Music streaming apps: How to get cheaper music listening
Music streaming sites like Spotify and Apple Music are here to stay, and unless you are sitting on 100s of vinyl records, this is the smartest way to listen to music. Most people will have at least one app on their phone dedicated to music, but they are becoming more expensive as they add more streams and new features. So how can you get the best deals for less?
What are music streaming apps?
Music streaming is basically listening to music without downloading it to your device. Instead, you listen to it whilst you are online (unless you have a plan which allows you to listen offline) via your laptop or smartphone. They have massive catalogues of music to listen to — some services have upwards of 75 million tracks — with every genre catered for. Admittedly, some more so than others but then not everyone wants to listen to drone doom metal.
There are quite a few streaming apps and platforms out there, some are free and paid for by advertising and others will charge a monthly or yearly subscription. But because artists and distributors get paid, this is all above board and legal, and it’s worth knowing you’ll only be able to use certain services in the UK due to licensing restrictions.
Free or paid?
There are plenty of free apps to stream music, but with certain limitations that may put you off listening for hours. Most will feature adverts or commercial breaks, or restrict your playlists, or give you a certain amount of song skips — looking at you Spotify — on a randomly selected playlist.
There are some great radio apps too, which are free to use and allow you to listen to global radio stations, within genres and eras too. So if you like 80s rock classics, there will be hundreds of radio stations playing that sort of music.
Free streaming apps
Below are some of the best free options for streaming music, from radio apps to advert-free playlist makers. These are all free to download and use, with certain conditions involved.
One of the older music streaming services (Deezer started in 2006), and within the free version you can only listen whilst online, on “shuffle” mode, and unlike other sites you cannot skip songs unless you join one of the premium options.
It is free to use, but you will need to listen to adverts. On the plus side, there are more than 56 million songs to listen to.
Jango sits between being a radio station and a streaming service, as you can pick certain artists or genres and it compiles a list of popular songs you can listen to. It has adverts but if you register an account, you can reduce the amount of ads you’ll hear in a day.
It is customisable too, as you can like or ‘ban’ songs, meaning you’ll hear more or less of that artist. You can also skip six songs per hour, like Spotify.
Made for up-and-coming artists to share their music online, SoundCloud now has over 150 million tracks and 175 million unique listeners looking for something fresh or different.
It is free with adverts and is easy to use, for both artists looking to publish their music and for listeners. There is also SoundCloud Go, a subscription service, which removes adverts or SoundCloud Go+ that gives you access to all tracks and improved sound quality.
The biggest name in music streaming, Spotify boasts almost 350 million users around the globe and creates mixes and playlists based on what you listen to (and like) the most.
The free app version gives you six skips an hour, you can only listen on shuffle out of 70 million songs, and you must be online to play. However, the desktop version has unlimited skips, but adverts, lots of adverts.
With more than 100,000 global broadcast radio stations included, it is very unlikely that you’ll ever have a chance to listen to them all. However, due to licensing restrictions in the UK, there are certain stations we can’t listen to.
The fun thing is you can hear some wacky local adverts in between songs, and you can search by genre, decade, or popularity. TuneIn also has a premium service, which takes away a percentage of the commercials.
Premium streaming services
Premium music streaming means one thing, you need to pay for the privilege. However, the sheer amount of music, podcasts and radio you can listen to makes them probably worth the expense. Plus, most do a free trial so you can choose which one is the right one for your music tastes before taking the plunge.
- Amazon Music Unlimited
Amazon has two paid for music streaming services, totally separate entities, one is included with Prime membership (Prime Music) but is limited to 2 million tracks. The second, Amazon Music Limited has access to 75 million tracks and can be integrated with the Echo range of speaker systems, a nice touch when you consider you can ask for songs by quoting lyrics!
Compatible with all smartphones, tablets, and laptops, Amazon Music Unlimited is a strong contender to Spotifys’ crown. You can get a family version for up to six people listening at once for £14.99 per month.
