Which Music Streaming Service is Best?

One of the most significant changes in consumer spending due to the internet has been in how music is purchased and listened to. Streaming audio has revolutionised music listening and here I discuss the merits of each streaming audio provider.

At the forefront is Spotify. Spotify is free but limits the music available on mobile and plays ads between every few songs. But if you pay to access the Premium tier, which costs $10 per month for individuals or $15 for up to six family members, you are granted full access to Spotify’s library of 35 million tracks.  Spotify is great for listeners who want access to plenty of music, playlists, podcasts and original programming on a variety of devices.

With a library of 45 million songs, Apple Music is undoubtedly big. But does that mean it is the best? It has some great tools that help users find and discover new music but some users find this clunky.  Like other services, there is a three-month free trial and after that customers must pay $10 per month (or $15 for up to six family members) as there is no free version.

If you prefer an experience similar to that of a radio station, then check out Pandora or Slacker.  No need to search or scroll through lists of music, both pick the music for you. Create a channel with selections from artists of that genre and others with similar styles. Both are free with advertisements or $4/$5 per month without ads. For an extra $5 per month, you get ad-free streaming radio as well as access to an on-demand library.

What if you are a hi-fi geek and it’s all about audio fidelity? Music lovers who want high-quality audio and offline listening should check out Tidal.  It has a vast library of 46 million tracks and includes 190k music videos. You can try it free for one month and then choose one of its many tiers, starting at $10 per month for standard audio quality or $20 per month for high-resolution audio. There are also plans for families, students and members of the military.

Launched in 2011, Google Play Music continues but YouTube Music has largely superseded it. YouTube Music has a free tier and a premium tier called YouTube Music Premium which costs $10 per month. The difference between the free and premium tier is the ability to download music and videos for use offline.  Existing Google Play Music users, who currently pay the $10/month subscription, will also have access to YouTube Music Premium. At present, YouTube Music, YouTube Premium, and Google Play Music are separate apps, which may be an annoyance for some users.

Finally, Amazon Prime which costs $13 per month or $119 per year, includes Prime Music. However, those that are seeking a large volume of music should upgrade to Amazon Music Unlimited which costs $8 per month for Prime members or $10 per month for non-Prime members. With 2 million songs Prime Music and 40 million on Amazon Music Unlimited, there is a significant difference between tiers. Amazon has a three month trial of Music Unlimited for $0.99.