Updated March 7, 2019: From meditation to investing, there's an app for everything (like these 25 apps that will make your life easier.) Streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music are the best way for most people to get their music fix. They offer millions of songs, curated playlists, and smart recommendations that help you find new favorites. But what’s the most affordable way to get your slow jams? We’ll break down your options and help you discover the most affordable ways to get unlimited music.
Spotify is the granddaddy of streaming services. Founded over a decade ago, it boasts a library of over 30 million songs. The basic version of Spotify is free, but it’s more like a radio station than a true streaming service: You’re able to play an artist, album, or playlist in shuffle mode, but you won’t be able to have full control over each song you listen to. You also have to listen to ads and can’t download music for offline play.
For $9.99 you can upgrade to Spotify Premium. Premium lets you download songs, listen to any song you want, and removes the ads. For $14.99 you can get a family subscription, which is basically a Premium plan for up to six people.
Apple Music has over 40 million songs, and offers a generous three month trial, enabling you to try out the service at no cost for quite a while. And even though it’s called Apple Music, they offer an Android app. Like Spotify, their fiercest competitor, they offer an individual plan at $9.99 a month or a family plan for up to six people at $14.99 per month. Although Apple Music seemingly has over 10 million more songs than Spotify, they can be relatively obscure, as both services seem to have nearly all major artists onboard.
Tidal is a streaming service famous for being co-owned by Jay-Z. With over 48 million songs – including timed exclusives from artists like Kanye West – it has the largest selection of any major streaming service. It offers plans that compete with Apple and Spotify at $9.99 for individuals and $14.99 for groups of five people. However, it also offers a hi-fi service with enhanced sound quality for audiophiles starting at $19.99. The thing is, you’ll probably need some seriously nice headphones to even notice at all.
$4.99 student plans
If you’re a college student, Apple Music, Spotify, and Tidal all have discounted plans you can sign up for. They all cost $4.99, but Spotify has sweetened the deal by also providing access to Hulu, an online streaming platform with shows like Seinfeld, Family Guy, South Park, Jimmy Kimmel Live and more, making it the best deal for students.
Nobody really thinks of Amazon when they think of music, but maybe they should: Amazon actually has two music streaming services.
Amazon Prime Music with over 2 million songs. The catch is, you need to be a Prime member to use it. Tens of millions of people are already Prime members, so you might have access to a streaming service and not even know it. Plus, Amazon Prime gives you access to free two-day shipping on millions of items, and access to Prime video, with content like the Academy Award-winning Manchester by the Sea and The Man in the High Castle. Students can get this same deal for $49 per year, which is a great deal.
Then there’s Amazon Music Unlimited, which offers more songs, but non-Prime customers can subscribe for $9.99 a month, and Prime customers have to pay an extra cost of $7.99 on top of their Prime subscription.
Here are some more ways to save on Amazon.
Which service has the best music selection?
In the early days of music streaming there were major artists missing. The Beatles weren’t available for years, and Taylor Swift was missing from Spotify. With a few exceptions (like timed releases), those days are over. Major artists are generally available whether you are listening to Tidal, Apple Music, or Spotify. There are exceptions, most notably Jay Z, co-owner of Tidal, who is almost totally gone from Spotify and nearly gone from Apple Music. He is, of course, available on Tidal.
Long story short, most artists are on all the major services. But if you’re a superfan of a particular artist, you’ll want to check to make sure their music is on the streaming service before handing over your credit card.
Apple Music vs. Spotify vs. Tidal vs. Amazon
|Spotify||Apple Music||Tidal||Prime Music||Amazon Music Unlimited*|
|Number of songs||30 million+||40 million+||48 million+||2 million||40 million+|
|Individual plan monthly cost||$9.99||$9.99||$9.99||Free w/ Prime ($99/yr)||$7.99 (Plus Prime subscription) / $9.99 (w/o Prime)|
|Family plan monthly cost||$14.99 for six people||$14.99 for six people||$14.99 for five people||N/A||$14.99 for play on six devices|
|Student plan monthly cost||$4.99 + Hulu||$4.99||$4.99||Free w/ Prime Student ($49/yr)||$4.99|
|Free trial||1 month||3 months||1 month||N/A||1 month|
*Amazon Unlimited Music also has an Echo-only plan for $3.99/month
If you’re getting an individual plan and you aren’t a student, then it doesn’t matter which service you choose; they all cost $9.99. But since Apple Music offers two extra months of free trial, you’re effectively saving some money, so it’s cheapest to go with them.
If you can split the subscription six ways with a family plan, then Spotify or Apple music only cost $2.50 a month. Tidal is marginally more given that you can only split it five ways. Even creating a family plan with only two people lowers the cost to $7.50 per month, making it well worth your while to split your subscription between multiple users.
If you’re a student, the Spotify + Hulu subscription for $4.99 a month is a fantastic way to get your music fix and some seriously good video content. Tidal and Apple Music also offer student plans for $4.99, but what’s the point if Spotify offers Hulu for free?
If you’re already an Amazon Prime member, you might want to check out Prime music before you spend any money on a streaming service. Sure, 2 million songs is low compared to Spotify or Apple Music, but that’s still quite a few songs, and it comes at no extra cost to you. And if you want to go for Amazon Unlimited Music, it’s the same price as or cheaper than other plans.
Streaming can get expensive. Here are some ways to offset the cost.