Apple Music (Android, iOS) is a major player in music streaming. It boasts 50 million songs to stream ad-free and download and play offline. The For You page delivers songs to your mobile devices tailored to your tastes, Friends Mix shows you what your friends are listening to, and World Hits shows you what's trending around the world. You'll also get powerful search with Siri, which enables you to hunt for on-demand music by artist, mood, or lyrics. The Connect feature connects fans with their favorite artists via music, lyrics, photos, videos, and text posts.
Those already in the Apple ecosystem have another reason to love Apple Music. If you have an extensive iTunes MP3 collection, you'll be glad to know that you can also access your iTunes library via Apple Music and listen to it along with Apple Music tracks across all your devices. Finally, you'll get exclusive and original content on Apple Music that you can't get anywhere else, such as breaking news and exclusive programming from genre-based radio stations and personalized radio stations.
But Apple Music's interface can be cluttered and confusing, its recommendation algorithm cannot compete with Spotify's, and some alternate streaming services have even more music on them. There are also cheaper options out there -- even free -- if you already subscribe to YouTube Premium or Amazon Prime, for example. Sadly Apple Music has no free option. Worst of all for iTunes critics -- and there are plenty of them -- iTunes is required to stream songs on Apple Music. If Apple Music isn't for you, here are seven alternatives that may be music to your ears.
Spotify Music (Android, iOS), brings the latest and greatest songs and albums to your Android and iOS devices. Spotify enables users to play whichever artist, album, or song they want to hear when they want to hear it, and the music-streaming service offers exciting retro- and new-music playlists that are tailored to listener preferences. These and other playlists based on genre, release date, or mood are excellent music-discovery tools on the easy-to-navigate app. There's also Spotify Radio for those who prefer the old-school Internet jukebox experience, as well as videos, music-related podcasts, and meditations on Spotify. You can enjoy Spotify for free with ads on your desktop or free with Shuffle Play and ads on your mobile device. But if you want Spotify Premium -- trust us, you do -- it's $9.99 for an individual or $14.99 for a family plan (after a 30-day free trial) to play any track when you want to with unlimited skips and the ability to listen to higher quality audio online or off, ad-free. You can even bundle Spotify Premium with Hulu to double your pleasure with music, movies, and TV for the reduced price of $12.99 per month.
2. YouTube Music
YouTube Music (Android, iOS) helps users discover new music with playlists and recommendations based on tastes, location, time of day, and what's trending around you via "The Hotlist." You can also search albums, singles, live performances, and remixes by name or lyrics with the iPhone or Android app. With a Music Premium subscription for $12.99 per month (after a one-month trial), you'll listen ad-free and uninterrupted when you lock your screen or switch apps, and you can download your favorite tunes for offline listening. If you already pay for YouTube Premium, which offers an ad-free experience on YouTube along with YouTube originals, then Music Premium is free.
3. Google Play Music
From Google, Google Play Music (Android, iOS) learns your tastes and delivers 40 million tunes and playlists to your Android phone or iOS device based on context -- where you happen to be and why you're listening. With a free account, you'll get a radio-like experience based on your favorite songs, artists, and albums, plus expert playlists; recommendations based on what you're into or doing; and storage and streaming for your extensive personal MP3s. With a $9.99 subscription ($14.99 for a family plan), after a 30-day free trial, you'll enjoy playlist creation, offline listening, and ad-free YouTube Music with YouTube Music Premium. If you're already paying for YouTube Premium, then Google Play Music is free.
4. Pandora Music
Pandora Music (Android, iOS) allows you craft radio stations based on your favorite songs, artists, and genres or discover recommended stations based on mood or activity, but you can only skip or replay songs a limited number of times. If you pay for Pandora Plus ($4.99 per month), then you'll get higher quality audio, unlimited skips and replays, offline listening, and the ability to create playlists by yourself or with help from Pandora. Pay for Pandora Premium ($9.99 per month), and gain the ability to search and play any song. You can try Pandora Premium for three months before paying.
5. Amazon Music
Amazon Music (Android, iOS) is free with a Prime membership. You can use Alexa to play up to 2 million of your favorite songs to listen to online or off, or you can explore curated playlists and stations (ad-free and with unlimited skips) on your own. With an Amazon Music Unlimited ($7.99 after a 30-day free trial) subscription, you can listen to more songs (tens of millions, old and new), playlists, and stations and get tailored recommendations of what to listen to next. On either plan, you can listen to music you've already purchased from Amazon or that is already on your iOS device mixed in with your streaming options.
Jay-Z's Tidal (Android, iOS) requires a subscription to Premium ($9.99) or HiFi ($19.99) after a 30-day free trial to discover and play more than 58 million expert-approved songs and more than 240,000 videos, not to mention exclusive playlists, podcasts, video series, and documentaries with better sound quality and without ads -- online or off. Tidal has albums from Jay-Z, Beyonce, and more that you can't enjoy anywhere else. Tidal X brings exclusive livestreams of concerts and in-person events with exclusive access to tickets, meet-and-greets, and backstage content. To sweeten the pot, Tidal lets users coming from other streaming music services easily transfer over their existing playlists.
SoundCloud (Android, iOS) has more tracks than any other streaming service - 180 million tracks and growing. It's the go-to place for artists to easily upload new music, remixes, and live sets, so you get to hear the rarer stuff you won't find anywhere else, as well as podcasts, audiobooks, sports, and more. For free, you'll enjoy over 120 million tracks, along with great recommendations and discovery options and the ability to create playlists. With SoundCloud Go ($5.99 per month), you'll enjoy these songs online or off, without ads, and the knowledge that you're also supporting creators with your contribution. Or pay for SoundCloud Go+ ($12.99) for more than 180 million tracks to enjoy along with the knowledge that you're supporting artists. You can try SoundCloud's premium offerings for free for 30 days before deciding.
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- Apple Music versus Google Play Music
- Spotify vs. Apple Music: Which is the best music service? (CNET)
- Eddy Cue: Apple Music reaches 38 million subscribers
- Why Spotify's IPO could bring more innovation to music technology (TechRepublic)