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Here is Your Ultimate Guide to Music Streaming Services

Beautiful fashion girl learning on line with a tablet and headphones sitting on a bench in the streetFor a monthly fee, you can have access to a massive library of music to listen to whenever you want. Whether you prefer a streaming radio station or you’d rather create your own playlists, there’s a monthly service that will fit your listening needs. Compare five of the most popular monthly music streaming services, below.


Monthly Cost:

  • Free version, with ads and limited features
  • Student $4.99
  • Individual $9.99
  • Family $14.99

Compatible With:

  • mobile devices
  • computers, through the downloaded program
  • web browsers, through the web player
  • tablets
  • Playstation
  • smart TVs


  • A free version with plenty of great music content
  • Music is available offline
  • A personalized Discover Weekly playlist

Unlike many other streaming music services, Spotify offers an incredible collection of music with their free version. You’ll have to deal with banner ads on the app and audio ads periodically interrupting your playlist, but the trade off is worth it for those looking for a completely free option.

With a paid monthly subscription, that music is all available offline. Create playlists from your account on the web player, or on your phone or tablet. Each week, Spotify will use your listening habits from the week to create a customized Discover Weekly playlist with new songs and artists that match your music preferences.

Spotify is ideal for students. The service offers a discounted monthly fee on the premium subscription for college students. They’ve also partnered with Hulu, so students students signing up for the student plan will also have access to a Hulu Limited plan, for a total of $4.99 per month.

Apple Music

Monthly Cost:

  • Student $4.99
  • Individual $9.99
  • Family $14.99

Compatible With:

  • iPhone
  • Android phones
  • iPad
  • iPod
  • Apple Watch
  • Macs and PCs with iTunes
  • Apple TV


  • Seamless combining of your personal music library and the Apple music library
  • A variety of radio stations, sorted by genre, and a the live station Beats 1
  • Genius playlists based on listening habits

Those who already have a collection of music on iTunes, or who use Apple devices like the iPhone and iPad, will most likely prefer Apple Music. A highlight of Apple Music is the ease of combining your current downloaded music collection with the library of music available with your monthly subscription. When your music syncs, you can customize playlists, add them to your offline library, and listen any time.

With Apple’s huge library of music, you might want to explore what’s outside of your collection of favorite artists and genres. In the Browse tab, you’ll find playlists curated by Apple Music. You can also browse by genre, check out new releases, and see what’s trending on the charts.

If you’re not in the mood to search out or create a custom playlist, a radio feature will stream continuous music. Click on the Radio tab and scroll through a list of stations. Beats 1 is Apple’s live, 24/7 radio station. Listen in to hear the station’s DJs and a variety of radio shows.

Amazon Music Unlimited

Monthly Cost:

  • Individual $9.99
  • Family $14.99
  • Prime Member $7.99
  • Echo Users $3.99

Compatible With:

  • Amazon Echo
  • Android Devices
  • iOS Devices
  • Macs and PCs with a desktop version


  • Integration with Amazon Echo
  • Easy to purchase music on Amazon
  • Offers solid recommendations based on music you’ve listened to

The simplicity of the Amazon Unlimited service will be appealing to many users, but the service seems to be tailored specifically for Echo users. Those who already have an Echo connected in their home will appreciate how easy it is to play music, just by telling Alexa what you’re looking for.

Where other services recommend new music and promote new artists and albums, Amazon tailors your recommendations completely based on what you’ve been listening to. That means that the more you use the service, the better your recommendations will be.

Amazon is still relatively new to the unlimited streaming music game, but the company has plans to continue growing, to get on the same level as competing services. That includes bringing in artists who will provide their music exclusively to Amazon users. For now, those who are loyal to Amazon services and especially those who use the Echo will be the best audience.


Monthly Cost:

  • Free Version, with Ads
  • Pandora Plus $4.99
  • Pandora Premium $9.99

Compatible With:

  • Android Devices
  • iOS Devices
  • Desktop
  • Smart TVs
  • Xbox
  • Roku


  • Personalized radio stations based on favorite artists and songs
  • Options for ad free listening, unlimited skipping, rewinding, and offline listening
  • Extremely easy to use

Pandora was on top when it came to internet radio, but was overshadowed by streaming services that were able to offer more customized options and updated features. Now, Pandora is making changes that are making it a more exciting option while keeping a format that users are familiar with. The company is still naming its Music Genome Project as the power behind recommendations and personalized stations.

Upgrading from a free account to Pandora Plus eliminates ads between songs and gives the option of skipping an unlimited number of songs. You’ll also be able to listen to up to four of your stations offline.

