Amazon Music Unlimited & Prime MusicPrice: Prime Music is included with Amazon Prime, which costs $13 per month or $119 per year. Amazon Music Unlimited costs $8 per month for Prime members or $10 per month for non-Prime members. A three-month trial of Music Unlimited costs 99 cents. A family plan is also available. Who it’s best for: Amazon Prime members. Pros: Both are ad-free, on-demand services. Amazon Music Unlimited gives you access to tens of millions of songs, thousands of hand-curated playlists, and personalized stations. If you have an Amazon speaker, you can summon songs using Alexa and also get some added content, such as commentary from selected artists. Cons: Dual music plans can be confusing; Prime Music has more than 2 million songs, but that’s still a thinner selection than other services offer.
Apple MusicPrice: There’s a three-month free trial. After that, individuals must pay $10 per month (or $15 for up to six family members). There is no free tier. Who it’s best for: Consumers who already have large iTunes libraries or who are otherwise committed to the Apple ecosystem. Pros: Apple Music has a library of 45 million songs that can be accessed on macOS, Windows, iOS, and Android. Human editors create a variety of themed playlists that help users find and discover new music. Apple Music frequently has timed exclusives on new music from popular artists, such as Drake. The service also works seamlessly with HomePod, Apple’s connected speaker, letting users play music via voice commands. Cons: The desktop experience, which is integrated with the iTunes app, is a little clunky.
YouTube Music and Google Play MusicPrice: YouTube Music has a free tier and premium tier (YouTube Music Premium) that costs $10 per month. Both tiers grant access to a large library of songs (including personalized playlists) and music videos available via mobile and desktop apps. The premium tier offers extras, such as the ability to download music and videos for use when you’re outside the reach of cellular or WiFi service. A separate product called YouTube Premium, which costs $12 per month, replaces the YouTube Red service launched in 2015. It provides all the benefits of YouTube Music Premium plus access to original content, such as “Cobra Kai” (a “Karate Kid” spinoff), and the ability to watch YouTube without ads. Google Play Music, first launched in 2011, also remains as an option, but it largely has been superseded by YouTube Music. Google Play Music users who currently pay for the $10-per-month subscription will receive access to YouTube Music Premium. One feature that distinguishes Google Play Music from YouTube Music is the ability to upload to your Google Play Music account songs you may have ripped from old CDs or downloaded from the internet. It’s unclear whether this feature (commonly referred to as digital locker) will be added to YouTube Music. Who it’s best for: Heavy Google users, particularly those who spend a lot of time listening to music or watching videos on YouTube. Pros: The large music library is comparable to those of other streaming services. In addition, you get access to music videos. Location-based playlists will also suggest songs—think hi-tempo music at the gym—at appropriate times. Cons: YouTube Music, YouTube Premium, and Google Play Music are accessed via separate apps, which could be cumbersome for some users.
PandoraPrice: Streaming radio is free with ads or $5 per month without ads. For $10 per month you get ad-free streaming radio as well as access to an on-demand library. Who it’s best for: Consumers who want the kind of laid-back listening experience you’d get with a live radio station. You don’t need to scroll through lists of songs or do a lot of searches—you just sit back and listen to what the service picks for you. Pros: It’s easy to get started. Tell Pandora who you want to hear and it creates a channel with selections from that artist and others with similar styles. Apps are available for most major platforms, including web browsers, and iOS and Android smartphones. Cons: You can’t upload your own songs to the service.
Slacker RadioPrice: Streaming radio is free with ads or $4 per month without ads. For $10 you also get access to an on-demand music library. Who it’s best for: Similar to Pandora Radio, Slacker Radio is best for people who prefer a more laid-back listening experience and aren’t picky about exactly which song comes next. Pros: A good variety of stations, including ABC News and ESPN Radio, in addition to the usual music genres. Cons: You can’t upload your own songs.
SpotifyPrice: The service is free with ads and limited on-demand song selection on smartphones. The Premium tier, which costs $10 per month for individuals or $15 for up to six family members, grants full on-demand access to Spotify’s library of 35 million-plus songs. Individual Premium subscribers can also add Hulu (with commercials) for an additional $3 per month. Who it’s best for: Consumers who want to hear plenty of music that can be accessed on a variety of devices. Pros: Spotify combines a large library of popular songs with a series of robust playlists. These playlists are often geared toward specific activities and genres, helping consumers find music for, say, the gym or long car trips. Podcasts and other original programming are also available. Spotify also works with a variety of connected devices, including the Sonos One and Google Home Max smart speakers, as well as the Sony PlayStation 4 game console. Desktop apps are available for macOS and Windows, and mobile apps are available for iOS and Android. Cons: Syncing music you already own to your Spotify library can be confusing.
TidalPrice: Tidal has many tiers. It starts at $10 per month for standard audio quality; $20 per month unlocks high-resolution audio. Plans for families, students, and members of the military are also available. And you can get a free one-month trial. Who it’s best for: Music lovers who want high-quality audio (including hi-res audio) and offline listening. It’s also good for Jay-Z fans: You get his full back catalog. (He owns the service.) Pros: Tidal can offer CD-quality and hi-res audio (via HiFi, its top-tier service). The very large library has 46 million songs and includes 190,000 videos. Cons: $20 per month is steep even for most audio snobs, and high-quality audio files can quickly devour small cellular data plans. Though the rap and R&B offerings are comprehensive, the rest of Tidal’s catalog is spotty compared with some competitors’.