Here’s a rundown of the best music streaming options currently available

The days of buying music are largely over, unless you’re a vinyl collector. Streaming is now by far the most popular medium for listening to music, but what are the best platforms to use? We’ll list some of the best options below.

man listening to music with headphones
There are a number of music streaming platforms out there, but which one is best? Photo: Pexels

You don’t actually own the music you listen to through music streaming platforms, technically you just rent it. Even so, streaming is still a lot cheaper than buying music ever was.

Back in the day you could easily pay hundreds of dollars for a couple of hundred songs through iTunes or various physical formats.

Nowadays there are a number of different music streaming platforms on the market. They each have their own features, pros and cons. Certain platforms cater much more to specific audiences, but we think it makes the most sense to rank them from the perspective of a standard listener.

Consumers Advocate recently published their own detailed rundown of the current music streaming platforms on the market, which we’ve interpreted for our own list.

Spotify

Spotify is the platform which brought music streaming to the masses. It’s the pioneer of the industry and the largest music streaming platform in terms of total users.

As is often the case with any industry leader, Spotify is also probably the least-specialized platform on our list.

Spotify inside office
Spotify is the leader of the music streaming industry. Photo: Johan Larsson via Flickr.

What Spotify does well is offer a huge library of music for a great price – it’s $9.99 for a standard account. It also has an industry-leading recommendation algorithm which can suggest new music based upon your tastes.

When it comes to value for money, Spotify is the best option for the vast majority of listeners. It has a library of over 30 million songs, which should satisfy all but the most ‘underground’ of music tastes.

This huge library is even available to ‘freemium’ account holders, who can enjoy it in its entirety without paying a monthly subscription. The only caveats are ads and a few other restrictions including limited skips and restricted audio quality.

Probably the best and most used across Spotify is its powers of discovery. From acquiring data analytical firms it has created an industry standard when it comes to music streaming. According to Consumers Advocate:

“By using a process called “collaborative filtering” (a complex system where your musical tastes are combined with those of similar listeners), Spotify is able to create recommendations that hit the “sweet spot” between familiarity and surprise.”

With Spotify’s discovery prowess impressing, it is the ‘Discover Weekly’ feature that stands tall. It’s a playlist that changes weekly based on your music listening and has become a cornerstone in the streaming platform choice. It’s an obvious choice for us, but there’s a reason it’s consistently said to be the best option out there.

tidal service website
Tidal is one of the more pricey options. Photo: Tidal

Tidal

Tidal comes a close second to Spotify, but would take the top spot if it wasn’t for the fact it is more expensive.

Most listeners would find Tidal’s Hi-Fi plan a little too expensive at $19.99 per month. For this price they get very high-quality 24-bit/96 kHz ‘Master Quality’ tracks.

For a standard $9.99 per month account, users can get non-high-res audio streaming, but it’s not as good as Spotify’s product for the same price.

Surprisingly Tidal has a significantly larger music library than Spotify, boasting 60 million songs in total, many of which are from lesser known artists.

Tidal is owned by Jay-Z, and as a result makes a point of paying artists fairly for their music. With the majority of listeners not in the audiophile category, the high price seems almost unthinkable.

YouTube Music

Coming in third, YouTube Music is a good alternative to Spotify and Tidal. While YouTube Music doesn’t offer quite the same streaming quality as other platforms (it has a max of 256 kbps), it offers a large music library for a good price.

Youtube music homescreen
YouTube Music is a worthy competitor to Spotify and Tidal.

As anyone who has searched for music on YouTube can attest, there are many different versions of each song on the platform. This can cause issues when it comes to finding high-quality, original versions of the music you like.

If you’re looking for a more audio/visual experience, then YouTube’s offering could be the one for you. It’s highly interactive with some solid search functions backed in right off the bat. Search song lyrics or keywords just like you would in Google and you’re in business.

YouTube Music’s pricing plan is pretty much the same as Spotify’s, with a ‘freemium’ service and standard subscription of $9.99.

Other options

While the three platforms mentioned above are great for fans with diverse tastes, there are a couple of other options for those who are into their own niche.

For classical music fans the best option by far is Idagio, a classical-only platform with 1.2 million songs available for $9.99 per month.

For fans of more contemporary electronic sub-genres, Soundcloud is a great choice, offering ‘freemium’ and paid subscriptions options.

One missing

Compiling our quick list we were going to include Apple Music. I mean, it’s Apple. APPLE.

When using Consumers Advocate’s detailed research for this article we noted the absence of Apple Music. It had to be a mistake, it’s one of the biggest services out there.

They then talk about why Apple Music didn’t make the cut and we kind of agree. They say:

  1. Its sound cannot match that of Tidal, so it couldn’t win for audio quality;
  2. Its discovery and predictive algorithms, amazing as they may be, are certainly outmatched by Spotify’s Echo-Nest-powered algorithm; and
  3. Contrary to common industry practices, Apple Music does not have a “freemium” tier, but rather a 3-month free trial, meaning you have to subscribe to get the service.

What other platforms offer, such as Spotify’s pretty successful algorithm, makes Apple’s offering something only devoted Apple users would turn to – and there is a lot. According to Apple in June last year there were 1.4 billion Apple devices which is a sizable market for those looking to stay within the Apple-verse.

Choices, choices, choices

When looking for a music streaming choice it can be overwhelming and those currently one one, the grass may always seem greener on the other side. But believe us when we say that Spotify is by far the best choice for those that want a personalised, easy to use and varied option. Those currently using the service, the grass if most definitely Spotify green.

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