Gone are the days of straight-up FM radio and compact discs. Today, millions of music lovers depend on streaming music sites to give them the exact sound and songs that they love. With 83 million subscribers as of 2018, Spotify is certainly the streaming giant around the world. However, if you are looking for something a bit different, one of these six best alternatives may be able to give you the music experience that you crave.
Run by Sirius XM Satellite Radio as of early 2019, Pandora uses the Music Genome Project to curate playlists of songs with similar qualities. The major downside with Pandora, which is currently only available in the United States, is that you cannot ask it to play a specific song from its database. Instead it functions more as a radio station.
This service offers three subscription plans. The first option is free, but you will hear regular advertisements after every several songs. In addition, you are only allowed to skip up to six songs per hour. With the $4.99 per month plan, you will earn unlimited skips, no advertisements and the ability to play offline. For an additional $5 per month, you will also be able to create your own playback lists from the 40 million songs in the library.
One of the newer streaming platforms, Tidal was bought out by Sprint in 2017 and is now billed as an artist-owned platform with the likes of Jay-Z, Beyonce and Nicki Minaj co-owning the company. Today, it operates in over 50 countries with approximately 3 million subscribers as of 2018. Although it has a smaller user base, those who love it point to their ability to access over 60 million tracks along with approximately a quarter or a million music videos. In addition, Tidal provides some of the highest quality audio tracks available through streaming services today.
To access this vast library, users must be willing to pay a bit more than they would for the average streaming service. The premium plan costs $9.99 monthly and offers ad-free service with unlimited listening time. However, the HiFi plan, which costs $19.99 per month provides the high fidelity, lossless audio that most Tidal customers value.
Deezer is often described as being the streaming service that is most similar to Spotify. Like Spotify, Deezer offers a huge library and is available around the world. Even better, Deezer has Taylor Swift songs, something you will not find on Spotify. When you first subscribe, you will fill out your preferences for genre, artists and more so that the service can begin recommending the best tracks and playlists for you. You can then listen to your personal playlist, listen to live radio or choose single songs to play.
At $9.99 per month for its baseline service, the cost for Deezer is quite comparable to other Spotify competitors. This basic plan earns you unlimited skips and also provides a better audio experience than you will be able to get with the free version. For a premium experience with even better audio, be prepared to pay $19.99 per month.
If you love everything Apple and already have an iPhone or Mac, Apple Music, which has approximately 50 million subscribers, is the clear choice for you. This streaming service may be a smart move even if you have Windows or Android devices. Apple has a library of over 50 million songs and also offers plenty of exclusive content. Plus, you can often listen to new music here earlier than you would be able to catch it on a different platform. With Apple Music, you can search for any artist, album or song, create your own playlists, browse through music that is recommended for you or listen to Apple radio. Apple offers an amazing algorithm, doing even better than Spotify at recommending the perfect songs for you.
Currently, Apple Music offers a three-month free trial for new users, something that you will not find elsewhere. After that, you can expect to pay $9.99 per month for unlimited playback. If you want to share this service with other members of your family, you can get a discounted family plan rate of $14.99 monthly.
With even more songs available than Spotify, YouTube Music is a real competitor if you like a wide variety of music. Besides the typical songs that you would find on nearly any platform, YouTube Music, not to be confused with YouTube itself, also offers numerous cover songs and parodies. It can create playlists based on the music you have played previously. In fact, if you are a new YouTube Music user but have used YouTube in the past, the streaming platform will already know your likes and dislikes.
YouTube Music, launched late in 2015, offers a free version, which includes most basic features and is a good option for many people. However, if you are a true audiophile, you will want to opt for the premium service, which costs $9.99 and provides ad-free music and the ability to play offline or in the background.
Google Play Music
Now that Google owns YouTube Music, it is unknown how much longer the tech giant will continue its Google Play Music service. However, it remains a strong competitor with plenty of smart playlists tied to what you have listened to previously. The service has over 40 million songs, plenty of music videos and an amazing array of genres, making it a great option in any of the 63 countries where it is currently offered.
While you can choose the free service, you will be forced to listen only to radio stations with advertisements along with your personal music that you have uploaded to the site. A standard account costs $9.99 monthly and gives you all Google Play Music’s features, including unlimited playback. If you would like to share your account with up to five other family members, opt for the $14.99-per-month family sharing plan.
What about China?
Fair question, because China has their own ecosystem of music apps, albeit dominated by the enormously popular apps from Tencent Music Entertainment (TME).
Established in 2005, QQ Music has around longer than most music streaming services in China and enjoys huge popularity to this day. It focussed mostly on popular music from well established artisits, creating a platform for artists to engage with their fans.
Kugou is the live streaming music destination in China to discover new artists and what is trending online.
Kuwo is similar in some ways to QQ Music but focusses on selected genres including contemporary EMD mixes from popular Chinese DJs, and children’s music. If you have a specific taste this is the place to go in China.
Clearly, Spotify is not your only choice when it comes to streaming music at home, at the office or on the go. Even though these six options may not be as well known, they typically offer solid features, huge music libraries and easy-to-use interfaces to make your experience all about the music rather than the app.