It’s no hidden fact that streaming media is the most popular means by which people listen to music, watch movies, catch new episodes of their favorite television shows, and all around partake in entertainment culture. The internet has broken down the dams that once held back eager listeners and viewers, and today, we’re here with a list: 10 of the best sites that can lead you to a stellar online music streaming experience. Audiophiles will rejoice at the vast, libraries of music that can be accessed more simply than ever before, and using these websites will give you the best access that you can hope for.
I still remember the first audio cassette tape that I bought, if you can remember that far back. Green Day released their second album, Kerplunk! (let’s not discuss what it was named after), and I had to have it. Moreover, my friends needed me to have it almost as bad as I did, and shortly after listening to it front to back, I popped that baby in my dual-deck cassette player and started recording copies for anyone that brought me a blank tape.
Piracy? I don’t know that the word had a different definition from “swashbuckler” for me when I was that young, but it helps to illustrate just how much the music landscape has changed in only a little over two decades. We’ve gone from a hungry rush for physical media when a new album releases to queued up downloads and refreshed streaming list every minute; eager anticipation for new music looks entirely different than it once did.
Keep in mind, this isn’t a bad thing at all. Streaming music services give us access to millions of tracks from thousands of different artists, and we no longer need a floor-to-ceiling storage closet in which to keep it all. Moreover, new artists have a much easier time getting their music out into the world, now that they don’t have to worry as much about physical distribution.
The only real complication for audiophiles, anymore, is choosing the right streaming service for their needs. Some of them are free, some aren’t. Some of them work right through your browser, and others still will require installed desktop applications or smartphone apps. For as liberated as we’ve become when we want to listen to music, we’re burdened with an abundance of choice as different streaming services compete for our attention.
Once again, this isn’t a bad thing. Sometimes, we just need a little bit of help navigating those crowded seas.
Appamatix’s guide to the 10 best music streaming sites that you’ll find online aims to do just that. We won’t tell you which one to use, but we’ll certainly tell you why you might want to use each and every one of them. The trick to picking out the right music service for you is matching up features with needs, and each of these services differs from the others in interesting, important ways.
It’s becoming less and less difficult to pick the most popular streaming music service from the list of all those available, but millions of people have turned to Spotify and it stands to gain hundreds of thousands of new users every year. Its catalog is massive, it comes bursting with the features that the average listener wants, and the “free” option is incredibly appealing.
You can access Spotify in a variety of different ways, and this is another strong selling point for the service–you can hit up the website, download the desktop app, or install Spotify on your smartphone. On each platform, you’ll get the same performance and features, as well as a virtually identical interface. This makes it easy to use Spotify no matter where you are. Accessibility drives the interface just as much as the available options do, and it’s one of the few online music streaming services that allows you to create custom playlists that can be shared with anyone.
That’s right. Anyone. Since Spotify has a strong, capable web player that anyone can access without a requisite download, sharing a playlist of your favorite tracks is as easy as linking it to a friend. It also has a great team of music editors that compile categorical playlists for your listening pleasure, and the Spotify Radio feature is quite good at narrowing down more music that you’ll enjoy, based on the artists that you often listen to.
The free version comes burdened with adds–pretty much par for the course–but a $9.99 monthly subscription will give you the complete Spotify experience. With that, you’ll get access to every feature as well as the ability to play any individual track you want. Best of all? No advertising. Though other services may appeal to an individual, Spotify is my go-to music player no matter where I am.
This is a rather new entry to the streaming music service arena, but it’s no lightweight. After years spent in development, Apple Music released to the public and earned immediate, widespread critical praise. The interface is fast, fluid, and attractive. It has access to every bit of music that you can find within the iTunes store, a service that’s notoriously more artist-friendly than many available services.
It’s not quite as accessible as Spotify, primarily because it doesn’t support open sharing at the same level as its primary competitor. You can make your own playlists in Apple Music and you can absolutely make them discoverable to other users, but good luck sharing them outside of the platform. Hopefully, this is an area that we see Apple Music improve in, as it’s currently one of the primary reasons that many people opt for a more open service like Spotify.
Accessibility is otherwise no problem for Apple Music. You can access it through iTunes on your desktop or laptop, or through a standalone app on iOS devices and Apple Watch. There’s even a beta app in development for Android devices, which you only have to opt in to get your hands on. If there’s a direct threat to the throne that Spotify currently holds in the music streaming industry, Apple Music is that threat.
Always having been billed as “internet radio,” Pandora has only really changed in form and accessibility over the years. It maintains the same service, the same quality, and the same standards that it always has, making it one of the most reliable, longstanding music streaming services in existence.
Rather than selecting individual tracks to build a custom playlist or “searching by artist,” Pandora does all of the legwork for you (or, at least, it tries very hard to.) You’ll input the name of an artist, an album, a track, or even a genre, and Pandora will work to compile a custom radio station for you that’s built upon…more music than you’d ever know what to do with. It boasts an access that’s almost as large as Spotify’s, which should tell you plenty.
You’ll have to deal with advertisements when using Pandora unless you opt in for a $3.99 monthly fee, which will open up your access to the service from a well-designed desktop app.
Wait a second…who put videos in our music? Or did we put music in our videos? Regardless of your particular perspective, YouTube is one of the best places to experience music of any kind, be it from major artists or independent bands. Since anybody can upload anything they want (copyrights and illegality withstanding), it makes the perfect hub for artists to share their work with audiences, and moreover, for audiences to share that music amongst each other.
