You can access almost every song ever recorded with streaming music services.
Welcome to the future. We used to buy LPs, then tapes, then CDs, then MP3s. Now we use streaming services to access massive libraries of music.
We compared six music subscription services and graded them on what features they offer. We found two that were very good, two that were OK, and two that could do better.
The biggest streaming music services don’t release numbers on exactly how many tracks they have, but some, such as Spotify, say “over 30 million”. At an average of three minutes per song, that’s roughly 171 years’ worth of listening! And it’s not just music. You can also listen to spoken-word albums, comedy and podcasts.
Grades were calculated using a points system, where points were awarded based on what services they offered and, where applicable, how well the features work. For example, Apple Music has a desktop app, iTunes, but it’s very difficult to use.
We assessed each service on the following areas which is a good checklist when choosing a service.
Price: costs for paid music subscription services only varied between $13 and $15 per month, so wasn’t included in our grading.
Platforms: from mobile phones to smart speakers, the more devices on which you can listen to your music the better.
Free version: some services have a free option with advertisements and limited functionality.
Family plan: this allows multiple accounts on a single subscription at a cheaper rate than if you had multiple subscriptions. It means your kids can listen to their music while you listen to yours.
Offline play: you won’t always be able to get online. This feature lets you download tracks to listen to at your leisure. Useful for air travel and avoiding data charges when on cellular coverage.
Radio: in this case “radio” means two things – an algorithm that takes suggestions from you and creates an endless playlist of music; and a curated, live-streaming broadcast, with or without DJs. When you join a service, the algorithm generally takes a while to learn your preferences.
Playlists: the ability to make your own lists of music.
Import: some services allow you to upload your own music collection, to supplement what they have in their libraries.
Music videos: as well as audio tracks.
Purchase: in addition to the library, some services allow you to buy single tracks or albums, to keep.