphere.
- Price: Pandora offers free radio plays, but this free plan comes with ads tacked on. You can upgrade to ad-free music for $5 but this is still the radio version. You can choose your plays individually for $10 a month ad-free, this option is called “On-demand”.
- Selection: The on-demand version offers you a 40 million song selection
- Downloads: Pandora allows downloads of songs with the paid-for version of the streaming service, allowing you to listen to your favorite songs on the go
- Compatibility: Pandora is currently available to be played on Windows, and Android and is found in the Apple Store
- Availability: Pandora is only available in the US currently
The obvious downside is that Pandora is only available in the US. If you are roaming out of the country your favorite music will not be available. Also, the paid-for $5 plan only allows for radio plays and not on-demand or personal selection. But then again, $10 is about the same as competitors, and $5 isn’t such a bad price to pay if you’re just looking for radio play.
4. Google Play Music
Google Play Music is perfect for Android lovers and for those heavily immersed in the Google atmosphere. I’m talking to you who can’t live without your Gmail, Google Docs, and full Google Drive. And of course for those wishing to listen offline. Google Play offers a large variety, of family plans and has made itself compatible with other devices.
- Price: You can use Google Play Music for free, but as always, with fewer features than paying for the plans. The individual plan costs $9.99 and the family plan, which accommodates up to six people, costs $14.99
- Selection: As their site reads, you can upload 50,000 of your own songs as well as select from a wide variety of music, 40 million songs to be exact!
- Downloads: Yes, you can download directly to your device, ad-free, and skip as often as you like
- Compatibility: Google Play Music of course has Google in the name and is therefore immersed in the Google community. This means that Androids will have the best compatibility. Google Play is found in the Google Play Store, but has also been made available to iOS and can be found in the Apple Store.
- Availability: Google Play Music is available to you offline and in over sixty countries
The Google Play Music comes at a low price and is shareable via the family plan. Google Play Music’s offline options allow you to stay connected to your favorite songs. You can open Google Play on your Smartphone, tablet, laptop, or desktop. Not the most compatible for Apple, it may not be the best pick for Apple products, though it is still an option.
5. Amazon Prime Music
Amazon Prime Music is a new addition to the Amazon industry. Prime rolled out its music to get in the game with other streaming devices. We recommend Prime Music for those who already have an Amazon Prime account. But even if you don’t this streaming service will be beneficial to you just at a slightly higher price.
- Price: amazon unfortunately does not offer a free trial period or even a free plan. For Prime members, you can get access to music for $7.99 per month or yearly at a rate of $79. For non-Prime members, you will be looking at paying $9.99 a month.
- Selection: 2 million songs are open to your choosing when to sign up for Amazon Prime
- Downloads: Always ad-free, you can download music offline with three simple clicks
- Compatibility: Prime Music is available on Apple, Windows, and Android
- Availability: While available offline, Amazon Prime Music is not available everywhere with the list including The US, UK, Canada, Germany, Austria, Poland, France, Switzerland, Italy, Spain, Japan, and India
While Amazon Prime Music is great for Prime users, it does not offer a family plan, is not accessible worldwide, and has a smaller selection than most of its competitors. It is a good add-on for those already using Prime.
SoundCloud is perfect for the traveler and those desperate to discover more and for the new artist hoping to catch a break by distributing music quickly and easily. Perfect for sharing your favorite songs, a majority of the music is uploaded by users themselves.
- Price: You can search and stream for free, but the songs will be uploaded from users, not authentic songs from the major labels, or you can opt to pay $5 a month for the ad-free version and $10 for ad-free and more selection
- Selection: With the free plan, you have a selection of 120 million songs uploaded by users, and 30 million songs from major labels when you pay
- Downloads: SoundCloud does allow for downloads if you cut and paste the link for the song and download it
- Compatibility: SoundCloud has been made available in the Google Play Store as well as in the Apple Store and for Windows 10 users
- Availability: Finally! A globally accessible and available music streamer, enjoy your favorite tunes wherever you are
The ultimate upside is that SoundCloud is available if you travel outside the US. The downside is that the free version does not offer legit songs and even the $5 paid version only takes ads off for you. The $10 version gets you the big songs, but all in all that is the same amount of money you’d spend on another service.
As the name, the iHeartRadio streaming device is made for those who love radio. With a plethora of options to listen to radio stations, you’ll find whatever you are searching for. Designed more for the Android market, it has still been made available on the Apple Market.
- Price: iHeartRadio is a free radio station you can stream, but you can pay $9.99 in the Google Play Store or $12.99 in the Apple Store.
- Selection: with the free plan you can stream local radio, podcasts, AM, sports, news, talk radio and even so artists allow their stations to be streamed for free. If you upgrade to the premium plan you are paying for on-demand song play out of millions of options, unlimited skips, playlist creation without a cap, and downloads.
- Downloads: when you upgrade to iHeartRadio All Access you can enjoy the luxury or free downloads.
