There are a variety of music streaming services that consumers can choose from. (Illustration by Junanna Chen)

Arts and Entertainment

Comparing different music streaming services

We all love music. Whether you enjoy listening to pop, rock, metal or country, music is an integral part of many people’s lives. But how can you jam out to your favorite tunes when there are so many platforms to choose from? Well, look no further, because I’ll be comparing all the different music platforms…
<a href="https://highschool.latimes.com/author/cameliaheins/" target="_self">Camelia Heins</a>

Camelia Heins

June 12, 2021

We all love music. Whether you enjoy listening to pop, rock, metal or country, music is an integral part of many people’s lives. But how can you jam out to your favorite tunes when there are so many platforms to choose from? Well, look no further, because I’ll be comparing all the different music platforms here.

Spotify

Let’s start with the no-brainer here: Spotify. Spotify is a classic choice for many teens and often comes neck-and-neck against Apple Music. Spotify’s features include customizable playlists, customizable music controls like equalizer and crossfade, visible activity of your friends and various options for Spotify Premium.

Spotify Premium offers a $9.99 a month deal for an individual account, a $12.99 a month deal for two accounts, a $15.99 a month for a family deal, which includes six accounts and a $4.99 a month deal for students.

Spotify Premium includes unlimited ad-free listening with access to over 50 million tracks, downloadable offline listening and unlimited skips. Spotify also works with Genius Lyrics to provide lyrics for many songs, including some background behind the meaning of the song.

Spotify’s free account option is a viable music listening option as well. If you don’t want to pay the price for premium, you can still enjoy all of Spotify’s tracks, but with ads and limited skips.

Besides music, Spotify also gives its users access to a range of different podcasts and even audio books. Artists on Spotify are also able to link their merchandise or any concerts they are playing to promote their work.

Much of Spotify’s success has to do with its specialization in algorithm-based recommendations for users. Allowing users to discover music that suits their personalized taste, all at their fingertips, is what’s so appealing for many users about Spotify.

Overall, Spotify is an amazing option for all your music needs. The app is easy to use and has lots of features, including a showcase of apps that developers made to link your Spotify account. Personally, Spotify is my number one choice for all my music needs.

Apple Music

If you aren’t an active Spotify user, Apple Music may be the choice for you. Although there isn’t a free option with access to Apple Music’s entire catalog of tracks, the premium option is suitable for many users.

With over 75 million songs to choose from, along with customizable playlists, unlimited skips and unlimited listening, the price tag of $9.99 a month is a good deal. Apple Music also has a student deal for $4.99 a month and a family deal for six users at $14.99 a month.

Apple Music starts out with a three month free-trial and when you sign up, a cool, interactive game appears on your screen to help personalize your account with your music taste. The app also includes a time-synced lyrics feature for many songs as well.

For all of you who want more than music, Apple Music has live radio options, but no podcasts.

Apple Music’s newest feature includes lossless and spatial audio to improve audio quality and create a new music experience.

Apple Music is considered one of the most successful streaming services in the music industry and competes with Spotify for the number one spot. In 2019, Apple Music surpassed Spotify in the number of paid subscribers in the US and continues to grow.

Whether you choose Apple Music or Spotify, it’s really up to your personal preference and what you find appealing. Personally, I prefer Spotify due to its algorithm-based music recommendations for its users along with the ability to access podcasts and audiobooks, but Apple Music isn’t too far off from satisfying its users.

YouTube 

Although it may seem like Spotify and Apple Music are dominating the music streaming industry, YouTube dwarfs its competitors. Since YouTube is free for all users, and is the second most used search engine platform with over 2.3 billion users around the world, it makes sense that YouTube would control music streaming too.

YouTube itself is one thing, but YouTube Music is another branch of the YouTube sphere that specializes specifically in music streaming.

YouTube Music has its own free option like Spotify and also offers premium subscriptions that include ad-free, unlimited streaming. For a personal account, a premium subscription is $9.99 a month. A family subscription for six accounts is $19.99 a month and a student account is $4.99 a month.

YouTube Music allows you to listen to music with your screen off, a feature that isn’t accessible on the regular YouTube platform, but is very common for other streaming platforms like Spotify and Apple Music. Your account is also linked to your YouTube account, allowing YouTube Music to recommend music you’d like based on videos you’ve watched and liked, who you’re subscribed to or what playlists you’ve made on both YouTube and YouTube Music.

