How to Choose the Best Streaming Music Service for You

By Damian Davila on 31 August 2017 0 comments

"Without music, life would be a mistake," asserted Friedrich Nietzsche back in the 1800s. To many this quote still holds true today. But when the radio alone doesn't cut it, there are just so many different music streaming services, all offering slightly different exclusive benefits and prices. Here's your guide to help you choose the right one. (See also: Buy or Subscribe: How to Pay the Least for the Media You Love the Most)

1. Amazon Music Unlimited

With a catalog of millions of songs, you're bound to find something that you like at Amazon Music Unlimited. This service allows you curate your own playlists or create stations based on a song or artist.

Amazon Music Unlimited provides discounts to Amazon Prime members, college students, and owners of Alexa-enabled devices. If you own an Amazon Echo, Echo Dot, Echo Show, or Amazon Tap device and want to try out the service, ask "Alexa, try Amazon Music Unlimited." (See also: 20 Ways Amazon's Alexa Can Make Your Life Easier)

Pricing

  • Free 30-day trial.

  • Non-Prime members: $9.99 per month or $79 per year for an individual subscription, $14.99 per month for a Family Plan (up to six family members).

  • Prime members: $7.99 per month or $79 per year for an individual subscription, $14.99 per month or $149 per year (two free months) for a Family Plan (up to six family members).

  • Owners of Amazon Echo devices: $3.99 per month per single device.

Note to Prime members: You already have access to over 2 million songs for ad-free and on-demand listening through Prime Music. (See also: 7 Amazon Prime Perks You've Forgotten to Use)

Apple Music

Competing for the top spot of the most available songs, Apple Music services offers 40 million songs. And with a bankroll of over $250 billion, the Cupertino giant is able to secure some exclusive contracts with artists. For example, Chance the Rapper's Coloring Book was only available on Apple Music for the first two weeks of release. And you'll get access to on-demand radio-style shows hosted by DJs and artists, such as Pharrell Williams and Beastie Boys' Mike D, and Vampire Weekend's Ezra Koenig.

Apple Music integrates your existing iTunes library, including all purchased tracks, uploads to iTunes Match, and rips from physical CDs. This is a great feature for those who have already made a hefty investment in music through the Apple ecosystem.

It's also compatible with vehicles equipped with CarPlay.

Pricing

  • Free 90-day trial.

  • Individual plan: $9.99 per month.

  • Student plan: $4.99 per month, verification required and discounted price for up to 48 months.

  • Family plan: $14.99 per month, requires iCloud Family Sharing (up to six people with up to 10 devices for each person).

Bandcamp

Tired of services pushing mainstream tracks? Try to Bandcamp to uncover indie bands in unique genres. Did you know there were close to over 7,500 albums on Bandcamp tagged under the vaporwave genre in 2016?

Bandcamp provides users the chance to directly support new artists. Fans have paid indie artists $236 million using Bandcamp to date. It's also a one-stop shop for artist merch and albums in physical format (cassettes and vinyls are very popular!). Bandcamp allows you to create and customize a page to share your music collection with anybody.

Pricing

  • Listening is mostly free as long as the artist provides free access.

  • Once you purchase a song or album, you get unlimited streaming through the Android or iOS app or any browser.

  • Pricing varies greatly per artist, but some artists are willing to let you pay-what-you-want.

Google Play Music

With over 35 million songs available for streaming, Google Play Music is another top contender for the most songs online. Google Play Music is free to use, but you're limited to radio stations with ads (think Pandora) and up to 50,000 songs uploaded from your personal music collection without ads. Paid subscription plans get YouTube Red bundled in, which eliminates ads on all YouTube videos, allows you to listen to music even when using other apps, and listen offline.

Pricing

  • Free 30-day trial.

  • Individual plan: $9.99 per month.

  • Family plan: $14.99 per month (up to six people with up to 10 devices for each person).

iHeartRadio

If you listen to radio, chances are that you have heard a spot asking you to give iHeartRadio a try. So far, over 100 million users have enjoyed iHeartRadio's library of 20 million songs and 800,000 artists.

Listen to radio stations from all around the country, such as DC101 for Washington, D.C.'s alternative rock picks and POWER 106 for Los Angeles' freshest hip-hop. Paid plans enable you to save songs from live radio broadcasts to your playlists and instantly replay those songs.

Pricing

  • Free 30-day trial.

  • iHeartRadio Plus: $4.99 per month.

