On-demand music streaming services are getting more popular these days. The reasons for such ubiquity is that they’re cheap (or sometimes even free), user-friendly, convenient, and have plenty of various content. But since there are a plethora of such services on the market, the 4K Download team has prepared a wholesome review of these. We’ll consider five giants of music streaming software - Spotify, Apple Music, Google Play Music, Soundcloud, and Tidal.
This service always pops up in mind when it comes to music streaming platforms. Despite the massive competition with Apple Music and Google Play Music, for instance, Spotify is probably the leading platform of this kind. Intuitive user experience, extended catalogue of content, and convenient device compatibility are the reasons. You can enjoy millions of tracks online or offline on any of your devices. Spotify has a web player, a desktop app for Windows, macOS and Linux, the mobile app available on iOS, Android and Windows Phone, and even compatibility with TVs, set-top boxes, smartwatches, and home video gaming consoles. If you want to download your albums or playlists for offline, you can easily do it within Spotify.
Music library on Spotify is huge. The website says it has millions of tracks without an exact number, but rumour has it, it’s now approaching 50 million. Aside from songs, Spotify offers podcasts, audiobooks, radio dramas, speeches, language learning, and poetry readings.
Based on its smart algorithms, Spotify generates playlists and suggests songs and podcasts you have not yet heard but will probably like. Playlists are built based on the music genre or mood. Discover Weekly feature stores the songs Spotify thinks you’ll like, and this is a nice way to discover new musicians and tracks when all of the old is boring.
All in all, content discovery is personalised and grounded on your interests and preferences. “Wrapped” playlist, Your Daily Drive, and seasonal roundups are just to name a few.
With the Daily Mix feature, the platform creates playlists out of songs you’ve already listened to.
On Spotify, you can build your own playlists or create Artist Radio which allows listening to your favourite musicians and other artists who sound like them.
Spotify offers free and Premium subscription plans. The free version is ad-supported, which means that you will hear ads every few songs and you won’t be able to skip it. The free plan also doesn’t allow saving tracks for offline.
Premium version costs $9.99 a month and offers you unlimited access to a 50-million songs catalogue. For your family, you can subscribe to the Family Plan for only $14.99 a month. Up to your six households will get individual Premium accounts. The Premium Plan gives an opportunity to hear the unreleased albums, play songs on demand, save the content for offline on up to three of your devices, and choose from different quality levels with the highest level of 320Kpbs.
It’s worth mentioning that all the songs you’ve saved while you were using the Premium version will be invalid once you unsubscribe. This happens because you don’t actually download the content, you can use it only when the app is opened.
In 2019, the total count of Apple Music users equals 50 million. Which is exactly the same amount of songs the service has, according to its tagline - “Lose yourself in 50 million songs”.
If earlier there used to be iTunes, in 2019 as Apple claims, iTunes is eliminated on Mac, and now there are three separate services instead - Apple Music, Apple TV, and Apple Podcasts.
The service is available for Apple devices, as well as for Amazon Alexa speakers, and Sonos. Android and Windows users are able to install the software with special apps.
Apart from 50 million songs Apple promises, and their listening is absolutely ad-free, there are also human-created playlists of any genre and mood, global tops with top 100 songs from every country, playlists with new releases, activity-oriented playlists like workout, party, or office tracks, upcoming hits, hot tracks, and others.
Apple Music also offers radios, which are grouped according to genres or picked by editors.
For You section recommends you the music you’ve recently listened to, your favourite tracks, and the songs the service thinks you’ll like.
Those of us who always forget the name of a song but remembers some of the lyrics will surely appreciate the lyric search feature. Exclusive documentaries, video series, and video clips are also there to tempt your taste.
Unlike Spotify, Apple Music has no free plan but offers a 90-day trial that costs you no penny. Apple Music plans are divided into three: individual, student, and family plan. The individual plan costs $10 per month, the family plan is $15, and the most wallet-friendly is the student plan for $5 a month.
Once your free trial is over and you’ve paid for the subscription, you’ll enjoy an ad-free experience, offline listening, ability to upload your own songs from a CD or an older iTunes account, the lyric search feature, and tons of exclusive content curated by Apple.