You won’t get as impressive of audio quality in YouTube videos as you might with a dedicated music player, but that shouldn’t be allowed to stop you. Queueing up a YouTube playlist can be just as satisfying as one that was built in Spotify, and the auto-play feature guarantees that good sounds will keep on coming, as YouTube compiles future viewing based on your past viewing.
Maybe YouTube and Vevo deserve to go hand-in-hand considering how much they support each other, but I’ve decided to separate them on the grounds that Vevo is very much its own service with its own attention-grabbing presence online. It’s incredibly mainstream and responsible primarily for supporting whatever major record labels pay them to, but that isn’t necessarily a drawback for music-hungry audiophiles.
Like YouTube, Vevo is primarily a video service that features music and music videos. Since that’s been an aspect of popular music for decades, however, it would be silly to divorce it from our growing list of music streaming services simply because it’s mixed media. If it’s new and if it’s popular, there’s a good chance that you’ll be able to catch it on Vevo (or, alternatively, through YouTube via Vevo.)
Apple Music is on its way to Android devices, but they’ve already had a standalone music service for years, and I don’t know that I’ve ever seen it receive all of the recognition that it probably deserves. It has more in common with Spotify than many give it credit for, but it has virtually no similarities to its competitor’s interface.
For $10 per month, you’ll get access to millions of digital songs from an expansive catalog–more music than you’d ever know what to do with. It has the same range of accessibility too, meaning that you’ll be able to access your Google Play Music catalog wherever you are, from virtually any type of device. Also similar to Spotify is its ability for offline play, meaning that you can download music from the service to play when you don’t have an available internet connection. This is an excellent way to prepare a few playlists when you have access to Wi-Fi and don’t want to use cellular data to stream your music when you’re on the go.
Soundcloud is an odd duck, and even though it’s far from the traditional precedent established by music streaming giants, we’d be remiss in keeping it off of this list. As much as it’s an online catalog through which you can listen to all kinds of music, it’s also an excellent platform for up and coming musicians to get their work noticed. Almost anyone can set up a profile on Soundcloud and stream their portfolio.
Like many other excellent streaming services, there’s a free option and a monthly subscription option, which will run you about $9.99 per month. With that fee, you get the expected ad-free experience as well as the “offline catalog” option, which lets you download music to listen to when you don’t have an available internet connection. (If you’re seeing a trend in some of these options, there’s a reason for it!)
If you’re looking exclusively for music from big labels and big artists, you’ll have better luck through other services. But if you’re looking for new artists mixed in with fresh, interesting tracks from more renowned names, this is the place where you want to be.
Now that the market has been casually dominated by entities like Spotify, Apple Music, and Pandora, long-time streaming services like Grooveshark have become something of an outlier. That hasn’t stopped them from succeeding, however, and Grooveshark remains an excellent place to source some excellent music, even if it is less “mainstream” than other services.
As with our other options, there’s a free version and a paid version. The free version of Grooveshark will get you ad-supported access through a web browser, while the subscription version will let you take your experience on the go, with mobile apps across a variety of platforms.
For being a slightly less mainstream service, Grooveshark does pack a wallop of popular talent. Hip-hop and dance music takes the spotlight, here, but you’ll also find classics like the Beatles and mellower tracks from artists like Sufjan Stevens.
The closest comparison that I can draw to Slacker Radio is Pandora, and it still manages to differ from that service quite a lot. Whereas Pandora builds a personal radio station for you as you listen, Slacker Radio uses music editors to create curated playlists that you can browse between and listen to.
When using the free version, there will (of course) be advertisements that you’ll have to withstand. Additionally, you’ll only be allowed to skip six songs per hour, if you happen to not want to listen to a particular set of tracks on a playlist. Paying $3.99 per month will remove the ads and allow you to skip as many songs as you’d like. You’ll also get access to offline listening. If you go all the way up to the $9.99 premium subscription fee, then you gain access to a similar listening environment to Spotify–on-demand playing of any tracks, artists, or albums that you want to listen to.
Amazon’s music service is a tricky thing to approach, mainly because it’s multifaceted and appears slightly different depending on what sort of Amazon customer you are. If you’re an Amazon Prime customer, you’ll get all of the listening benefits attached to Prime Music, which includes on-demand access to artists, albums, and playlists curated by Amazon. If you’re not a Prime customer, then you can still access Amazon’s streaming service. However, you’ll be limited to music that you’ve purchased digitally through the Amazon storefront.
This might seem slightly convoluted compared to other streaming services, but considering how many people are getting onboard with Amazon Prime, it’s certainly earned a spot on this list. When coupled with Amazon’s Echo, it’s a particularly impressive service that can liven up your entire household with the newest and best tracks and playlists…in addition to all of the excellent other features that come along with a Prime membership.
These are only a handful of the streaming services that you’ll find available online. Our 10 are curated from dozens of potential offerings, but they’re a diverse bunch that is each at the top of its game, thriving in an increasingly competitive industry.
The above 10 sites will guarantee you a high-quality online music streaming experience, and if you take the time to find the right one for you, those premium subscription fees can really take your listening experience to the next level. Of course, if you have any recommendations of your own (or questions about any of these sites and services) let us know in the comments below!