With so many choices, which music streaming service is right for you?
Updated April 20, 2017: Updated subscription tier pricing for Pandora Premium as well as information on its features.
For the past decade, music streaming services have dominated the scene. Some let you listen for free, others charge a premium price. Some, both. A major factor in choosing a music streaming service is the available content. We've got a list of the best music streaming services for the iPhone and why each one matters.
- Apple Music
- YouTube Red and Google Play Music
- Amazon Music with Amazon Prime
Apple launched its own streaming music service, Apple Music, in June of 2015. With a monthly subscription of $9.99 ($14.99 for the family plan), you can stream a massive amount of music from the company's long-standing artist catalogue and download content for offline listening. Plus, you'll get custom playlists that are curated to your personal tastes based on your past listening activities. You'll also get access to Beats 1, which is a 24-hour per day worldwide radio station with celebrity deejays spinning their favorite hits. It's got everything you'd want in a music service and looks great, too.
If you are deeply integrated with the Apple ecosystem, that is you've got an iPhone, iPad, Mac computer, and Apple TV (or some combination of the like), then Apple Music is the best choice for you.
- $9.99 - $14.99 per month (Free during the 3-month trial) - It's in your Music app. Here's how to sign up for it
Spotify is one of the largest music streaming services around and is arguably the biggest competitor for Apple Music. With a monthly subscription of $9.99 (or $14.99 for a family membership), You can stream music from the company's huge catalog and download content for offline listening. One benefit of Spotify is that there is a free tier that allows you to listen to anything in shuffle mode on iPhone and iPad without having to pay for it.
If you don't want Apple Music, but still want all the music, your best choice is Spotify.
- Free or $9.99 per month (free for first 30-days) - Download now
YouTube Red and Google Play Music
YouTube may be all about videos, but you can make it all about music if you want to. You'll get recommendations based on your past listening activities, and you can check out what's new and trending in the "Hot List" section. Tracks you like go in the Favorites section so you can quickly access them in the future. Music auto plays in playlists based on albums, artists, and genres. Currently, music discovery is limited to top 40 hits and music that is trending on YouTube, but if you know what you are looking for, chances are you'll find it.
With a YouTube Red or Google Play Music subscription, you can listen to music without the video playing and continue in the background with the app closed, and remove all ads. And if you want an even better listening experience, you can go into the Google Play Music app and listen to custom playlists, on-demand radio, and a library of more than 35 million tracks.
The best part about Google Play Music and YouTube Red is that having one subscription gives you free access to the other. If you have a Google Play Music subscription, you can take advantage of all the benefits of YouTube Red, too. All you have to do is sign in with the same account.
If you know what you want to listen to, or are a big fan of music videos, check out YouTube Music; if you want a Google-centric music experience and access to YouTube Music, check out Google Play Music.
- YouTube Red - Free or $9.99 per month - Download now
- Google Play Music - Free or $9.99 per month - Download now
Amazon Music with Amazon Prime
If you have Amazon Prime the Amazon Music app is amazing. You have your pick of songs from the company's vast catalog. You can stream music online from a variety of genres. Music is recommended to you based on your past listening activities and there are playlists for all manner of activities, like reading books, dinner parties, and more. You can listen to stations based on such themes as "All '80s," "Classic Rock," "Baroque," and stations with artists like The Beatles and Bruno Mars. Amazon Music provides an incredibly broad selection of music, although it doesn't quite go deep enough into some sub-genres.
If you have Amazon Prime, you definitely want this app. Even if you pay for another music service, it's worth having around simply because it is included with the cost of your membership.
Amazon Music Unlimited is the premium version of the streaming music service. You have access to more than 10 million songs (five times as much as a Prime membership basic plan), you can download music for offline listening, and have Alexa play you specific songs through your Echo or Dot.
- Included with Prime membership, or $3.99 per month, or $7.99 per month - Download now
Remember when Kanye West said his new album, "Life of Pablo," would never never never be on Apple? That's because it is an exclusive release on Jay Z's music streaming service, TIDAL. This new-ish service is making a name for itself in the world of streaming media with exclusive content, playlists curated by super stars, and artist-first compensation. It is also full of new and popular music video content. You can stream MP3 quality tracks for $9.99 per month, or upgrade to the High-Fidelity tier for CD-quality songs. The curated content is heavily focused on hip-hop, R&B, and soul music, but TIDAL has access to a wide variety of genres. It isn't quite a robust as Apple Music or Spotify, but has the potential to grow. Some fun celebrity playlists include favorites from Jay Z, Beyoncé, Macklemore, and others.
Even though it covers many genres, If hip-hop, R&B, and soul are your favorite sounds, you will love TIDAL.
- $9.99 - $19.99 per month (free for first 30-days) - Download now
Pandora is all about music discovery and does it better than most. It aggregates content based on the Music Genome Project's attribute algorithm. You may prefer personally crafted playlists by real people, but Pandora's lack of human interaction produces content you didn't even know you liked. The key is to hitting the "Thumbs Up" or "Thumbs Down" on every song so that you can hone your station to fit your style. Pandora offers radio-style streaming. You can skip a few songs per day for free, or get unlimited skips with a Plus or Premium subscription). The joy is in sitting back and listening to hours of music without having to stop and find a new station.
With a subscription to Pandora Plus, you can create personalized stations, skip songs, and listen to your favorite stations offline. Pandora's Premium tier focuses more on the streaming music side of things, letting you download anything you want, create playlists, and enjoy high-quality playback. Both paid tiers are ad-free.
If you like the idea of letting a complex algorithm set your day's tone so you don't have to do any of the work finding something to listen to, let Pandora take you on a musical exploration.
- Free with adds, $4.99 per month for basic, $9.99 per month for premium - Download now
SoundCloud is a great way to discover new independent artists, listen to new tracks from popular musicians, and connect with other music fans. It is also a way for musicians to get their songs out to the world without needing a record contract. It is heavily structured with a social aspect. SoundCloud is everything Apple Music wishes it could be when it comes to connecting artists with fans. You can follow your friends and bands, add songs to your favorites, and create playlists. Your followers can also listen to a stream of music you have reposted or uploaded yourself. The key to getting the most out of SoundCloud is building up a healthy social feed.
SoundCloud offers two premium tiers for musicians looking to get their songs out to the world. The Pro level offers a limited number of free song uploads, while the Pro Unlimited plan is, well, unlimited.
If you are a musician, a friend of a musician, a lover of independent music, or the kind of person that likes to talk about music at parties, get SoundCloud.
- Free or $7 - $15 - Download now
Deezer has a catalog of more than 40 million songs. It is designed to provide you with a customized music listening experience. Your "Flow" is a playlist of songs based on music you like and gets better the more you Like tracks. It also has a fantastic lyric feature so you can read those mush-mouthed verses and impress your friends with how well you know your favorite songs. Speaking of friends. You can also send cool tracks to your friends in the Messages app.
- Free or $12.99 per month - Download now
What's your favorite?
Didn't see your favorite music streaming service on this list? Let us know which one keeps you moving all day and why it is the best for you.