During the early day of music streaming services, we didn’t have a lot of choices when it came to music and movie services. There was a time when Rhapsody (Napster) was pretty much the only game in town.
But today, we have more choices than ever before. Are you trying to find the best music streaming service? We’ve got you covered! Below we’ll review the pros and cons of the nine best music streaming services.
1. Apple Music
Apple Music is the first “legal” music streaming service with a music catalog of about 75 million songs. It also offers features such as Hi-Res Audio, playlists, lyrics, Siri compatibility, Dolby Atmos support, lossless audio, and 24/7 music video and digital radio channels.
It also features a very slick and intuitive interface that’s easy for beginners to navigate. You won’t find a lot of clutter. However, a few icons on the mobile app might seem too big for your screen. Generally speaking, users experience better interface performance on a tablet or desktop. However, its Siri feature is among the market’s best personal assistant/app integrations.
Who Is Apple Music Best For?
People who love the Apple ecosystem of devices feel right at home with Apple Music. You can play Apple music on any Apple device and even other devices such as Android phones, PCs, and Amazon’s Alexa.
Apple Music starts at $4.99 per month for the Voice plan, $5.99 per month for the Student plan, $9.99 per month for the Individual plan, and $14.99 per month for the Family plan (includes up to six people).
- Enormous music library.
- Ability to integrate your personal music library.
- Spatial and Lossless Audio.
- Excellent music discovery feature.
- Spotify has a better recommendations feature.
- Podcasts are available only in a separate application.
- The mobile app is known to be a bit buggy.
First started in 2008, Spotify is now the king of the hill regarding music streaming services. In fact, nearly any review about another music streaming service will likely compare it to Spotify, showing how dominant this platform’s become. It features one of the largest music catalogs (almost 70 million tracks), collaborative playlists, podcasts (2.2 million), and integrated plans that include Showtime and Hulu.
Who Is Spotify Best For?
For those looking for a simple, easy-to-use streaming service that still offers plenty of features, such as podcasts, Spotify strikes all the right notes.
And if you’re a fan of their exclusive podcasts, such as The Joe Rogan Experience, and video streaming services like Hulu, it’s the best all-in-one option.
Spotify plans begin at $9.99 per month. For Duo plans (two accounts), prices start at $12.99 per month, and the Family plan that supports up to six separate accounts is $15.99 per month.
Students can get discounted plans for $4.99 per month. Student plans also include Hulu (ad-supported) and Showtime.
- Outstanding personalized playlists.
- Gigantic library of podcasts and music.
- Simple and intuitive interface.
- Hi-Res audio is not currently available (but coming soon).
- Web Player might feel a bit too basic.
- Doesn’t have the best track record for compensating artists.
Amazon Music Unlimited features millions of lossless tracks along with over one thousand “spatial” remixes. You can play these unique tracks on Amazon Echo Studio, Dolby Atmos soundbars, iOS, or Andriod devices.
Who Is Amazon Music Unlimited Best For?
Amazon Prime members greatly benefit from Amazon Prime Music as it’s free with their membership. However, users can also upgrade to Amazon Music Unlimited for more features and a greatly expanded music catalog.
For Amazon Prime customers, the cost is $8.99 per month or $89 per year. For non-Prime customers, the price is $9.99 per month.
- Very reasonably priced and a great value, especially for Prime members.
- Song lyrics automatically show on the “Now Playing” screen.
- Very expansive music selection.
- Simple interface.
- Spatial and Hi-res audio from Dolby Atmos and Sony 360 Reality Studio is included at no extra charge.
- You get free music stations for Echo Dot, Amazon Echo, and Amazon Tap (with ads).
- Artist profiles do not feature their biographies.
- The service no longer offers the music locker feature.
- The interface menu is not as attractive as other services.
- Average music discovery, but not the best.
- Does not offer video content.
- Does not offer a free tier with ads.
Tidal is a music streaming service that’s rising in popularity. It was launched in 2014, then relaunched by rap artist Jay-Z in March 2015. Its interface is similar to Spotify, with two key exceptions.
First, the service is advertised as being “artist-owned,” meaning artists are said to get a greater share of the profits. Second, listeners, willing to pay for the service’s highest tier, receive HiFi CD-quality sound.
Who Is Tidal Best For?
Tidal might be the best choice for audiophiles, especially those passionate about Artist compensation. The service includes some fun music articles with many entertaining stories, video outtakes, music videos, and behind-the-scenes backstage footage.
The price of the basic Tidal HiFi plan featuring standard sound quality is $9.99 per month.
The HiFi Plus plan featuring Lossless High Fidelity sound, Immersive Audio, and Master Quality audio starts at $19.99 per month.
The Family HiFi plan, which allows up to five additional people (a total of six) on one account and standard quality audio, is $14.99 per month.
The Family HiFi Plus plan, which allows five extra people (six in total) to share one account, Lossless High Fidelity sound, Immersive Audio, and Master Quality audio, is $29.99 per month.
A student HiFi plan is $4.99 per month. And a Student HiFi Plus plan is $9.99 per month.
