When it comes to the best music streaming apps, the conversation usually revolves around the battle between Spotify and Apple Music. But there are a lot of other apps out there.
Which music streaming app is best suited for your needs? Here are the best options.
Best for: People who want to discover and access the most music without paying a penny.
Best features: There’s a reason Spotify consistently comes out on top of its music app competitors: It makes 30 million tracks available to listen to or add to playlists for free. But where Spotify really shines is its ability to allow users to find new music. Its wildly successful Discover Weekly feature delivers users with a playlist specifically curated for them every Monday. And Spotify has a library of other pre-made playlists perfect for every life event imaginable, like a pregame, morning commute, or bad break-up.
Flaws: Some big musicians have criticized Spotify, alleging the streaming giant doesn’t pay artists enough for making their work available for free. As a result, some artists have pulled some or all of their music from the service. So, if you’re looking to listen to Taylor Swift’s entire discography or Beyoncé’s powerhouse “Lemonade” album, you’re out of luck.
Read More: How to Remove DRM from Spotify Premium Music
Best for: Devotees of Apple or Taylor Swift.
Key features: Apple’s much-anticipated streaming service underwhelmed when it was released last summer. But the big changes coming this fall to the app, including a more easy-to-navigate design, could rise Apple Music’s stock in the streaming wars. Apple Music’s current version does have some great features, including playlists made by people instead of algorithms and a knack for attracting anti-streaming artists to the platform (Apple Music ad star Taylor Swift’s entire catalogue is only on Apple Music, and Gwen Stefani and Pharrell gave Apple Music exclusives on their latest releases before they put them on other streaming platforms.)
Flaws: Apple Music has a lot of frills (namely, the Connect feature) and its platform isn’t the easiest to navigate. Let’s see if the update this fall lives up to its promises.
Read More: How to Convert Apple Music to MP3
Best for: Users nostalgic for radio.
Key features: Pandora, once a giant of the streaming world, has struggled in recent years and recently faced pressure to find a buyer. But Pandora does have its strengths: It’s super simple to use and it’s a good tool for discovering new music based on other artists or songs you like. And, to keep up with Apple and Spotify, Pandora has rolled out some new features that aren’t half bad. The chief example is Thumbprint Radio, a personalized radio station that plays songs based on what songs you’ve liked on Pandora in the past à la Spotify’s Discover Weekly.
Flaws: Pandora really is a just-the-basics service, and its wholly randomized stations don’t always make for the best listening experience. And it only has 1 million songs compared to Apple Music’s 43 million or Spotify’s 30 million.
Best for: Fans of Jay Z and Jay Z-adjacent artists.
Key features: Tidal has had its fair share of publicized problems, including shuffling execs and site crashes worthy of SNL parodies, but Jay Z’s streaming service has two big things going for it: sound quality, and star power. Beyoncé debuted “Lemonade” exclusively on Tidal, causing Tidal to rocket to the top of the App Store. (“Lemonade” has since been made available on iTunes and Pandora.) Kanye West’s “The Life of Pablo” and Rihanna’s “ANTI” were released on Tidal before they landed anywhere else. And Tidal is the only service that has Prince’s catalogue.
Flaws: Tidal’s interface can be pretty buggy, and it lacks a lot of options to discover music.
Best for: Musicians who want to share their music or users who want to listen to songs off the mainstream.
Key features: SoundCloud has enjoyed success as the place for users to release their own music or remixes with the hopes of becoming the next big thing. That means SoundCloud has a huge variety of music you can’t find anywhere else—and some of the user-generated music is great.
Flaws: SoundCloud’s discovery options are limited to “popular,” “related tracks,” or “suggested tracks,” which means it’s a bit hard to find some of the great user-generated music unless you know what you’re looking for.
Google Play Music
Best for: People who never got over the death of Songza, or Spotify users who are consistently unhappy with their Discover Weekly selections.
Key features: Google Play Music doesn’t tend to factor into the conversation about the best music streaming services, but it’s quietly become a great app. The app uses technology from the late popular music curation service Songza, which Google acquired and subsequently shut down, to give you excellent song and playlist recommendations curated specifically for your mood or activities. The premium version of the app comes with the ability to store 50,000 songs on the Cloud and a free subscription of YouTube Red.
Flaws: The app isn’t the cleanest to navigate, and the sound quality isn’t as great as Tidal’s.
Best for: Users who primarily use YouTube to listen to music on their phones.
Key features: YouTube realized that a good chunk of its users use the video service for just music, so it unveiled its own YouTube Music app last October to appeal to those people. The app lets you turn on an “audio” only setting, so users can listen to music and explore other apps (previously, users had to have the YouTube video constantly open or the music would stop playing.) And once the song you’ve selected stops playing, YouTube Music will select another song that it thinks you might like.
Flaws: The app isn’t the best choice for people who are dependent on their playlists. Additionally, YouTube Music’s songs are limited to the songs available on YouTube (read: singles with music videos or artists’ songs uploaded by other users that haven’t been taken down by the big studios.)