These days, with online music streaming services offering so much content at affordable prices, it seems like the only ones actually buying music anymore are vinyl collectors. So, why are so many music lovers turning away from CDs and MP3s and toward streaming? The answer is two-fold. First, the selection of music on most services far outsizes anything your shelves or MP3 player can hold. Second, the quality of the music doesn’t suffer, with most online streaming services offering CD-like quality.
If you’re thinking about entering the world of music streaming services, you’re going to find there are plenty to choose from. In this guide, we bring you in no particular order the top five services leading the industry right now so you can find the one that best meets your musical appetite and monthly budget.
The iPhone was designed from the ground up to provide an excellent listening experience and Apple backs this up with its own streaming service, Apple Music. And, although the service has been plagued by bugs since the beginning, it remains one of the most popular streaming services because of its human connection. Apple Music costs $9.99 per month or $14.99 a month for a family plan (up to six users). The service streams music in 256Kbps and it is one of the few that also offer live programming, non-music content, and song lyrics.
Unlike Apple Music, Google Music streams in 320Kbps quality and it comes available in both a free version and a paid version, which costs $9.99 a month. The free version allows for unlimited streaming of millions of ad-supported songs, while the unlimited plan removes the restrictions for ad-free listening. One thing that Google Music has over its competition is its YouTube integration.
Slacker Radio was one of the first music streaming services and it continues to lead the way in quality and reliability. Like Google Music, Slacker streams in 320Kbps and it offers a free and paid version. The controls are intuitive and it boasts a deep library of music which can be curated into playlists or channels. Slacker also offers live ESPN radio, news and lifestyle stations, and the Weather Channel. Slacker comes in three versions – Slacker Basic (free), Slacker Plus ($3.99/month), and Slacker Premium ($9.99/month). The upper tier packages allow users to download stations for data-free listening while on the go.
Pandora is another early provider of online music streaming and it remains a top contender thanks to its large library and multiple subscription options. Pandora offers a free, ad-supported version, a $4.99 Plus version, and a $9.99 Premium version. A free trial is available with the paid versions so users can try them out without having to pay upfront. The one thing holding Pandora back is that it streams in 192Kbps, which today’s discriminating listener typically finds unacceptable. But, if you just want tunes and you aren’t picky about quality, then Pandora might be perfect for you.
Spotify is beloved by teens and young adults because it is easy to use, it has a massive song selection, and it enables users to build their own custom playlists. It also offers a discount to students. Spotify comes available in an ad-supported free version, a premium plan which costs $9.99 a month, and a family plan which costs $14.99 a month. Both paid versions offer a 30-day free trial period. Spotify, like most music streaming services, streams at 320Kbps.
These are the top music streaming services, but they are far from the only ones out there. Other possible choices include Jay Z’s Tidal, Amazon Music, Microsoft Groove, and iHeart Radio. All but Tidal come with either free versions or free trial periods, so your best bet is to try out a service to see if you like it or not until you find the one that has everything you’re looking for.