As of this writing, we’re still in the midst of the Spotify controversy, with artists leaving the audio service in protest at that company’s contract with podcaster Joe Rogan. Neil Young was the first to withdraw his music from the service, followed by Joni Mitchell and others. And some subscribers decide to follow the example of the musicians.
While some Spotify fans might disagree, there are quite a few alternatives available for listening to music properly. If you’re one of those who do use Spotify but decided to look elsewhere (or if you’re just interested in what music services are out there), here’s a quick rundown of just some of the better-known features.
Along with Apple Music and Google’s YouTube Music, Amazon Music is one of the most well-known services outside of Spotify. It offers three different music levels; as you level up, you get access to more higher quality songs. You can also listen to podcasts.
Amazon Music Free gives you access to the service’s playlists and radio stations, but audio quality is limited to SD and you can’t select specific songs or albums.
Amazon Music Prime is free for members of its Prime shopping/video/etc. service (but not for family members; it’s one of the few features that isn’t shared). It’s also SD only, but it’s ad-free and lets you choose from 2 million songs.
Amazon Music Unlimited gives you ad-free access to 75 million songs in SD, HD, Ultra HD and Spatial Audio. The individual plan ($7.99/month) only lets you listen on one device at a time; the Family Plan ($14.99/month) lets you use up to six accounts on different devices.
Budget plans: The Single Device Plan ($3.99/month) lets you use the service on a single specific Echo or Fire device, and the Student Plan (99 cents/month) gives you HD access and most of Unlimited’s features .
Free Trial: 30 days for unlimited and single device plans
Apple Music, with some 90 million songs, is a good option, especially for those who already have a buy-in to the Apple ecosystem. It touts its higher quality audio, including “immersive sound” with dynamic head tracking” for those with AirPods. You can also download and stream music to your Apple Watch. Other features include a lyrics view so you can follow, curated lists, and live radio stations.
There is no free version; for podcasts you have to go to a separate app.
Apple Music Individual ($9.99/month) is the standard plan; in addition to accessing Apple’s music library and playlists, it can be used with a variety of devices and provides high-quality audio, including lossless audio and spatial audio with Dolby Atmos. You can request specific songs or albums by asking Siri; you can also download music and view lyrics. A family plan ($14.99/month) provides the individual features for up to six people.
Budget plans: Apple Music Voice ($4.99/month) is only available on Apple devices, lacks the upgraded audio and doesn’t let you download songs to listen offline. If you’re in college, the student plan ($4.99/month) offers the same features as the individual plan. You can also record Apple Music in the Apple One Bundle Subscription†
Free Trials: 30 days for all subscriptions
When we first published this synopsis, several tweets recommended including Bandcamp as well, and it’s easy to see why. Bandcamp calls itself an “online record store and music community” where independent musicians and podcasters are paid directly by their fans. According to Bandcampthe artists collect on average 80 to 85 percent of each sale (except on Bandcamp Fridays, the first Friday of every month, when the company waives its revenue share to make up for the lack of live performances during the pandemic). There is no charge for the service itself; you listen to featured songs from artists (when using the mobile app, you can hear a stream of songs from different artists in your chosen category) and then buy the digital or physical albums of your favorites.
As mentioned, Bandcamp itself is free† you buy the music separately for varying prices set by the artists.
Free Trials: N/A
Deezer is not as well known in the US as Apple Music or Spotify, but has similar catalogs and features. It offers an impressive variety of over 73 million songs, playlists, podcasts and radio channels. You can use the web version or any of the apps for almost any device out there, including desktops, phones, and watches. It also provides lyrics on the screen. Like the others, it offers different plans.
Free lets you listen to playlists instead of specific songs and inserts ads.
Premium ($9.99) removes the ads, lets you listen to specific songs, provides better sound quality, and lets you download your music. You can connect up to three devices to your account. Paying annually will get you 25 percent off $89.91 for the year.
hi-fi ($14.99/month) has all the features of the Premium plan, but adds High Fidelity sound.
Budget plans: Family ($14.99/month) offers six individual Premium accounts and the ability to connect up to 13 different devices.
Free Trials: One month for all paid subscriptions.
