For music lovers on the move, streaming music services offer an attractive alternative to hauling a collection of CDs around, and they open up an easy avenue to finding new favorite artists.
Subscription services from the likes of Spotify and Pandora offer a broad catalog of music — from the latest hits to golden oldies, with millions of albums and tracks that span the full spectrum of musical styles — all available with a few taps of the touchscreen. Further, the music can be played without having to buy it (rather, users pay a relatively low monthly fee, and some of the services’ entry-level offerings are even free of charge), and many of the services will allow users to temporarily store a selection of albums and tracks on their portable devices, enabling easy playback even when Wi-Fi and cellular connections aren’t available.
For anyone considering a streaming service, perhaps for use on a new smartphone, tablet or laptop, here’s a rundown of five of the most popular platforms and what makes them great options:
- Spotify: Perhaps the best known among the streaming-music platforms, Spotify was a pioneer of the streaming space and today boasts nearly 200 million active users worldwide. The service provides users with access to nearly 40 million songs, and its integrated social media features allow for easy sharing of favorites with friends, as well as discovery of new music via updated playlists and browsing the collections of friends, artists and celebrities. The service also allows users to store up to 9,999 songs on their various devices for use when offline.
Price: Free with ads and limited on-demand selections; the Premium, ad-free version is $9.99/month for individuals and $14.99/month for families with up to six users.
Online: Learn more at spotify.com.
- Apple Music: Featuring 50 million available songs and 50 million global users, Apple Music is an especially attractive streaming option for users who already have large iTunes libraries and/or use Apple devices regularly. Users with iPhones, iPads and MacBooks who choose this service can simply ask Apple’s digital assistant Siri to search for specific songs, albums, artists and playlists on any Apple device connected to the service, and users’ owned music in iTunes integrates seamlessly with the vast catalog available via the streaming service. Users can also store up to 100,000 Apple Music songs on their devices for offline use.
Price: After a three-month free trial, the service is $9.99/month for single users and $14.99/month for families of up to six users.
Online: Visit apple.com/music to learn more.
- Tidal: For audiophiles seeking lossless streaming — music boasting sound quality that’s on par with that found on CDs — this streaming service owned by hip-mogul Jay-Z is a great option thanks to its high-fidelity offering. Boasting nearly 60 million available tracks, Tidal is an especially solid choice for fans of hip-hop and R&B, as its catalog is especially geared toward these genres, and its playlists put a particular spotlight on under-the-radar/up-and-coming hip-hop acts. Added bonus: The platform also offers a wealth of video content, including concert livestreams.
Price: Following a reduced-cost trial period, the service is $9.99/month for standard sound quality and $19.99/month for the HiFi plan.
Online: Learn more at tidal.com.
- Pandora: For listeners who like to press play and step away, this internet radio front-runner is a great option for enjoying music with minimal effort. Further, thanks to its powerful thumbs up/thumbs down algorithm, Pandora does a great job of determining user preferences and recommending other artists that users are likely to enjoy — so it’s a great way to discover new favorites.
Price: The ad-supported version is free of charge; Pandora Plus offers ad-free streaming, higher audio quality, and unlimited skips and replays for $4.99/month; and Pandora Premium throws in on-demand listening for $9.99/month for individuals or $14.99/month for up to six family members.
Online: Visit pandora.com to learn more.
- YouTube Music: A relative newcomer among the music-streaming services, YouTube Music gives users access to a large library of songs and playlists, all with an eye toward music-video content and videos of live performances. The service’s find feature supports searches based on lyrics and descriptions of songs, and users can discover new music based on their preferences and what’s popular/trending in their communities of choice.
Price: The basic service is free; and following a three-month free trial, users can get YouTube Music Premium for $9.99/month.
Online: Visit youtube.com to explore the free version, and learn more about the YouTube Music Premium offering at youtube.com/musicpremium.
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