- Apple Music
Catering for Apple users, any music you have bought previously on iTunes will automatically sync to Apple Music making it available to stream on all your devices, which is a very handy feature.
Apple Music has a library of 75 million songs, which seems to be the average across all platforms. However, it is unlikely you will ever listen to even a fraction of that. You can get a three-month trial subscription for free, after which it is £9.99 a month.
Arguably the best for user experience and song choice, Spotify Premium allows you to create playlists and share them with friends, with a choice of 70 millions tracks to choose from.
The best offer is the family plan (six accounts), but at £17.99 per month, this might be too much for some. Spotify Premium also offers a four-month free trial via Xbox Game Pass, which gives you all the premium features, just don’t forget to cancel the trial if you don’t wish to carry on using it as it auto-renews.
Touted as the streaming service for music aficionados and audiophiles, TIDAL boasts high-quality, Hi-Fi lossless audio files.
TIDAL also has 80 million songs, 350K music videos, artist-curated playlists, interviews, documentaries, and even an online magazine. £9.99 for the cheapest option, moving up to £19.99 per month for the Hi-Fi audio version.
- YouTube Music
YouTube Music is now the famous search engine’s contender in the music streaming race, as it replaced Google Play Music in late 2020. One great feature is that it lets you store up to 100,000 owned tracks in the cloud for free, which is ideal for those with lots of downloaded music.
The family option allows six users to listen or watch across 10 devices, which is really handy for groups who live together or just want to share the cost.
How to get premium services for less
- Make use of free trials
If you consider swapping and changing your music streaming provider, then you can get over a year’s worth of music for free. By making use of the free trials, some of which are three-months, then you’ll not pay anything.
Remember to cancel the trials before the end though, as they auto-renew and you’ll be stuck paying the monthly fee. Sadly, they can only be used once.
- Make use of family accounts
Most of the streaming services offer a family account, which normally means up to six users at once. Spotify has six different accounts on one main account, so if you can make use of that you will save a lot of money.
For example, both Apple Music and Amazon Music Unlimited family accounts allow six users, at £14.99 per month, so it works out as approximately £2.49 each per month. However, one of you must be the main account holder and everyone else is a passive user, which might become annoying if someone stops paying their share.
- Make use of special offers
The main music streaming services will have collaborations with other companies, to offer services for cheap or for free. For example, if you are an EE pay monthly user, you can get a six-month free trial of Apple Music with unlimited music downloads. Or selected O2 Priority users can get three months free.
If you wanted to try Amazon Music Unlimited, Legion Gaming (Lenovo) has a three-month free trial offer for new subscribers only.
- Make use of student accounts
Students can get all of the music streaming services for less, but note that you will have to prove you are a student. For example, Apple is £4.99 per month, Spotify £5.99, TIDAL is £4.99 and so on. Have a look for the best offers before buying.
- Make use of a few cheeky tricks
Amazon Music Unlimited is cheaper for Prime subscribers, working out at £79.99 per year. If you get a free 30-day trial of Prime, buy the Amazon Music Unlimited offer for £79.99 during that 30 days, then cancel the trial, you will save money. It works out at £6.58 per month for 12 months, rather than £149.99.
Music Streaming FAQs
Are music streaming services worth it?
Unless you have a massive collection of CDs, vinyl records, or MP3s, then music streaming services are worth every penny. You can listen to millions of songs or podcasts, interviews, and so on.
How much do music streaming services cost?
Some are free, such as radio services and ad-enabled streaming sites, but have limitations. For the premium services it depends on which you choose, but for an individual account, you are looking at around £8-10 per month.
Does music streaming use data?
Yes. If you are using it via a mobile device then streaming music can eat into your data, but if on a laptop or at home then it is likely you have an unlimited data broadband deal so it won’t matter.
When did music streaming services start?
Back in 2006, Spotify and Deezer were created in Sweden and France, respectively, but it wasn’t really until 2010-2011 that things really took off. Music streaming has been around for a while and is only getting bigger, with better quality audio and more features.
What is the hotukdeals community saying?
Check out these community discussions on music streaming: