Let's Compare Online Music Services

Category: Music

A new on-demand music streaming service, Amazon Music Unlimited (AMU), debuted October 12, 2016. Will it save you money compared to Spotify, Apple Music, or Google Play Music? Is the library of songs any bigger or better? Let’s take a look at the leading on-demand music-streaming services and Amazon’s newcomer. Read on...

What is Amazon Music Unlimited?

We’ll start with the newcomer. Amazon Music Unlimited (AMU) shares one characteristic with other online streaming music services -- a free trial and several price points for subscribers. Your 30-day free trial begins when you subscribe. Thereafter, it costs $9.99/month, unless you are an Amazon Prime member; then it’s only $7.99.

If you have an Amazon Echo or Echo Dot device, your cost for AMU is just $3.99. You lose some flexibility (you can listen only on your Echo) but you gain Echo’s fantastic Alexa voice control. You can even subscribe to AMU by voice. Just say "Sign up for Amazon Music Unlimited" and your gadget will guide you through the process with voice prompts.

AMU can also be managed via your settings on Amazon’s Web site, or with the Amazon Music App for Android, iOS, Sonos, and Windows desktop, plus Amazon’s Fire tablets and set top boxes.

Comparing Streaming Music Services

Amazon claims to have “tens of millions of songs” in its library, so virtually everyone should be able to find music that fits their taste. In addition to singles and albums, AMU plays playlists generated by users or algorithms, and tunes in to radio-like stations. AMU is ad-free, of course.

The premium versions of other streaming services are also ad-free. Let's take a look at the offerings, features and pricing options for Spotify, Apple Music and Google Play Music.

Comparing the Competition

Spotify Premium costs $10 per month; there’s a 30-day free trial for first-time Premium users. Spotify Premium for qualifying students is only $5 per month. Spotify apps are available for Android, iOS, Windows, OS X, Windows Phone, Linux, Sony PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4.

Spotify has over 15 million tunes in its library. The Sweden-based company has been around since 2008 and has over 100 million users (subscribing and ad-supported). A vast ecosystem supports the Spotify service and its users: blogs, social media groups, and sites that provide lyrics, news of new releases, and fan forums are abundant.

Apple Music starts newcomers off with a generous three-month free trial. There is no ad-supported long-term free ride. There are three premium price tiers: $10/month per single user; $15 for a family; and $5 for a qualifiying student. Apps are available for OS X 10.9.5+, iOS 8.4+, Apple watchOS, Apple tvOS, Windows 7+, and Android 4.3+. The iOS version supports Siri voice control.

Launched on June 30, 2015, Apple music has about 17 million subscribers. Listeners can stream tunes on demand or listen to curated playlists. There is one “radio” station, Beats 1, and a blog platform called Connect that allows artists to share photos, posts, videos, and tracks with subscribers.

Google Play Music is both a streaming service and a cloud-based music locker for tunes that users have purchased elsewhere. Apps are available for Android and iOS, or the service can be managed via a Web browser.

If you have a substantial library of songs that you've collected on CD or MP3, you can upload it to Google Play and listen as much as you like at no charge. A free “standard” account lets a user store and listen to up to 50,000 songs. You can listen to your Google Play Music on a desktop/laptop via the Web, or on your mobile device with an Android, iPhone or iPad app. (It's also a clever way to create a free cloud backup of your music library.)

An “All Access” single-user account that gives you access to "millions of songs" costs $10/month, and a 6-user family account costs $15. A YouTube Red subscription is included with either All-Access plan, giving users access to ad-free streaming of all YouTube content. A 30-day free trial is available. Subscribers can stream on demand any song in the Google Play Music catalog for their geographic region. They can create custom playlists, and purchase individual tracks from a store in Google Play Music.

Slacker bills itself as "the most complete music service on Earth." There's a free Basic option that lets you listen to a variety of "online radio stations" that are curated by artist or genre. You can skip up to 6 songs per hour. The free version has ads, but there's also an ad-free Plus option that gives you unlimted skips and higher audio quality. Slacker Premium lets you choose specific songs, listen to entire albums, or jump to your favorite part of a song.

There is quite a variety of subscription models for streaming music, and these are only some of the most popular options. Which one is your favorite? Post your comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "Let's Compare Online Music Services"

Posted by:

25 Oct 2016

Remember the good old days when you could listen to music on a radio all day for free? Oh, wait -- you can still do that!

Posted by:

25 Oct 2016

If you subscribe to Sirius XM in your car, you can stream it to your desktop for $10 a month.