Google Play Music
Released in May 2011, Google Play Music is another music streaming service that is widely used. The platform offers compatibility with Android TV, Chromecast, Google Home, Android Wear, Sonos, CarPlay, and iOS or Android mobile devices. Apart from the app, you can listen to music with the browser on Google Play Music. The maximum mobile and desktop sound quality is 320Kpbs.
Google Play Music offers its users a large library of 40 million tracks, radio, playlists, charts, releases, and podcasts. You can upload your own files and build customized playlists within the app. The service work is based on smart algorithms that offer you the music you’ll probably like. If you tap the thumbs up icon next to the song you’re listening, the system will suggest you more similar tracks. All of the songs you listen are automatically organised by artists, albums, genres, or songs. You can store up to 50,000 songs on Google Play Music.
Users can enjoy the music on Google Play Music for free, for $10 a month as a single user or $15 as a family. The paid version allows using the service on up to ten devices but streaming only on one of them at a time. With the Family Plan, you can add six more people to the subscription, and each of them can stream independently on up to ten devices, as well. Premium subscription also gives access to free YouTube Music - a music streaming service that is gradually replacing Google Play Music.
This music streaming platform is a perfect spot for discovering new fresh artists and has the largest music library of all platforms we mention in this article - 200+ million songs. You can enjoy this plethora of music with the browser version, apps for Android and iOS devices, Chromecast, Sonos, and Xbox One.
There is literally loads of content on SoundCloud. This is the place for finding fresh musicians that upload their music on the platform and discovering new genres. The flow of newcomers is constant.
The service allows searching for new music by genres, albums, bands, and tracks, and filter the content by the time it was uploaded, length of each song, and even license, meaning if you can use the tracks commercially.
SoundCloud has podcasts, various charts with top and trending music, playlists, and releases collections. Using the country filter, you will find music uploaded by users from different corners of the world. You can build your custom playlists, follow other users to stay on top of their uploads, share music on social media and email, skip the unlimited amount of tracks (Spotify, for instance, doesn’t allow it on a free version), and alike. But there are no lyrics like in Apple Music or Amazon Music Unlimited.
Because of tons of user-generated content on the platform, it’s sometimes difficult to find what you’re looking for exactly, as many other irrelevant results show up after your search.
SoundCloud has three pricing plans - Free, Go, and Go+. The free version has no skip limitations unlike Spotify, but you can only listen to a few tracks of major-labelled albums, full albums are available on Go+. Sound quality is 128Kbps.
Go Plan costs you $4.99 and is absolutely ad-free. Offline listening is another benefit of the plan, but the drawback is that the sound quality doesn’t get any better for additional five bucks.
Go+ Plan is $9.99 and gives you the full access to SoundCloud library of major-labelled music in 256Kbps quality. Paying this price, you’ll be able to listen to more than 200 million songs, but the majority of them are tracks uploaded by users or indie content.
Founded by Jay Z in 2014, Tidal is the only streaming service that offers extremely high sound quality. The lowest quality of streaming is 320Kbps and the highest is non-compressed 1411Kbps which is lossless. Tidal stores music recorded in studios, so this is the reason.
Tidal is the place where exclusive discography of Jay Z, Beyonce, and other hip-hop artists is stored. Early hip-hop releases that can be hardly found anywhere else are also there. Exclusive albums, music-related articles, themed playlists, tracks, video clips, concerts, backstage photoshoots and live performances, sneak peeks, live streams, early access to concerts and even sports events are all that Tidal is offering. But all these are with lack of lyrics and no free version.
Mobile apps for Android and iOS lets you save the content for offline.
Like in Apple Music, there’s no free version but a 30-day free trial where you still need to provide your credit/debit card.
For $9.99/mo with Tidal Premium, you’ll get 320Kbps music, and for $19.99 as a Hi-Fi member, the quality will be 1411Kbps. Premium Family Plan costs $14.99 and a Hi-Fi Family Plan - $29.99 a month and lets you subscribe up to five people (Apple Music and Google Play Music allow up to six).
Tidal provides discounts for students (50% off), military operatives (40% off), and first respondents (40% off).
The five above are not the only music streaming platforms existing. You might have heard of online radioPandora, Qobuz, Amazon Music Unlimited , YouTube Music, Primephonic for classical music streaming, and some others. The functionality of them is pretty much the same, only separate features and subscription price are the key factors of your decisions. But each of them has something you’ll love and something you’d get rid of, so test everything on free trials (when possible), and you’ll surely find your best music platform.
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