Which streaming music service should you get?
So long record industry bigwigs. Times, the have-a changed and music streaming subscription services are taking over individual album purchases. There are plenty of fantastic music subscription services on the market today — so many that it's difficult to decide which one is right for you. If you feel lost in this sea of options, here's some information about the most popular music subscription services out there to help you decide.
- Apple Music
- Spotify Premium
- YouTube Music Premium and Google Play Music
- Amazon Prime Music/Music Unlimited
- SoundCloud Go
- Pandora Music
For the Apple fan: Apple Music
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If you're all-in with Apple, that is, you exclusively own Apple gadgets like iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, Mac, and Apple TV — and especially if you own a HomePod, your choice is clear. Apple Music is the subscription service for Apple users.
Your Apple Music subscription gets you more than 45 million songs, plus Beats 1 Radio, Apple's exclusive DJ-delivered music, on any and all of your Apple devices. You can stream music over wi-fi and cellular, or download music for offline listening.
Apple Music intermingles your personal music library with its massive content, offering personalized discovery suggestions based on the music you own and already listen to.
Apple Music costs $4.99 per month for qualified students, $9.99 per month for individuals, and $14.99 per month for the family plan, which supports up to six different users.
For the multi-platform user: Spotify Premium
You could argue that Apple Music and Spotify are nearly the same when it comes to content offering, but Spotify has one major advantage; It's supported on more devices, including a plethora of smart speakers and some gaming consoles and smart TVs.
A subscription to Spotify Premium includes millions of songs, curated playlists, smart recommendations based on tracks you've liked, and a whole lot more.
Spotify is also great for finding celebrities and regular Joes who create their own playlists to suit your listening desires. Looking for a playlist of nothing but solo songs by each member of the Rolling Stones? Someone's probably done that.
If you're only half-in on this whole streaming music service business, Spotify's free tier offers the same content, but with some restrictions, like you have to listen to it in shuffle-play mode and you can't listen offline.
Spotify costs $4.99 per month for qualified students and includes a subscription to Hulu, $9.99 per month for individuals, and $14.99 per month for the family plan, which supports up to five people (who reside at your same address).
For music video watchers: YouTube Music Premium
YouTube's latest subscription streaming service includes YouTube Music Premium for $9.99, which includes a massive amount of audio-focused content you can listen to, even while your app is running in the background. If you're a fan of watching official music videos, live concerts, and all the rabbit hole content that goes along with watching your favorite bands on YouTube, then YouTube Music Premium might just be the subscription for you.
The level of content available on YouTube is dizzying, to say the least. You don't have to be an established recording artist to get your song on YouTube — you get to upload it yourself. This means we, as watchers of this unfiltered content, get access to practically anything in our heart's desire (as long as it doesn't violate YouTube's content rules).
With YouTube Music Premium, you can get all of the wonders of YouTube's music-focused content with the ability to listen to music in the background while you're browsing the web or checking your email. You can also download music videos for offline listening and watching, and of course, an ad-free experience.
If you are a heavy YouTube user for other content, like original shows and web series, you might want to consider upgrading to YouTube Premium for $2 more. It's basically what YouTube Red used to be.
Google Play Music subscribers who already have access to YouTube Red will automatically be upgraded to YouTube Premium without any additional charge. Google promises that GPM will stay in play at least until the company redesigns the YouTube Music app to support uploading of your personal library of music.
YouTube Music Premium costs $9.99 per month and YouTube Premium costs $11.99 per month.
For Amazon Prime subscribers: Amazon Prime Music
Amazon Prime may cost $119 annually, but it's still worth the ever-increasing price, especially if you consider you're getting about $10 per month worth of streaming music included with everything else it comes with.
Amazon Prime Music has two million songs in its catalog that Prime subscribers can listen to as curated playlists at no extra charge. If you own any Alexa-supported device, like an Echo smart speaker or Amazon Fire, you can ask Alexa to play something for you like "pop music" or "something to lighten my mood". You can also incorporate your personal music collection with Prime Music to create your own personal playlists ad-free and with unlimited song skips.
All this comes with your Prime subscription, so if you've got Amazon Prime, this is a no-cost no-brainer.
If you want a little more control over the songs you listen to, you can upgrade to Amazon Music Unlimited for $7.99 per month (or $79 per year) on top of your Prime subscription or $9.99 per month if you don't have a Prime subscription. There's also a family play for $14.99 per month (or $149 per year) for up to six members, but that's only available for Prime subscribers.
See at Amazon (opens in new tab)
For indie fans: SoundCloud Go
SoundCloud is the place to be if you really want to discover the undiscovered. It's a user-based platform that allows artists to upload their own content to share with the world. We're talking demos, live tracks, spoken word, podcasts, and a whole lot more. Your musician friend probably has some content uploaded to SoundCloud.
