There’s no shortage of apps to help you discover new music. Some are slaves to algorithms, some depend on human-curation, while some combine the best of both worlds. There’s been a flurry of activity in the music-streaming space of late, with seemingly every company wanting a piece of the music-subscription pie – even Samsung has launched its own Pandora-style service.
But here, we want to take a look at all the main players from the on-demand realm, companies that try to replicate your personal music-collection in the cloud, with around 20 million additional tracks thrown in for good measure. For that reason, we’re giving the likes of Pandora and the recent Google acquisition Songza a miss here.
This is really designed to serve as an at-a-glance breakdown of who offers what, where it’s available, and provide a snapshot of the main salient points you might care about before taking the plunge.
Device limits vary slightly from service-to-service for offline mode, and we outline here what these restrictions are. Furthermore, all the services here that have a ‘free’ offering on mobile are generally restricted to a shuffle-style ‘radio’ mode, so no on-demand. Still, it’s useful to know which services do offer a gratis incarnation.
We have paginated this to make it easier to read, but if you’re not a fan, you can click here to read it as a single page. Anyway, without further ado, here’s eleven on-demand music-subscription services compared, kicking off with Spotify.
One of Europe’s greatest tech success stories, Sweden’s Spotify is a stalwart of the subscription music-streaming space, and is a market-leader in many respects. It’s available in many markets across multiple platforms, offers 22 million tracks, and there is a free ad-supported version of the service on mobile.
Deezer is largely like Spotify, insofar as you have a vast library of music (30 million tracks) to listen to on-demand across multiple platforms, while it follows an identical pricing model too. But it’s not available in the US as of yet, which will likely be its biggest launch when (as is expected) it finally happens.
Rdio offers a comprehensive selection of tunes à la all the best music-streaming platforms such as Spotify and Deezer. While it offers no free incarnation outside the US beyond trial periods, it does have a reasonably big differentiator with family subscription plans that get increasingly cheaper the more people that are added – two accounts cost $17.99 per month, three costs the main subscriber $22.99, and so on. You can also register an unlimited number of devices to your account, to use in offline mode or otherwise, though you’ll only be able to play on one device at any given time unless you keep all devices ‘offline’.
What?Rdio Where?60 markets How much (USD/Euro/GBP)? Free: (limited to 6-months outside the US & Australia, free on mobile only available in US, Canada and Australia), Rdio Unlimited: $9.99/€9.99/£9.99 Platforms? Web | Desktop [Mac / Windows] | Android | iOS | Windows Phone Device limit (offline mode): Unlimited Audio quality: Up to 320Kbps Pros: Global, cross-platform, no device limits for offline listening, extensive library, Chromecast support, discounts for families Cons: No permanent free service outside the US and Australia, limited free service on mobile
Launched back in 2011, Rara.com is striving to tackle the music-streaming market from a slightly different angle, and claims not to compete with heavyweights such as Spotify. However, it clearly is competing with such services, though it is targeting non-digital adopters with a simple interface, and high-quality audio.
What?Rara.com Where?32 markets How much (USD/Euro/GBP)? Web: $4.99/€4.99/£4.99, Premium: $9.99/€9.99/£9.99 Platforms? Web | Android | iOS | Windows 8 Device limit (offline mode): 3 Audio quality: Dolby Pulse (320kbps) Pros: Quality audio, extensive library (22m tracks), auto-caching of songs for offline playback, Cons: No free service, no Chromecast support, no desktop apps for Mac/Windows 7, not as globally extensive as competitors
What?Google Play Music All Access Where?34 markets How much (USD/Euro/GBP)? $9.99/€9.99/£9.99 Platforms? Web | Android | iOS Device limit (offline mode): 4 Audio quality: Up to 320Kbps (depending on internet quality) Pros: Extensive library, Chromecast support, part of Google’s broader Play Music service Cons: Not as globally extensive as others, no apps for desktop/iPad/Windows Phone, no AirPlay support, no free version
What?Sony Music Unlimited Where?19 markets How much (USD/Euro/GBP)? Access: $4.99/€4.99/£4.99 (Web/Playstation only) Premium: $9.99/€9.99/£9.99 Platforms? Web | Android | iOS Device limit (offline mode): 3 Audio quality: Up to 320Kbps Pros:Chromecast support, extensive library (25 million tracks) Cons: No free service, not extensive global coverage, no apps for desktop/iPad/Windows Phone
Still a fairly new service, Microsoft’s Xbox Music service incorporates three core elements – Xbox Music Store (music to purchase), which is available in 24 markets; Xbox Music Pass (Spotify-style on-demand streaming), which is available in 22 markets; and a free music-streaming service that’s available in 15 markets.
