Since most music streaming companies offer free one-month trials, it’s easy to sign up or switch between services to give different ones a try without paying for it. But with all the options out there — and there are many — how do you pick the right one? Here’s a look at the big players, their various tiers and costs, and what they offer.
How much does Spotify cost?
Tiers and pricing: Spotify’s free offerings aren’t too bad if you don’t mind lots of ads — and you’re listening on desktop.
- Spotify Free: This ad-supported tier offers access to playlists with limited song skipping and playback features.
- Spotify Premium: Premium allows you you to listen to any track, album, artist, or playlist in any order with unlimited skips; offline availability; and exclusive podcasts for $11.95/month
- Spotify Family: The same features as Premium, but with support for up to six different Premium profiles for $17.95/month
Pros: A 70-million song library with good sound quality, well-curated playlists, and a robust selection of podcasts. A decent social tool that shares music with friends. Good algorithmic recommendations for new music.
Cons: The free mobile version of Spotify is even more limited than the desktop version, with sparse on-demand song selection and too many ads. The options for organising a large personal library of saved music are extremely limited.
Free trial: Spotify offers a 90-day trial at a reduced cost of $11.99 per month). Students get 50% off Premium for up to 4 years, and there’s a $15.99/month “duo” discount for two people living together.
Is Amazon Music included with Prime?
Tiers and pricing: There is an array of tiers for Amazon Music, though they are a tad confusing.
- Amazon Music Free: This ad-supported service is restricted to top playlists, and it’s the only tier with no offline mode.
- Amazon Music Prime: Free (and exclusive) to Prime members, this service offers personalised playlists and a library of 2 million songs.
- Amazon Music Unlimited: The cheapest paid tier offers personalised playlists and a library of 75 million songs. Members pay $11.99. If you use an Amazon Echo smart speaker, you can sign up for just $4.99/month for use on one device at a time.
Pros: Amazon Music Unlimited has a library of 75 million lossless high-definition songs, as well as curated playlists, podcasts, and personalised stations. Music HD is the cheapest high-definition service on the market, with seven million tracks available in 24-bit “Ultra HD.”
Cons: The free options are limited to a puny collection of two million songs. Lots of people find the interface clunky and the recommendations to be less effective than other services, nor does Amazon Music offer fun social features like Spotify Wrapped.
Free trial/discounts: Currently, you can get a free four-month trial of Amazon Music Unlimited. There is also a Family Plan for up to 6 accounts where you’ll pay $17.99/month.
Is there a free version of Apple Music?
Tiers and pricing: Apple Music costs $11.99/month, or $17.99/ month for a family subscription for up to six people. There is no free service.
Pros: A large library of 75 million that’s easily accessible across all of your devices. For many users, it’s a convenient way to carryover their old iTunes library with access via iCloud. It has some cool features like uploadable songs and a look-up tool that helps you find songs based on their lyrics. High-def “lossless” audio is coming this month at no additional charge.
Cons: People complain about the overly complicated interface, particularly for the mobile version of the app. There’s a social tool, but it’s weak. And that lossless audio? You might have trouble taking advantage of it without buying new headphones.
Free trial/discounts: Students can subscribe for $5.99/month. You can also bundle Apple Music into an Apple One subscription.
Why is Tidal so expensive?
Tiers and pricing: There’s no free option for this former Jay-Z-backed streaming joint.
- Premium: The lowest paid tier offers access to 70 million songs, ad-free, curated playlists, livestreams. $11.99/month
- HiFi: The same as Premium, but with higher-quality sound, $23.99/month
Pros: The biggest draw is Tidal’s ability to integrate with high-end audio devices that are capable of utilising its lossless music feature. It also offers a lot of visual content like music videos, documentaries, and live performances.
Cons: It’s expensive, and the features (aside from sound quality) aren’t anything special. The interface is decent, but doesn’t stand out compared to other services in the market.
Free trial: Discounted plans for families and students. The service offers a free one-month trial.