Pandora is one of the grandparents of music services and was one of the first to offer it playlists developed by a listener’s preferences† Currently owned by Sirius XM Holdings, it was launched in 2005 as a consumer music service and has since gone through a number of changes (for example, users of the free service were originally limited to 40 hours of streaming per month). Today it has one free and two paid services; it includes music as well as podcasts.
Interesting, Pandora’s Free service allows you to play specific songs and albums, as long as you watch an ad first; you can also watch an ad for unlimited skip.
Pandora Plus ($4.99/month) removes the ads and lets you listen offline, but you still have to watch an ad to select specific songs. The audio quality goes up to 192 Kbps.
Pandora Premium ($9.99/month) gives you all the Plus features, removes all ads, and lets you create and share playlists.
Budget plans: The family plan ($14.99/month) includes six accounts. Both Premium Student ($4.99/month) and Premium Military ($7.99/month) offer the same features as the regular Premium account.
Free trial period: 30 days for Plus, 60 days for Premium
Tidal profiles itself as the music service for true music lovers, with an emphasis on innovation and high-quality audio. It offers a library of more than 80 million songs, more than 350 thousand videos and three levels of audio quality: Normal (AAC quality, 160 Kbps), HiFi (lossless quality, 1411 Kbps) and Master (Hi-Res quality, 2304-9216 Kbps) , depending on your plan and your device; it specifically supports a number of device manufacturers. It does not offer podcasts.
The Free plan offers sound quality up to 160 Kbps, some interruptions to promote the service itself (Tidal says there are no third-party ads), and playlists. You can request specific songs and albums even with the free plan.
HiFi ($9.99/month) offers HiFi audio quality, no ads and offline listening.
HiFi Plus ($19.99/month) adds Master-quality audio along with Dolby Atmos and Sony 360 Reality Audio. Tidal also says it gives 10 percent of your subscription to the artists you listen to the most and that “the artists you stream get paid depending on your streaming habits.”
Free trial period: 30 days for paid plans
Besides Apple Music, Qubuz is the only other service listed here that doesn’t have a free service. As with Tidal, the emphasis here is on quality music, with FLAC 24-bit audio up to 192 kHz; it works with several equipment manufacturers such as Bang & Olufsen, Sonos and Thiel. It features over 70 million songs, but does not offer podcasts. Qobuz offers two plans; each of these comes in Solo (one account), Duo (two accounts), and Family (six accounts per household) versions.
Studio Premier offers downloadable music and original editorial content, such as playlists and articles. Solo costs $12.99/month; Duo costs $17.99/month; Family costs $21.90/month.
Studio Sublime lets you specify albums and offers a 60 percent discount on purchases; it is only available as an annual subscription. Solo costs $179.99 (about $15/month); Duo costs $269.89 (about $22.49/month); Family is $349.99 (about $29.17 per month).
Free trial period: One month (Studio Premier only)
Google has chosen, for reasons of its own, to include its independent Google Play Music service in its YouTube video service, with YouTube Music. This can lead to some confusion between your music and video lists. On the plus side, you can get individual songs and albums with the free service; according to a May 2020 blog post, YouTube Music had “more than 50 million high-quality songs, albums and audio” at the time. You can access podcasts on a separate app.
The Free service includes the choice of individual songs and albums, along with advertisements. On the desktop, pauses occasionally until you click on the “Video paused. Continue watching?” notification (even if you’re not watching a video) In addition, if you’re listening on a phone, the music will stop if your screen goes dark or if you switch apps.
Music Premium ($9.99/month) removes the ads and pauses and lets you download your music. There is also a $99.99 annual subscription. If you subscribe to YouTube Premium ($11.99/month), YouTube Music is included.
Budget plans: The family plan ($14.99/month) lets you add up to five other family members. The student plan ($4.99/month) gives you Premium service with eligibility verification.
Free trial: One month for paid subscriptions
Correction Feb 3, 2022, 8:26 AM ET: We wrongly said that Amazon Music Free does not contain podcasts; it does. We regret the mistake.
Update February 3, 11:15 a.m. ET: Updated to add Bandcamp.