As a super accessible option, YouTube Music could be the perfect choice for you. However, there’s not much of a difference between YouTube Music, Spotify and Apple Music, except the price tag and some features here and there. If you want a good music app for your money, choose Spotify or Apple Music. If you’re looking for a free option, try YouTube Music.

Pandora

Pandora, a once popular platform back in 2010 to 2012, has now struggled to compete with its music competitors. Many of Pandora’s features pale in comparison to the features of Spotify and Apple Music, including a lack of playlists in its free version, instead replaced by stations that play similar songs according to the type of station you’re listening to.

Pandora Premium, at a price of $9.99 a month, has ad-free, unlimited listening with unlimited skips and playlist options. Like Spotify, Pandora has emerged onto the podcast scene and has around 600,000 episodes, which are minuscule compared to Spotify’s database of 2.2 million podcasts.

Although Pandora once held the spotlight in the music streaming market, its popularity is fading, and it has been losing thousands of listeners every year since 2014. Pandora may be nostalgic for many of us who used it in our youth, but streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music are more worth it in the long run.

SoundCloud

SoundCloud gets a lot of attention amongst our generation, especially in the meme world with “SoundCloud rappers.” But the platform itself is actually a great starting point for many music artists, including over 50 SoundCloud rappers who went mainstream.

If you’re looking to find new and off-the-beaten-path music artists that you won’t find on Spotify and Apple Music, SoundCloud is the place for you. And if you’re a music artist yourself just starting out, using SoundCloud to upload your music is a great way to get your music out there. Unlike Spotify and Apple Music which charge their artists to upload music, SoundCloud allows its artists to upload three hours of audio for free.

As a music streaming service, SoundCloud is appealing for two reasons.

First, it has 125 million songs available, with a majority of them being uploaded by users for free use. This means that all the music you enjoy on other platforms will also be available on SoundCloud. Second, since most of the uploads are uploaded by the users themselves, you’ll find a lot of unknown and newer artists to listen to, as well as remixes or unreleased music from your favorite artists.

Just like every music streaming service, SoundCloud has its own premium options called SoundCloud Go and SoundCloud Go+. SoundCloud Go is $4.99 a month and allows you to “save unlimited tracks for offline listening” along with no ads. SoundCloud Go+ is $12.99 a month and has the same features as the previous option, except it also gives you access to their full catalog and has a higher audio quality.

Personally, SoundCloud is an app you should definitely get. You’ll get to experience listening to new, unknown artists and unreleased music that often gets struck down by bigger platforms like Spotify and Apple Music.

However, I don’t think their premium options are worth it and you should invest your money in a better quality streaming service like Spotify or Apple Music. Unless you’re a music artist with a main focus on Soundcloud, the premium options aren’t worth your time or money.

Bandcamp

This lesser-known music streaming service is a free option accessible for many music artists to sell their music. Similar to Soundcloud, Bandcamp has a lot of new and unknown artists and it’s a good way to find musicians in your local area.

With Bandcamp, artists are able to control all sales of their music and the platform is very artist-friendly, compared to bigger music tycoons like Spotify and Apple Music. Bandcamp is also known for its community-based features, allowing all its users to download music, listen to interviews and features with their favorite artists and customizable profiles.

Bandcamp is completely free, but they also offer a premium option called Bandcamp Pro for $10 a month. This subscription is mostly applicable to artists since it allows for more expansive statistics on their uploaded music, messaging with fans and private streams.

If you’ve never heard of Bandcamp, you should definitely download it and check it out. Find some artists near you and support your local musicians. However, unless you’re an artist uploading your own music or a niche music fanatic, Bandcamp might not be the perfect option for you.


With so many music platforms to choose from, you really have to think carefully about which features appeal to you. Spotify and Apple Music are by far the most popular options, but if you’re an artist or you’re looking for lesser-known musicians to support, Soundcloud and Bandcamp could be your best bet. If you want an easy, free option, check out Spotify, YouTube Music or Pandora. Whatever it is you choose, happy listening!


Editor’s note: This story was updated July 21 at 2 p.m. to specify that Pandora Premium offers the ability to create playlists. The free version of Pandora does not. This story previously incorrectly stated that Pandora does not offer playlists at all.