Music streaming services allow you to stream original audio tracks on your device. Since the pandemic, the music streaming industry has witnessed a boom in the number of online subscribers.
And YouTube Music is leading in this race.
According to a survey conducted in January 2021, YouTube is the most popular music streaming service in the USA.
In this post, we would try to list some of the best streaming music services, and detail their subscription options, audio quality, supported devices, and if any group sharing plans are available.
How to Select the Best Music Streaming Service
Before we list down some of the best music streaming services, check out the parameters and hierarchy by which you can ideally select the best music streaming service for yourself.
1. Music Catalog
Ask yourself, how often do you listen to music and the ideal variety you are looking for in your music catalog?
If you are an avid listener and listen to a variety of genres, then you should go with platforms that have vast music databases.
Also, if you listen to music from different languages, make sure your platform of choice supports foreign-language titles.
2. Free or Paid Subscription
What kind of subscription option are you looking for? Would you be fine with ad interruption, or do you want to enjoy uninterrupted music and offline listening?
If you are not looking for paid plans, then you should steer away from paid-only platforms like Apple Music and Tidal.
3. Audio Quality
The sound quality of an audio streaming platform dictates whether or not you would be able to enjoy the minute nuances of famous composers and percussionists. Most platforms don’t support high-definition audio rendering, so please pay heed to that.
4. Device Support
Music is supposed to be enjoyed on the move. So, the right music streaming platform should be compatible with most audio systems or devices. Make sure that your selected platform checks out the devices that you would be using it on regularly.
You should be able to stream music while working on your laptop, at the gym, or while doing your chores.
5. Other Features
You may want detailed lyrics with each track along with the info about who all are behind it. You can also search for platforms that can stream live shows and also give access to detailed artist interviews.
5 Best Streaming Music Services
Now that we have pinned down the selection criteria for music streaming services, here is a list of free/ paid streaming service platforms.
- Great automated song and playlist recommendations
- Desktop app and web-player available
- Massive collection of podcasts
- Free version available
- Lyrics can’t be viewed on web-player or desktop app
- High-definition audio rendering is available only for Premium users.
Streaming Catalog – Their streaming catalog is huge. You can stream over 70 million tracks and listen to over 2.5 million podcast titles.
Subscribers – As of the second quarter of 2021, Spotify boasts nearly 165 million premium subscribers worldwide.
If you enjoy listening to music, you must have used Spotify.
Spotify is the second most popular music streaming service in the USA.
Spotify has established a large stable user base, nearly perfecting the song & playlist recommendations. We know.
Spotify carefully analyzes your song selection and provides a custom selection that is most likely to suit your taste.
It has millions of songs titles and podcasts in its catalog, which can be easily accessed from a browser, desktop, or using their app on any smartphone.
You can use a computer’s browsers and launch Spotify using their web player. You can also download the desktop version of the application on your machine.
One advantage of the desktop player is, it is a standalone media player, so you can use the Spotify desktop application to play other media files from your local machine.
The Spotify app interface is fluid and easy to navigate around.
While using the Android or iOS app, you can even check out parts of the song lyrics and read other fun facts about the song.
This feature is only available on the app platform and not available on the browser or desktop version.
You can listen to Spotify for free with audio and banner ads, with a streaming quality of 160Kbps. However, you can enjoy uninterrupted music by becoming a Spotify Premium member and enjoy ad-free listening at 320Kbps.
The ad ladened version of Spotify can be used for free. However, a Spotify Premium membership would cost you $9.99 per month.
They also provide Spotify Family and Duo plans for shared usage among 4 members and 2 members, which would cost you $14.99 & $12.99 per month respectively
Spotify can be installed and accessed from almost any smart device.
You can use the application on your Android or iOS smartphones & handheld devices, on desktops/ laptops, smart TVs, and smart speakers.
Content Worth Checking Out
2. Apple Music
- 24/7 Music 1 Radio
- Great music catalog
- Free Subscription not available
- High-definition Audio not available
Streaming Catalog – You can choose from over 75 million audio streaming tracks and new tracks get added daily.
Subscribers – Currently there are over 72 million Apple Music subscribers worldwide.
Apple Music is one of the best music apps and Spotify competitors. It has a really deep music library, Siri and Apple Watch compatibility, and dedicated music stations.
They’ve also launched Apple Music TV, a streaming platform focusing on music videos, artist performances, and artist interviews.