It's not just about discovering the undiscovered, though. You'll be listening to new and previously unreleased music from such artists as Panic at the Disco, Childish Gambino, Juice WRLD, and more.
It's also probably the best way (other than Twitter) for fans to connect to the artists they love. SoundCloud puts you at the front of the music discovery line. You'll be the trendsetter with your friends if you're on top of the new and trending SoundCloud artists.
SoundCloud is free for everyone, but if you're off wi-fi a lot, you should consider its "Go" plan. For $4.99 per month, you can download songs, playlists, and albums for offline listening. Plus, you get everything ad-free. If you're a heavy SoundCloud user, you can add $5 per month to that for SoundCloud Go+, which includes an additional 30 million exclusive premium tracks not available without this tier.
For just letting the music play: Pandora Music
Pandora is the progenitor of online music streaming. It started as a radio-style shuffle-play service that would generate on-going music based on artists and songs you searched for. By searching for Metallica, for example, you'd create a station of music that included songs with heavy guitar riffs, fast beats, and deep singing (or something similar). It's since grown into a fantastic on-demand streaming service but keeps itself rooted in its original radio-style station building features.
Pandora has two paid tiers, Pandora Plus and Pandora Premium. With Pandora Plus, you can create an unlimited number of personalized stations and download up to four of them for offline listening. You'll also get unlimited skips and replays of songs and ad-free listening.
Pandora Premium additionally includes the ability to search for and play songs on-demand, as well as create your own playlists with songs you choose to include.
Pandora's Music Genome Project station creator is the perfect way to just sit back and let the music move you without having to do the work. Even if you listen to the same "Get ready for work" station every morning, the songs will be different or at least play in different orders every time.
You can get your groove on without having to make any complicated decisions about what you should listen to next.
You can get Pandora Plus for $4.99 per month (or $55 per year), Pandora Premium for $9.99 per month (or $110 per year), or Pandora Premium Family for $14.99 per month (or $165 per year).
See at Pandora (opens in new tab)
For audiophiles: Tidal
At launch, Tidal positioned itself as the first service to offer high fidelity digital music streaming through its Master Quality Authenticated technology, which would let subscribers stream the highest possible audio with uncompressed, lossless music files. It's basically like listening to CDs in a wi-fi streaming music service format.
Tidal has since made a name for itself for having a number of exclusive tracks by some of the most popular artists in the world, like Beyoncé, Rihanna, and of course Jay Z.
There's also some fantastic video content and not just music videos, but interviews, keynotes, and roundtable chats by some of this decade's biggest stars.
Tidal's subscription tiers include Student Premium for $4.99 per month, Military Premium for $5.99 per month, Premium for $9.99 per month, Student HiFi for $9.99 per month, Military HiFi for $11.99 per month, Family Premium for $14.99 per month, HiFi for $19.99 per month, and Family HiFi for $29.99.
See at Tidal (opens in new tab)
For playlist crafters: Deezer
Deezer has also posited itself as one of the only streaming music services where you can get CD-quality uncompressed lossless music files with a high-fidelity stream at 16-bit rates.
Deezer has made deals with some of the highest-end speaker makers, like Bang & Olufsen and Sonos, to connect you directly to your Deezer subscription for FLAC listening directly.
On your iPhone, you can download music for offline listening, browse curated playlists, and even make minor adjustments to your listening experience with the built-in equalizer.
You can create personalized playlists from hundreds of different mixes of your favorite songs, import your personal digital music collection, and get high-quality streaming at a great price.
Though Tidal and Deezer have similar streaming music quality features, the latter has less exclusive content, but more genre variety.
Deezer's standard audio plan is also only $9.99 per month for an individual plan or $14.99 for a family plan. There's also a student plan for $4.99 per month and a HiFi plan, which features those CD-quality songs for $19.99.
See at Deezer (opens in new tab)
If you only listen to music on mobile: iHeartRadio
Though you might consider iHeartRadio to be a station-based music streaming service, there's lots more under the hood when you subscribe. There are two tiers to iHeartRadio's paid service: Plus and All Access.
Plus lets you play any song on demand and lets you skip songs as often as you like. You can also save songs to existing playlists and replay songs.
All Access upgrades the service with offline listening, custom playlist creation, access to more on-demand music, and custom playlist creation.
iHeartRadio Plus and All Access make the most sense on mobile devices. Offline listening, for example, is only available through the iOS or Android apps. If you're in the car or on the go more often than not, you might find iHeartRadio's collection of content to be more your speed.
The Plus subscription costs $4.99 per month while All Access costs $9.99 per month.
What's your personal favorite music streaming service? Let all our readers know why you chose it. You'll never know when someone has the same music needs as you.
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Lory is a renaissance woman, writing news, reviews, and how-to guides for iMore. She also fancies herself a bit of a rock star in her town and spends too much time reading comic books. If she's not typing away at her keyboard, you can probably find her at Disneyland or watching Star Wars (or both).