  • iHeartRadio All Access: $9.99 per month (All Access plan allows you listen to tracks offline, get unlimited access to songs, and create unlimited playlists).

Napster

Yes, Napster is still around, and it joined forces with Rhapsody to form one global brand across 34 countries. This team-up provides access to over 30 million songs.

This service allows Rhapsody members to access all of their playlists, favorites, and libraries. All plans require a subscription. Premier, Family, and Premier +1 include a feature for access to only kid-friendly music.

Pricing

  • unRadio plan: free 14-day trial, then $4.99 per month (no ads, up to four stations for offline listening, unlimited skips and replays, and higher quality audio).

  • Premier +1 plan: $14.99 per month (all the features from the Rhapsody Premier plan, plus the ability to stream in two locations with the same location).

  • Premier plan: free 30-day trial, then $9.99 per month.

  • Family plan: starting at $14.99 per month (up to five people).

Pandora

Besides Napster, this is the way Millennials started listening to music via the web. Nowadays, it boasts a catalog ranging from 30 to 40 million songs.

The more you use Pandora by liking and disliking songs, the better the app becomes at churning out personalized music recommendations.

Pricing

  • Free with ads.

  • Plus plan: free 30-day trial, then $4.99 per month (no ads, up to four stations for offline listening, unlimited skips and replays, and higher quality audio).

  • Premium plan: free 60-day trial, then $9.99 per month (no ads, unlimited skips and replays, search and play any song, create playlists, download music for offline listening, and even higher quality audio).

SoundCloud

SoundCloud is another option to explore music from independent artists. Think Myspace without the pink, glittery, animated backgrounds: a streamlined service that lets you listen whatever you want, find out what other users are listening to, and interact with artists and users. Many recording artists, like Drake, for example, post their music here before it hits other streaming services.

Pricing

  • Free plan: access to over 120 million tracks with ads.

  • Go plan: free seven-day trial, then $4.99 per month for web or Android app access or $5.99 per month for iOS app (no ads and offline listening).

  • Go+ plan: free 30-day trial, then $9.99 per month for web or Android app access or $5.99 per month for iOS app access (no ads, offline listening, and full access to over 150 million tracks).

Spotify

Developed in 2006 in Sweden, Spotify has become the worldwide standard for music streaming services, allowing its users to browse music in almost any way. You can search by artist, track, album, or record label.

Spotify lets you share an artist, album, or track via your Spotify profile, social media apps, email, or text message. Many artists record exclusive sessions (1,465 songs and counting!) for Spotify and anybody can listen to them for free. Fully integrated with PlayStation Music.

Pricing

  • Free plans: listen to all tracks but with ads.

  • Premium plan: free 30-day trial, then $9.99 per month (ad-free, unlimited skips, offline listening, and higher quality audio).

  • Student plan: $4.99 per month (same features as Premium, verification required and discounted price for up to 12 months.

  • Family plan: $14.99 per month, requires iCloud Family Sharing (up to six people).

  • PlayStation owners: For PlayStation 3 and higher models, free with ads or Premium plan for just $2.00 for two months, then $9.99 per month.

Tidal

Co-founder Jay Z dubbed Tidal as the "first-ever artist owned streaming service." Other top-tier artists who own Tidal include Alicia Keys, Arcade Fire's Win Butler and Regine Chassagne, Beyoncé, Calvin Harris, Coldplay's Chris Martin, Daft Punk, Damian Marley, deadmau5, Indochine, J. Cole, Jack White, Jason Aldean, Kanye West, Lil Wayne, Madonna, Nicki Minaj, Rihanna, T.I. and Usher.

As a member, you'll get access to exclusive content, such as single tracks, video clips, and rereleases from artists who own the streaming service and exclusives that those artists secure. You'll also have the option to stream music using FLAC — a more robust streaming format than MP3.

Pricing

  • Free 30-day trial for all plans.

  • Premium plan: $9.99 per month.

  • HiFi plan: $19.99 per month (High Fidelity sound quality).

  • Family Premium plan: $14.99 per month.

  • Family HiFi plan: $29.99 per month (up to five people).

  • Student Premium plan: $4.99 per month.

  • Student HiFi plan: $9.99 per month.

  • Military Premium plan: $5.99 per month.

  • Military HiFi plan: $11.99 per month.

Note: Some plans offer a discount when you prepay for six months. For example, the Premium plan drops to $8.49 per month.

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