You can play songs and listen to different radios on a web browser or on their respective apps or on mobile devices.
You can also navigate through your music library on your Apple Watch, set up, and use Siri voice commands for it.
Apple Music comes with a 3-month trial. Apple Music streams ad-free audio @ 256Kbps however high-definition audio rendering is not supported on this platform.
A single-user monthly subscription would cost you $9.99 while a Family Plan (for up to 6 people) would cost you $14.99.
Android & iOS devices, Apple TV, web browsers, smart speakers.
Contents Worth Checking Out
- Excellent audio quality, Hi-Fi option available
- Exclusive backstage and live concert content
- First access pass to concerts
- Free version not available
- Lyrics absent
Streaming Catalog – Curated 70 million+ songs that can be enjoyed ad-free.
Subscribers – As of 2016, they have over 3 million worldwide subscribers
Tidal is rated among the best music streaming service apps around, targeted towards audiophiles.
Tidal has a similar streaming catalog to that of Spotify & Apple Music.
But its high-definition audio rendering along with a subscription plan for Hi-fidelity content makes it the right platform for consumers who appreciate lossless music above everything else.
You can listen to Tidal on your Android or iOS smartphones, tablets, on various DJ consoles, smart TVs, and other wearable devices.
Check out the complete list of supported devices on their webpage.
Tidal provides a 30-day trial period after which you have to subscribe to one of their plans to continue listening to ad-free music.
Their base subscription renders music in 320Kbps while switching to a HiFi plan will allow you to listen to non-compressed Dolby Atmos FLAC audio in 1411Kbps.
- Tidal Premium – At $9.99 per month you can listen to your favorite music in 320Kbps
- Tidal HiFi – At $19.99 per month, you can enjoy true high-definition audio in 1411Kbps.
If you want to subscribe to Tidal for your whole family (up to 5 people), you can go for the Tidal Premium Family plan at $14.99 per month, while the Tidal HiFi Family Plan will cost you $29.99 per month.
Android & iOS devices, Smart TV, web browsers, smart speakers & wearables.
Contents Worth Checking Out
- Jay-Z’s 4:44
- Kanye West’s The Life of Pablo
4. YouTube Music
- Location and time-based recommendations
- Free version
- Search songs by lyrics
- High-definition audio not available
Streaming Catalog – YouTube Music has over 60 million songs for you
Subscribers – YouTube Music has over 30 million Music and Premium subscribers
YouTube Music streaming service would soon be replacing Google Music Play.
This streaming service has a rich music library and can cater to your custom music needs.
Thanks to Google’s rich user database, YouTube Music can recommend you the best songs and also stream them depending on the time of the day and the location you are currently at.
For example, if you regularly visit your gym at 8 am, YouTube Music would detect your time and location and recommend upbeat music!
You can access YouTube Music using their smartphone apps on Android and iOS devices and also from a web browser.
You can also check out the lyrics of different songs and switch to a music video seamlessly. Another cool feature is you can search for a song by typing in part of its lyrics.
Listen to songs on YouTube Music at an audio quality of 256Kbps.
But the streaming quality largely depends on your network bandwidth. In case of a slow connection, the application detects the lag and starts rendering content in lower audio quality.
You can listen to the ad-supported version of YouTube Music for free. However, you won’t be able to minimize the app or enjoy background listening.
To enjoy ad-free streaming and offline playback, you must switch to YouTube Music Premium at $9.99 per month. You can opt for a Family Plan for $14.99 per month that supports up to 6 people for group users.
Android and iOS devices, Web browser, Smart TVs.
Contents Worth Checking Out
- Free plan available
- Wide range of podcasts
- High-definition content not available
- Free users can’t create or share playlists
- Sub-par Audio Quality
Streaming Catalog – They have nearly 30 million songs, podcasts, and stories to listen to.
Subscribers – Pandora has nearly 7 million subscribers
Pandora has come a long way from being one of the oldest online music streaming platforms to a more versatile one that hosts a variety of podcasts, album commentary, and millions of songs to listen to.
Pandora is one of the best free streaming music services around. However, it’s not ad-free and you may need to sit through quite a few.
If you subscribe to a paid plan, you can stream ad-free music and download songs for offline listening.
If you are a paid subscriber, you can listen to content at the varied sound quality. Choose between Low (32Kbps), Standard (64Kbps), or High (192Kbps) audio settings.
