Music Streaming Services

There are way too many to choose from … which is the best music streaming service?

I concur. There are so many premium music streaming services out there these days, it can be very difficult to pick just one. Sure, if you are really rolling in the dough, I suppose you could just subscribe to as many as you like and switch between them as you see fit. But most of us are not quite so lucky. For most of us, just one is all we can afford. Which is why, of all the music streaming services there are on the market to choose from, it is extra important to ensure that we choose the right one!

Personally, I think it is a wonderful thing that there is an overwhelming number of options. Abundance is the best problem you could hope to have, right? With so many music streaming services, each providing its own niche features and genres of music that they appeal to, it only means that we have more greatness; more options, in other words, usually means better quality. The more streaming services that there are, the more competitive that they become. And when companies start getting into a heated competition with one another, well, the consumer always wins.

I don’t think that it is such a simple matter, though. I don’t think that one could easily say, well, this music streaming service is, far and away, the best. Are some markedly better than others? Absolutely … nobody would ever contest that. Do some offer much larger libraries of songs, artists, and albums to choose from? For sure. Are there some artists that are only available on certain platforms? Unfortunately, yes, this is true. There are, it turns out, many factors that go into deciding on the best music streaming service.

But I think it might be a mistake to try and find the best music streaming service, flat out, in black and white terms like that. The question that I often urge people to ask themselves, instead, which music streaming service seems like it would be best for me? Put another way, like I said, each platform has a slightly different approach – different designs, different modes of playback and song curation, different features, different dominant genres – the trick is to do a little shopping around and to try and discern which, of the many musics streaming services, has all the things that you look for when it comes to streaming music.

Spotify, for instance, is my go-to. It is reliable, I tend to like the intuitive nature of the design (though I am getting slightly annoyed with how frequently and drastically they change their interface), they have an extremely solid library of music to choose from, they allow for infinite playlist creation, and my favorite aspect of Spotify: the highly personalized music suggestions, playlists made from complex algorithms, and the way you can really dive into a genre, as well as discover new tunes that you, otherwise, may have never pay attention to or heard of. Spotify creates a whole personalized listening experience that is, in my opinion, largely unrivaled by any other platform in the music streaming space.

Others, however, friends and colleagues of mine, swear by Tidal. It is a little pricier than, say, Spotify or YouTube Music, but they claim that the extra few dollars a month is well worth it. Tidal’s most premium membership (Tidal Hi-Fi) offers lossless quality streaming, live-streamed concerts and events, and exclusive releases (sometimes, for instance, Tidal users have access to albums a week before their official release date). As I said, it all really comes down to what you want, in the end.

In what quality can I listen to music on the best music streaming services?

Again, this will depend entirely on which music streaming service you go with. Tidal is often touted as one of the best out there for listeners who have an ear for exquisite sound quality, with their lossless playback. Qobuz is another streaming service to check out if you are a picky audiophile with a good ear – they are also known for impeccable bitrates.

Little known fact: even Spotify, though, allows for high-quality playback, even though it is not the app’s default setting. If you go into settings you can quickly toggle the sound quality from “normal” to “high-quality,” which plays tracks at an impressive 320 kbps. The normal setting, on the other hand, is 160 kbps (which, honestly, as a musician myself, I have never noticed any issues with).

So, the range of qualities available in music streaming services is a wide one. If quality is your main concern (and you don’t mind paying a little bit extra per month to acquire it), check out my reviews for Tidal and Qobuz … I think you will like what you see. Otherwise, I have a sprawling list of music streaming services for you to look into. If the average quality does not put you off too much.

How much will I have to pay each month for a subscription?

Once again, it all depends on which music streaming service you end up going with. There are some, of course, that are more expensive than others. But if you are a true music lover, chances are the best music streaming service on the market is something that you are willing to splurge for. What you pay, though, ultimately will depend on what you want out of the service.

The industry standard, as far as I am concerned, is Spotify. They were one of the first services to really rise up and dominate this space, but they have also consistently offered a quality subscription for many years now. Spotify can cost you around $10 a month (with a family plan option available if you want to share with others and save some money).

Tidal also has a $10/month version of their service – but you won’t get that coveted Hi-Fi streaming experience. For the full premium version of Tidal, you are going to have to shell out twice as much, at $19.95 a month. Qobuz will run you about the same.

But there are plenty of freemium music services, too, such as Band Camp and Sound Cloud – the offerings may not be as vast (or as pop-centric), but they are great communities of musicians and listeners, nonetheless. I should also note that just about every music streaming site out there today does also offer a free trial or a free version (ads and limitations included). So, if you are torn between a few after you read through my list, you can always try several out at no risk or commitments.

Will any of these services allow me to do anything else besides just listen to music?

For sure. Any music streaming service worth its salt in this day and age will also have tons of podcasts for you to enjoy. Plus, some offer fun little facts about the creation of certain songs, lyrics, music videos, live performances, music news, etc. I do not believe that any of the music streaming sites in my list does solely music playback – each one offers its own array of additional features and exclusive content.

Plus, some of these music streaming services offer fun and unique ways to listen to and discover new music. There is Spotify, as I have already discussed, which offers tons of personalized playlists based on your listening habits. But Pandora, too, nods its head to the olden days of radio in allowing you to create customized radio stations based on your favorite artists, songs, and albums. Every song played is sonically similar (in one way or another) to the one that your station is based around. Further, customize a given station on Pandora by simply giving a song a thumbs up or a thumbs down as well.

On what devices do these services allow me to listen to music?

If your device can download apps and access the internet, it will work with every premium music streaming service out there. Android, iOS, it doesn’t matter. One of the best things about music is that it has always (at least since the invention of the cassette) been a mobile-friendly medium of art. And, of course, in the age of mobile devices and tablets, this has definitely not changed one bit.


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