The next step up, Pandora Premium, is the option that will allow Pandora to compete with the big names in unlimited music streaming. With Premium, you can still use the normal Pandora radio service, but you’ll also have the option to create your own customized playlists. Premium also allows you to download your music and listen wherever, whenever.

Slacker Radio

Monthly Cost:

  • Free Version, with Ads
  • Radio Plus $3.99
  • Slacker Premium $9.99

Compatible With:

  • Android and iOS devices
  • Blackberry
  • Windows Phone
  • Roku
  • Xbox
  • Chromecast


  • In depth information about artists and albums
  • Music, news, and sports channels for more personalized content
  • Focused on helping users discover new music

Slacker calls itself “the best kept secret in music” and the die hard users of the service tend to agree. The company is focused on helping music lovers find new content while creating custom stations. As soon as you start listening to your favorite artists, Slacker will get to work on finding and recommending new artists. Just go to your recommended tab to see what they have lined up for you.

If you’re feeling stuck in a musical rut, check out Slack Radio Stations. You’ll find information about new artists, newly released albums, and a list of curated radio stations. While you listen, whether you’re using the website or the app, you can rate each song with like and dislike icons. Slack will use that feedback to build your customized recommendations. When you’re not in the mood for music, check out the news and sports stations.

A clean, simple, and easy to use interface makes Slacker user friendly. It doesn’t come with all of the best features from competing music services, but many will still prefer the more minimal setup.

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12 Responses to Here is Your Ultimate Guide to Music Streaming Services

  1. Bill Eastman September 24, 2017 at 8:50 am #

    I use Tunein. which lets you listen to radio stations besides Clearchannel. I use to listen to KOKE in Austin, and WSM AM 650 Grand Ole Opry on saturday.

    • Rogers September 24, 2017 at 10:39 am #

      Streaming live radio is a different subject than streaming music, but it’s an option that works – for free – for some of us. There are several live radio stations that stream music I enjoy listening to (not to mention the variety of news stations out there). TuneIn is available for streaming-TV boxes but for mobile devices XIAALive is a far better option than TuneIn.

  2. Duelingdragon September 24, 2017 at 8:58 am #

    Is there anywhere that details what actual music is on these services? The info you have is nice and all, but I am not going to sign up for a service that doesn’t have enough, for example, classic rock, or options to focus on specific decades, or certain music labels.

    • Matt Todd September 24, 2017 at 9:49 am #

      Classic Rock is pretty ubiquitous, all the ones I’ve tried have extensive collections. The differentiation comes when you get to the less popular stuff like classical, polka, bluegrass, irish, big band, ethnic, etc. My experience is primarily with spotify and pandora, but based on the free versions Spotify has a much deeper library of the less popular stuff. I tend to get a lot of repeats on Pandora.

  3. Scott Sharp September 24, 2017 at 9:04 am #

    Would be helpful to tell us how well each of these integrates with Alexa and Google Assistant. Also, you missed another big player, Google Play Music.

    • Brian September 24, 2017 at 7:50 pm #

      Google Play Music is my go to… and it’s also great because it also includes YouTube RED (NO ADS). We’ll worth the price.

  4. icwhatudidthere September 24, 2017 at 9:59 am #

    It’s crazy how cheap music is these days. I calculated that I can keep my GPMAA subscription for the rest of my life for less than how much I spent on music in just my college years. Probably wouldn’t have been so broke then either!

  5. Michael Pedder September 24, 2017 at 10:00 am #

    I think Google Play Music should be included as well.

  6. wda628 September 24, 2017 at 11:21 am #

    Glad to see Slacker included here. they have always been my favorite service since the days of when they sold their own hardware. They are the best, by a long shot, at “getting to know you” and creating the best mix for your liking. Its amazing. Unfortunately until they come out with a family plan, I’m using Apple Music.

  7. Brian September 24, 2017 at 7:51 pm #

    Google Play Music is my go to… and it’s also great because it also includes YouTube RED (NO ADS). Well worth the price. I also do enjoy how Pandora mixes things up and Sirius XM has a nice setup for either playing live station, or customize to make your own blend.

  8. Corinne September 24, 2017 at 8:08 pm #

    Google Play Music + YouTube Red = $9.99

  9. craig2web September 25, 2017 at 12:07 pm #

    Another option that should at least receive special mention is Amazon Prime which not only includes ad-free movies and TV shows, but also includes a very large library of ad-free music as well, all for about $8/month. Truly one of the best premium values on the market today.