The Military Hifi plan is $5.99 per month. And the Military HiFi Plus plan is $11.99 per month.
The Community Heroes- First Responder HiFi plan is $5.99 a month. And the Community Heroes – First Responder HiFi Plus plan is $11.99 monthly.
- Dolby Atmos Surround mixes are included in High-fidelity music streams.
- Tons of video content, such as concert live streams.
- Record reviews and profiles on every page, along with “up-in-coming artists” spotlights
- Offers a free tier, with a top subscription tier offering better payouts to your favorite artists.
- Webplayer and mobile apps are not as easy to use as other streaming apps.
- The music catalog is more limited than many streaming platforms, including Spotify Premium.
- Most Hi-res songs use MQA, a format that requires a special decoder.
SiriusXM combines in-studio artist sessions, live radio, traditional streaming music, and features such as rewinding streams to create a unique service no one else has replicated. They also give new members a generous three-month free $1 to try everything out before committing to paying full price!
Who Is SiriusXM Best For?
Folks who love traditional radio tend to love SiriusXM as you can listen to your favorite artists and browse program genres such as sports, politics, lifestyle, and news. It delivers that familiar nostalgia of when we used to surf channels on the radio.
SiriusXM’s Music Showcase plan features over 100 channels (80+ in car) for $1 during a three-month trial, then $12.99 per month.
The Music & Entertainment package includes Over 400 channels (155+ in car) for $1 during a three-month trial, then $17.99 per month.
The Platinum plan features over 425 channels (165+ in car) for $1 during a three-month trial, then $22.99 per month.
- Integrates seamlessly with SiriusXM compatible radios.
- Let’s you keep your factory-installed radio.
- Easily control channels through your steering wheel controls and radio.
- Channel information shows up on hour radio display.
- Compaitable with Alexa
- Large selection of programs
- Uncensored and unedited content
- Fantastic radio signal
- No Ad interruptions
- Features personalized stations via Pandora
- Offers SiriusXM Video
- Can be difficult to add to non-SiriusXM compatible factor car radios, requiring specialized installation.
Qobuz is another rising star in the music streaming service industry that features hi-res quality audio streams, but unlike Tidal, there’s no need for an MQA decoder to listen to these songs.
Music sounds fantastic over any platform, from an Android phone to a fancy high-end music system. It also offers 70 million tracks comparable to Tidal and Spotify’s streaming catalog. However, it might not have most of the more obscure artists.
Who Is Qobuz Best For?
Since Qobuz features many hi-res recordings, classical and jazz music fans are sure to appreciate its superior quality. However, rock fans can also enjoy its pretty robust selection. Qobuz is becoming the service of choice among many audiophiles.
Qobuz offers a one-month free trial of its Studio Solo service, which includes music studio-quality streaming, over 80 million song tracks, original editorial content, and offline listening for $12.99 per month or $129.00 per year.
There is also the Studio Duo plan for two and the Studio Solo plan for up to six accounts. Both offer the same features as the Studio Solo plan. The Studio Duo plan is $17.99 per month or $179.88 per year. Finally, the Studio Family plan is $21.90 per month or $215.88 per year.
Qobuz also has an upgraded service for Solo, Duo, and Family plans called “Sublime.” This service discounts Hi-resolution purchases of up to 60 percent, over 80 million song tracks, studio-quality streaming music, and original editorial content.
These plans are only available in yearly subscriptions. For Sublime Solo, it’s $179.99 per year. Sublime Duo is $269.89 per year. And for Sublime Family, it’s $349.99 per year.
- The app is very clean, easy, and fun to use.
- You can listen to 24-bit music without installing a special decoder.
- One of the most affordable hi-res music streaming services on the market.
- Also, offers a download store.
- There could be a couple of gaps in the music catalog.
- Does not offer spatial audio.
- No free account tier.
- No social components.
- No podcasts or live stations.
- Does not have smart speaker support.
Despite its modest offerings and relatively small footprint in the crowded land of music streaming services, Deezer offers a very solid service that, while nothing quite as fancy as SiriusXM or Qobuz, does offer a very high-quality music streaming service for a very competitive price.
Making its US debut in 2016, the service offers live radio, streaming music, and podcasts, along with exclusive videos.
Who Is Deezer Best For?
There is one unique Deezer feature that could attract people who often buy music. The service lets you import your MP3 files from your computer and upload them to your account through their website.
So now, you can stream the music you own from anywhere. This is a huge deal for folks who often buy media from local artists.
Deezer offers a free tier (only useful on mobile), a standard plan for $9.99 per month, a HiFi tier that costs $14.99 per month, and CD-quality music streaming equal to Tidal’s pricier HiFi tier.
The top tier also allows you to use a dedicated app to access Sony’s 360 Reality audio treatment.
- The free tier is very good on the mobile app.
- Great selection of original music and video content.
- Live radio
- Allows you to upload your own MP3 Files to stream via your computer.
- Free tier on computer limits you to 30-second song snippets.
- The mobile app does not allow direct MP3 uploads.
- Can not rewind live radio streams
LiveOne, powered by Slacker, is a fantastic music stream service that combines Slacker’s curated radio stations with LiveOne’s incredible live performances to offer something no other platform can match.