Posted by:

Sally Scheer
25 Oct 2016

They all feel like a waste of time and bandwidth to me. Want it for free? Want to learn something about the music to which you listen? Turn on the public radio station(s) in your area or anywhere you are in the US. If that bothers your conscience to listen for free, send them a donation of any size you can afford. you can even set it up to be a monthly automatic donation. Why put the control in the hands of another faceless and uncaring huge corporation? Rant over.

Posted by:

Sally Scheer
25 Oct 2016

OK, I didn't really mean the rant was over. I just saw the Sirius radio post and HAVE to post a definite thumbs DOWN on that service. I've never heard more underwhelming musical drivel as I've heard from that company. And for that you want to pay extra?

Posted by:

Greg C
25 Oct 2016

If you are an Amazon Prime subscriber, you still get access to Prime Music. I think it is a somewhat smaller subset than that of Amazon Music Unlimited.

Posted by:

Jim S
25 Oct 2016

Which has the best classical music? And what is a tune? I am assuming one track of a CD. Mahler's 6th symphony's 4th movement is one track, and over 30 minutes long.

Posted by:

Mike hawkins
25 Oct 2016

What happened to Pandora? They offer free, ad supported, or pay to play services. In the car? For me that's Sirius/XM. Nice variety and choices in music comedy and news.

Posted by:

John Silberman
25 Oct 2016

There are so many others that are free. Pandora and BigR Radio are still good, but they have commercials. IHEART is still there with no commercials. All three are free with premium upgrades available at cost.

Posted by:

25 Oct 2016

it's the streaming that gets me...unfortunately i can't afford unlimited data

Posted by:

25 Oct 2016

One more to consider- Groove Music from Microsoft. If I had a family, Google Play's family plan would win. I've seen that Groove has 10 million more songs than Google Play. Groove is cheaper if you pay for a year. I've been using Groove (formerly Xbox music, formerly Zune) for a couple years, and like it. They have almost every song I've tried to find, and you can download the songs to play when you're away from wifi. I haven't, but you can upload your songs to OneDrive to play. The one bad thing I've found is that on a phone with limited storage, if you download songs, it eats up a lot of that storage. I'm thinking of trying Google Play to compare. Thanks for the info, Bob!

Posted by:

25 Oct 2016

I got a free years subscription to Deezer through a Sonos purchase. I took it for granted I would change to Spotify when renewal was up but that hasn't happened. Deezer have every track I've ever wanted, good sound quality and excellent playlists based on my tastes. Their interface is better than Spotify and customer support quick to respond with help. Why they do not feature more in articles such as this is a mystery.

Posted by:

25 Oct 2016

What about Pandora? Any chance you might compare the various services? You really just described each without any comparing/contrasting. We've been Pandora One (TM) subscribers for years (now called Pandora Plus (TM) I believe). I occasionally use Spotify's free service when I want to listen to something specifically. But I'm wondering how the various services stack-up in terms of: 1.) user satisfaction; 2.) cost; 3.) size of song library 4.) length of contract commitments 5.) number of devices it can be used on. Thank you!

Posted by:

Ken Heikkila
25 Oct 2016

I have Sirius-XM on my TV and in both cars for the simple reason(s) that we live way out in the hinterlands of Washington state's "dry side" and terrestrial radio is pitiful to nonexistent and I like dj's, in fact I odiate any music algorithm I have ever heard just as I hate random play on my music players. I also have Amazon Prime because I use 3 of their 4 services often. Contrary to what some have said, you can often make Amazon Prime purchases at close, the same or even better prices than other sources. I also have over 12,000 songs on my iPhone (where I live the Cloud is pretty much useless.)

Posted by:

Barry Vetero
25 Oct 2016

Which sites are available outside of United States ? ie. What Music can I listen to when I am in Mexico. Pandora does not work in Mexico.

Posted by:

Andrew Prakken
25 Oct 2016

Has anyone tried: www.streamingThe.net It has many radio stations from around the world that you can listen to. Also has TV stations to View. You can subscribe and at various times you will get an email as to what's available. A great search can be done for any country and any city.

Posted by:

Robert Hall
26 Oct 2016

How about some current info on the actual stream itself, bandwidth?, and how they each sound on good gear? Some are definitely better than others.

Posted by:

03 Jan 2017

Times have changed. I'm a little older(maybe a lot older) but I can remember the days when the record label paid the DJ's to play their songs on radio. Back in those days it was called "Payola" Now it's the other way around.

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