That’s where it really loses out. In a Spotify vs Pandora comparison, Spotify has the better overall audio quality of the two.
However, you can select the bitrate, especially helpful when you want to download a large number of songs on your mobile for offline listening without crunching through disk space.
You can listen to music with ads on Pandora for free.
With a Pandora Plus subscription at $4.99 per month, you can listen to ad-free music, and enjoy offline listening. This is one of the cheapest music streaming services out there.
If you want to enjoy all the above benefits and want to make and share your own custom playlist you should go for the Pandora Premium plan at $9.99 per month.
Web browsers, Android and iOS devices, Smartwatches, and other reading devices like Kindle Fire & Nook.
Content Worth Checking Out
Notable Mention: Prime Music
- Bundled-in with Amazon Prime subscription
- Seamless integration with Alexa powered devices
- Scrolling lyrics
Streaming Catalog – Over 2 million different songs to choose from
Subscribers – As Prime Music is tied to Amazon Prime membership, there are currently over 55 million Prime Music subscribers worldwide.
Prime Music comes with an Amazon Prime subscription.
This music streaming platform is quite easy to use, with a minimalist interface full of songs, playlists, and podcast suggestions.
It facilitates seamless integration with Echo Smart speaker and Fire TV devices. It covers music and artists from different genres and perfectly fits the need of a music streaming service especially when you are already an Amazon Prime subscriber.
Prime Music can to some extent cater to the music streaming needs of Prime subscribers.
Prime Music users can stream their music at 256Kbps.
You can avail all the benefits of Prime Music once you enroll in Amazon Prime membership for $119 per year.
Android and iOS devices, Amazon Fire devices, Smart TVs, Web browsers.
Content Worth Checking Out
Which is the Best Music Streaming Service for You?
There is no blueprint for the perfect music streaming service. Every music streaming platform has its own hiccups, so depending on your expectations and budget you should select the platform that suits your music that meets most of your requirements.
- If you are a student and don’t want to save the subscription charges, then you can go for Spotify or Pandora. As YouTube Music can’t be played in the background for free, I won’t be a good option when you are on the move.
- If you are already an Amazon Prime customer, then you can make the most of Prime Music and eliminate the subscription charges of any other streaming service.
- If you are an iPhone/ Android user and don’t mind the subscription charges then you can go for Apple Music, Spotify, or YouTube Music.
- If you are an audiophile and want ultra-high-quality audio on select artists or content, Tidal is the right platform for you. We will suggest checking if the trial’s available in the first place.
Make the most of the free trial (if or when available) from these streaming services before starting your paid subscription.
Now that we have the 5 best music streaming services compared, here’s what we have learned so far in a nutshell.
- Spotify, Pandora, and YouTube Music are some of the music streaming services that offer free music streaming with ad content. You can get rid of ads and enjoy offline listening in higher quality with a paid subscription plan.
- If you are interested in high-definition audio and want to listen to tracks in Hi-Fi, then Tidal is the go-to app for you. Even though the Hi-Fi subscription is a bit expensive, but it is definitely worth a try.
- Pandora has the cheapest subscription charges, but you won’t be able to create or share playlists. Also, their music catalog isn’t as diverse as others.
- YouTube Music is going to replace the soon to be decommissioned Google Play Music. It supports free music streaming, but you won’t be able to minimize the player or download music for offline use.
Q. Which music streaming service has the best quality?
Of all the music streaming services, Tidal has the best sound quality. To enjoy high-quality audio rendering, you must opt for Tidal HiFi Plan which will let you play music at 1411Kbps.
The speakers or headphones on which you will be playing your music can also dictate the audio clarity.
Q. Is there a free music streaming service?
Yes, there are many free music streaming services. Streaming platforms like Spotify, YouTube Play, and Pandora can be used for free. But you have to bear through a few ads every now and then. On the above-mentioned platforms, you can stream unlimited music, skip through unlimited content, and also listen to podcasts, radios, and custom playlists.
Q. Which music streaming service has the largest catalog?
Apple Music has the largest catalog featuring over 75 million songs, and podcasts. Spotify, YouTube Music, and Tidal are close behind.
Q. Which is the cheapest music streaming service?
Of all the music streaming services, Pandora’s subscription charges were comparatively lesser. At $4.99 per month, you can listen to ad-free music and download music for offline usage.