This platform also offers a deep video library, lots of podcasts, and a variety of well-curated channels to choose from.
Who Is LiveOne Best For?
LiveOne is a dream come true for hardcore music fans, as it focuses on delivering live music experiences. If your favorite artist is coming to town, you can buy tickets and either see the show in person or watch it live stream!
LiveOne does offer a free version. However, it’s flooded with video and audio ads that interrupt your listening experience. You can upgrade to the ad-free Plus plan, which boosts the playback bit rate to 320Kbps while removing the skip limitation.
And for $9.99 per month, LiveOne Premium allows you to cache your favorite albums and playlists and listen to them offline via the mobile app, and you can play albums and songs on demand.
- Well-curated playlists and channels.
- Allows you to buy tickets to attend concerts either in-person or watch streamed via the app.
- A deep selection of video content.
- Very informative DJs
- Lots of podcasts
- News updates (optional)
- The interface is a bit clunky.
- No Hi-Res Audio options.
- No Family plan.
- Does not show lyrics.
In the sea of music streaming services, Google’s YouTube Music stands out by combing features such as search-by-lyrics, customized playlists, community uploads, and official studio releases.
Who Is YouTube Music Best For?
YouTube Premium members can enjoy this service for free, but for those who enjoy listening to music through YouTube, this is the perfect platform for you.
The first tier is free, but it does come with ads that can interrupt before, after, and during song play. The $9.99 per month YouTube Music Premium eliminates ads and allows you to download songs so you can listen offline via the mobile app. This tier also offers offline mixed tape, a feature that creates an auto-download playlist based on your listening history.
You can also subscribe to the YouTube Music Premium Family plan, which allows six people to access the premium features and music catalog for $14.99 monthly. And students get a discount which reduces their costs to only $4.99 per month.
Finally, if you’re interested in YouTube Premium for videos, it’s only $11.99 per month and includes YouTube Music Premium as part of the package.
- Seamlessly switch between listening to audio and watching the song’s music video.
- Very cool time and location-based playlists.
- You can find songs by searching for song lyrics.
- Create collaborative playlists
- Student and Family plans.
- Free tier.
- Does not offer a lot of non-music programming.
- No Hi-Res Audio.
How to Choose Your Best Music Streaming Service Today
Finding the perfect music streaming service is nearly as subjective as a person’s taste in music. In other words, it depends on the features you value most. For example, are you seeking a service that offers a specific interface or audio quality? Factors include price, the number of artists on the platform, etc.
The price of these services can depend, but many offer reasonably cheap monthly base service options that become more expensive as you add certain services and features. Some also provide yearly plans, and a few give you the option of using pay-as-you-go.
However, one thing to keep in mind, there isn’t a music streaming service on Earth that’s yet to satisfy the standards of die-hard audiophiles who insist on listening only to physical media like CDs. While the technology is still evolving with promising offerings, such as Amazon Music HD, which offers hi-res audio, the industry still has some distance to cover regarding “perfect” sound quality.
Experts all recommend investing in some of the best stereo-quality headphones or speakers to make the most out of any upgraded sound improvements these services make in the next few years.
What Are Music Streaming Services?
As mentioned earlier, Rhapsody, which later became Napster, was the pioneering music streaming service that started it all in 1999. However, in those days, the quality of streaming music was nowhere near the same quality you would get from a CD, cassette, or even a vinyl album.
The earliest version of Napster was a p2p (peer-to-peer) service that allowed users to share digital music files — for free. So technically, they were not a “streaming” service in the strictest sense, more like a file sharing service, in which people would physically store the songs on their computers and portable players.
And then there were these sticky copyright issues, which saw famous artists like Dr. Dre and Metallica sue Napster after a few un-published tracks found their way onto their platform.
Many lawsuits tried to shut the company down, citing copyright violations; however, the publicity only inflated their new subscriber base. By the time the service was finally shut down in 2001, they had around 21 million users actively using it.
In the wake of Napster, peer-to-peer services became more popular, prompting the music industry to consider some significant changes at the risk of losing more profit to pirating.
Then in 2003, Apple unveiled the iTunes Store, which had a massive music library accessible exclusively through their proprietary music player, the iPod. Users could buy songs for as low as $.99, and this model became the next step in the evolution of music streaming services.
In 2005, Pandora hit the scene and offered more features such as recommending new music based on your listening history, allowing you to bookmark your favorite artists and more. One could say they became the blueprint many music streaming services like Spotify still use today.
Final Thoughts on the Best Music Streaming Services
Many of the best music streaming services offer a little something different that appeals to certain people. For those who want the best audio quality, services like Tidal and Qobuz might be the best choices.
At the same time, those looking for a live music experience may want to check out LiveXLive. No matter what tickles your fancy, you are bound to discover the music streaming service just for you.
As the Head Editor at Music Grotto, Liam edits content produced from over 30 professional music/media journalists and contributing writers. He works closely with journalists and other staff to format and publish music content for the Music Grotto website. Liam is also the founding member of Music Grotto and is passionate in disseminating editorial content to its readers.