While Apple Music and Spotify are the two dominant music streaming services, there are plenty of other legitimate options to check out. Maybe you’re looking for something that prioritizes the highest quality digital music experience possible; maybe you want something that works well free of charge; maybe your priority is making sure your favorite artists are fairly compensated. Whatever your interests, there’s a streaming service for you out there.
Spotify remains the best music streaming option for most people, even now. It has an excellent music recommendation algorithm, a low barrier to entry thanks to the free tier, and useful social features. Normally, I wouldn’t count social features as a big part of a music streaming service, but Spotify has made some that are quite cool.
Chief among these features is the Spotify Wrapped annual roundup, which lets you show off how much you listen to music and your top songs and artists. There’s also Spotify Jam, which lets you and your friends create a fun party playlist, and Spotify Blend, which is great for a collaborative playlist with your partner.
Having said that, not everything is perfect with Spotify. Its aggressive push into podcasts has left a lot of people miffed as there’s no way to hide these episodes from your Spotify homepage. It still doesn’t offer lossless audio, which services like Apple Music offer at no additional charge, and its free tier is a bit limiting as it omits a skip button.
- Has a free tier
- Useful social features
- Music recommendations
- Cross-platform apps
- No way to hide podcasts
- Lacks lossless audio
Price: Free (with ads), $US10.99/month (individual), and $US14.99/month (family).
Unsurprisingly, Apple Music is the best music streaming service for most Apple users. It has a great catalog, good recommendations, and some great editorial playlists. Apple has the advantage of its entire ecosystem of services, which means that the company can offer a competitively priced bundle. This makes Apple Music an affordable option for those who want to use other Apple services such as Apple Arcade, iCloud, Apple Fitness+, Apple News+, or Apple TV+. There are some features that Apple does best, such as time-synced lyrics and support for Spatial Audio, lossless music, and integration with Apple devices such as the HomePod.
On the flip side, if you want to use Apple Music with non-Apple devices, the experience is sub-par. It’s pretty clear that Apple wants to offer the best music experience in its own ecosystem, and you’ll notice that in the quality of its apps on PC, web, and Android. The service also lacks great social features, which is a big strength for Spotify.
- Editorial playlists
- Integration with the Apple ecosystem
- Has lossless audio at no extra charge
- No free tier
- Android and PC apps are sub-par
- Lacks great social features
Price: $US4.99/month (limits you to playing music via Siri), $US10.99/month (individual), and $US16.99/month (family)
Although Spotify is excellent on Android, there’s a case to be made for YouTube Music as a great alternative on the platform. It has a vast catalog, a free tier that lets you skip songs, and radio stations for you to discover new music. Its audio quality is capped at 256kbps, but that’s good enough for a lot of people.
- Vast library
- Skip songs in the free tier
- Lacks high-res audio
Price: Free (with ads), $US10.99/month (individual), $US16.99/month (family)
While Apple Music is good enough to serve most of your high-fidelity audio needs, there are music streaming services built to cater only to this market. Qobuz is the best of the bunch, as it allows you to stream 24-bit FLACs up to 192KHz, which is as good as it gets in digital audio. If you want to own music instead of streaming it, Qobuz also has a download store that lets you buy high-res albums. The pricing is good, it works with the devices you use, and is compatible with quite a few dedicated high-res audio devices. The downside is that it isn’t a great service if you’re into social features, and it lacks Spatial Audio.
- High-res audio at a good price
- Compatibility with audiophile gear
- Digital download store
- Lacks social features
- No Spatial Audio
- No free tier
Price: $US12.99/month (individual), $US21.90/month (family), $US129.99 (year)
If you’re concerned about the low payouts that artists receive from music streaming services and you want to choose one that pays the best rate, then your best option is Bandcamp. We have an in-depth piece that described how much each streaming service pays, and it’s clear Bandcamp is a cut above the rest. It’s not really a music streaming service per se, but more of a store for digital music. However, if you want to buy music and send the maximum possible revenue to the artist, it’s your best pick.
- Great payouts for artists
- You own the music
- Limited streaming options
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