- Compatibility: Compatible with Android, Windows 10, and Apple, it is slightly more expensive to get for iOS
- Availability: iHeartRadio is only available in the US, Canada, and some parts of Europe, it not available offline
While a favorite station, this one ranked lower on this list because you cannot stream offline, it is more expensive for Apple users, and therefore not geared toward Apple lovers. But I love it because you can stream so many radio stations right to your phone.
8. YouTube Music
- Price: YouTube of course streams music for free by simply searching and opening music videos, but you can also pay for YouTube Music Premium for $9.99 a month For a limited time, there is even a three-month free trial of the premium version. You can also get all of YouTube access for $11.99.
- Selection: Virtually any song in the world is at your fingertips. Simply click in the search bar to find songs, clips, movies, and videos. Stream your favorite songs, and covers and even check the “Up Next” section to see picks, especially for you. This way you are constantly expanding your horizons as far as the music world goes.
- Downloads: YouTube Premium allows for downloads, while the free version and YouTube Music Premium have not yet been allowed those privileges.
- Compatibility: While YouTube works on Android, Apple, and Windows 10, it does not work in the background as many other apps do. YouTube closes its music when you swipe the app closed. You can pay extra to have this music playing in the background, but the real question is if you really want to. With premium, you can continue playing movies and music in the background while you explore other apps.
- Accessibility: Premium is currently only available in four countries: The US, Australia, New Zealand and Mexico. It has been said that YouTube will quickly look to expand its market to open it to the world at large.
YouTube has been a great program for years to stream music and to watch and upload videos. YouTube is a comfortable app that we all know and love. With the addition of YouTube Music Premium and YouTube Premium, you have more, ad-free options and the ability to run music in the background, something we’ve all been waiting years for. The downside is that YouTube is slightly more costly than other plans, and is only available in The US and parts of Western Europe.
8tracks is great for those of you who enjoy searching through provided playlists to find music similar to your tastes. 8tracks has been around for a while and is well-liked by users. With a wide selection, you’re sure to find what you’re looking for.
- Price: The beloved 8tracks app and streaming service has been free for years, and still is! But you can always upgrade for $4.99 a month for 8 tracks plus. But that’s not all! It comes with a 14-day free trial for you to test the site out before fully diving in.
- Selection: 8tracks Homepage comes with playlists specifically designed to make it easy for the user to find what is most needed. There are 2 million plus playlists to choose from! 8tracks Plus allows for ad-free, unlimited listening
- Downloads: You may use other apps and sites to help you download 8tracks songs but from the app itself you cannot download nor can you listen to the music offline, kind of a bummer
- Compatibility: 8tracks is not compatible with Windows 10 phones, but is compatible with Android and Apple products
- Availability: 8tracks is still only available in The US and Canada, which is a real bummer if you’re planning to go abroad or if you want your music with you on a trip outside of the country.
8tracks is near the bottom of our list because you cannot download or listen offline, even with the upgraded versions. That’s not really worth the expenses paid for it, considering with the free version you can listen to the music the same way, the only perk of paying is that there are no ads. For this one, it is better to just stick with the free plan.
Yes, Napster did make the list and we’re letting you know we have selected it for the low-maintenance listener. Though there are fewer options, there are still millions to choose from, and it comes with options at low prices.
- Price: The first plan “Un-radio” starts with a 14-day free trial and from there costs $4.99 a month. But for $5 more, you can opt into the premium plan with a thirty-day free trial, all for $9.99.
- Selection: With both plans, you get personalized radio choices, and skip the songs that you want all with ad-free music. The free plan does not offer these options. The premium plan offers you millions of songs at your disposal.
- Downloads: With the premium plan you can both download and listen to music offline, however, the free and un-radio plans do not come equipped with these features
- Compatibility: The good news is that Napster is compatible with all three: Android, Apple, and Windows
- Availability: Napster is available in the US, Canada, and many countries in Europe and South America as well as Mexico. You have access to your music in almost all of the Western world, with promises to make itself accessible to even more countries.
While last on our list, Napster is still here because it is a quality music streaming service. With a wide selection, you can still find all of your favorites. Not available in many countries, and not much of an upgrade with the $5 plan, Napster ranked last on the list for these reasons.
So What’s it Going to Be?
Have you decided on the perfect pick for you? If you’re searching for cheap, affordable options, you can’t beat the list compiled for you here. With most of the paid options ranging around the $10 range, it is worth opting for the free versions. And because most offer you a free trial you can test out the program before jumping in. That means you can search around the entire list before you select and send your credit card information to anyone.
Whether you’re searching for Android or Apple-friendly, you’ll find what you need in our top ten. For an all-around, top-notch, and well-reviewed option, pick on number one-Spotify. But even if you opt for Napster, tenth on our list, you’ll find your streaming needs well satisfied.
A final note for the users regardless of plan, if you are using VPN. As you may already know, VPN is great for protection but tends to bog down the internet connection. That can be a major drag when it comes to streaming your favorite music. Find out more about speeding up your connection.
Get your streaming fast, and in clear quality. Don’t miss a single word or line of your music. Enjoy your streaming!