What?Xbox Music Pass Where?22 markets How much (USD/Euro/GBP)? Free (only in 15 countries, ad-supported, Web & Windows 8 only), Xbox Music Pass $99.90/year or $9.99/month, €99.90/year or €9.99/month, £89.90/year or £8.99/month Platforms? Web | Windows 8 | Android | iOS | Windows Phone | (Xbox too, of course) Device limit: 4 Audio quality: Up to 192Kbps Pros: Fairly cross-platform, extensive library (38m tracks), part of the broader Xbox Music service (purchase music) Cons: No iPad support, no desktop apps, no Chromecast support on mobile, no free mobile service
Napster used to be a name synonymous with (illegal) music-sharing, but it has changed hands numerous times and has long since cleaned up its act and operates very legitimately under the ownership of Rhapsody.
Strictly speaking, Rhapsody is a US-only subscription streaming service, but through its Napster brand (see above) it’s available in Europe too. It offers a Pandora-style internet radio tier, with a more expensive full service ramping things up to an all-encompassing, Spotify-style, on-demand streaming platform.
What?Rhapsody Where? US How much (USD)? unRadio (no on-demand): $4.99, Rhapsody Premier: $9.99 Platforms? Web | Desktop [Windows only] | Android | iOS | Windows Phone Device limit (offline mode): 3 (4 including desktop) Audio quality: Up to 192Kbps Pros: Cross-platform, extensive library (32m tracks), Chromecast support Cons: US-only (though its Napster subsidiary is available in Europe), no Mac app, no free version, relatively expensive basic tier with no on-demand, limited audio quality
Qobuz finally opened up beyond France in December last year, bringing its super high-quality audio service to Germany, the UK, Ireland, Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland and Austria.
Qobuz is for audiophiles, and sells itself as the “world leader for HD Music,” delivering 17-million tracks for streaming and downloading. The worst audio quality you’ll get is 320Kbps on the Basic and Premium services, while the Hi-Fi tier will bump that up to FLAC 16 bit/44.1 kHz (or 1411.2Kbps). Notably, it offers 4,000 albums at a stonking 24 bit/192 kHz, or roughly the equivalent of 2116.8Kbps. This is known as Studio Master HD quality.
What?Qobuz Where?9 countries [Europe only, US & Canada are coming soon though] How much (EUR & GBP)? Basic: €4.99 (PC/Mac only, 320Kbps), Qobuz Premium: €9.99 (unlimited, cross-platform, limited to 320Kbps), Qobuz Hi-Fi: €19.99. Annual subscriptions are also available for €58.99, €99.99 and €199.99 respectively. Platforms? Web | Desktop | Android | iOS Device limit (offline mode): 3 Audio quality: 320Kbps minimum, going all the way up to an equivalent of 2116.8Kbps Pros: Stellar audio quality Cons: Relatively expensive top tier, no Chromecast support, no free version, limited global availability, not as extensive library of music as competitors (17m tracks)
Dr. Dre’s Beats brand got one helluva lot more ‘cool’ when Apple snapped up the company, which includes a music-streaming service, for $3 billion. On a broad level, Beats Music brings a similar offering to the table as something like Spotify. Except it goes for the ‘personalization’ jugular, analyzing your music tastes based on your age, gender and other facets of your life, both past and present. But it’s US-only for now, and there is no free service.
What?Beats Music Where? US How much (USD)? $9.99/month or $99.99/year ($8.33/month equivalent) Platforms? Web | Android | iOS | Windows Phone Device limit (offline mode): 3 (individual accounts), up to 10 (family account (AT&T only) Audio quality: Up to 320Kbps Pros: Fairly cross-platform, extensive library, cheaper than some of the competition with annual plan, family accounts (AT&T only) Cons: Only available in the US, no desktop apps, no Chromecast support for mobile, no free version
These are just eleven on-demand music-subscription services. While Spotify is often held aloft as the poster child of what is becoming an increasingly busy market, its 10,000 tracks and 3 devices offline restriction may sway you towards something like Deezer, which offers unlimited tracks across five devices (six including PC). However, Deezer isn’t yet available for those in the US. Then there’s Rdio, which doesn’t stipulate any device restrictions, however it doesn’t offer a permanently-free tier outside a handful of countries.
Conversely, you may prefer high-quality audio as opposed to a gargantuan library of the latest hits, therefore the fast-expanding Qobuz service might be worth checking out.
However, you may wish to forgo all these services listed above and decide for yourself how much you want to pay for music, in which case something like Radical.fm’s US-only donation-based alternative might float your boat, though it has no on-demand incarnation just like Pandora. And then there’s Amazon Prime Music, which is completely free to Amazon Prime subscribers Stateside, but it does only have a library of around one million songs.
It’s clear there’s plenty of choice, but when deciding which platform to plump for, it pays to focus on the finer details of what exactly you’re getting for your money.