Music streaming services started around 2008 and have developed from a desktop application catering for music aficionados to mobile apps that hundreds of millions make use of daily.
When Spotify hit the headlines a decade ago it signalled a worldwide shift in the way that music was to be purchased and consumed going forward, but since then a few significant competitors have cropped up. Which of the leading music streaming services offers the most bang for your buck?
Introduced as a rival to Spotify in 2015, Apple Music initially suffered from a small library of songs, but has grown their offering significantly since then. You’d be hard-pressed now to find a recent release that isn’t on there. Apple Music is only available on iPhones and other apple devices, so their base of customers is more limited. What do they offer you, and how much is it going to put you back?
Price: Apple Music’s base price is £9.99 per month for an individual user. There is also a 3-month free trial available to help you decide if the service is worth your money, and the price can be brought down considerably with its family plan allowing for up to 6 accounts for £14.99 – that’s around £2.50 per month each. On top of this Apple offer a student discount for individual accounts at £4.99 per month.
Free service: There is no free subscription for Apple Music outside of the 3 month trial period.
What you get: Unlimited ad-free access to their full library with curated radio stations, along with the option of downloading an almost limitless number of tracks for offline listening.
Number of songs: Apple Music comes with access to around 45 million songs.
Quality of audio: Apple Music streams at 256kbps in Advanced Audio Coding (AAC) format, with no options for users to change this.
Extras: Apple are looking to make their offering a “one-stop shop for pop culture” with heavy investment into the purchase and production of video content, so expect an increase in music video, concert footage and behind the scenes content, as well as the potential for feature films and web series.
Amazon Music launched in 2007 as a digital music store and pushed forward the selling of music without Digital Rights Management (DRM). Amazon has since split its music offerings over two services: Prime Music, and Amazon Music Unlimited. Prime Music is included as part of an Amazon Prime membership and has limited access whereas Amazon Music Unlimited is as additional service with a more extensive library more able to compete with Spotify and Apple. Has it built its value up enough to compete with them?
Price: Prime Music is included in Amazon Prime membership at £7.99 per month, however, with only around 2 million songs you’ll be looking to the Amazon Music Unlimited service – not included in prime – to get your full music streaming experience. Amazon Music Unlimited can be bought as an extension to a prime subscription for an additional £79 per year, but is also available to non-prime members for £9.99 per month with a family plan available for £14.99 per month. It can even come in even cheaper if you own an Amazon Echo device – by asking “Alexa, try Amazon Music Unlimited” to get access to a subscription for only £3.99.
Free Service: Prime music is included with Amazon Prime membership, but there is no free version for non-prime members.
What you get: An impressive sized library at the Amazon Music Unlimited tier, but limited for Prime Music Users. Music is provided ad-free for all users, and can be downloaded onto up to 10 devices. Amazon Music Unlimited members also get access to more playlists to browse through.
Number of songs: Prime Music has only 2 million songs but with Amazon Music Unlimited that increases to around 40 million songs.
Quality of audio: Amazon haven’t revealed at what bitrate their music streams, just listing the options as low, medium, high and auto, but the high option is thought to be close to Spotify’s top speed of 320kbps.
Extras: Prime Music is included with an Amazon Prime membership, so comes with the benefits of faster shipping, Amazon Prime’s video streaming service, prime exclusive discounts and the myriad of other benefits to being a prime member.
The company to kick start the music streaming revolution, Spotify has provided streaming access to their ever-growing catalogue of songs since 2008. With 180 million users as of July 2018, 83 million of which were paying subscribers Spotify has added impressive discovery and personalised playlist features to its toolbelt, but has it remained competitive in the presence of serious competition?
Price: A premium Spotify membership costs £9.99 per month and gives full access to their catalogue and services. Students can get their membership discounted to £4.99 per month and a 3 month trial is offered for a total of only 99p. There is also a family plan available for £14.99 per month for 5 people, around £3 per month each.
Free service: A free Spotify membership gives full access to their catalogue supported by ads every 30 minutes of listening. On mobile, songs can be played in shuffle mode only, desktop listeners can still play songs without shuffling. Spotify’s radio and playlist browsing features are still available to free users.
What you get: Available to anyone, a free account gives ad-supported access to their entire library with a premium account removing the ads and increasing the control over the music you listen to. Premium accounts also get personal playlists built around the music that they’ve been listening to paired with impressive discovery services to help you find artists you may never have otherwise discovered.
Number of songs: Spotify has a catalogue of over 30 million songs open to its free and premium users.
Quality of audio: Spotify premium users can set their audio quality to stream at one of 96kbps, 160kbps or 320kbps, with an automatic choice open to switching between these depending on your network conditions to help conserve network data usage and make the most of fast wifi speeds.
Extras: Spotify have increased the additional services provided, with included extras such as a running mode which tailors the BPM of the song you’re listening to to your pace, discover weekly and throwback playlists to both inspire new tastes and to give a flashback into your tastes over previous years, and group playlists that multiple users can edit on the fly.
While they each have their own appeal and advantages, we’d have to say that Spotify still reigns supreme. The discovery and communal services feel a step ahead in terms of understanding what their users actually want from a music streaming app, and their free tier is perfectly usable to anyone who doesn’t want to shell out for a premium account. Amazon music’s cheaper membership for echo owners is a significant advantage for that niche, and Apple are clearly investing to grow their offering, but for now Spotify remains on top.