Compare Music Streaming Services: Amazon Music, Apple Music, Spotify, Deezer

  • We put 4 of the highest-rated music-streaming programs against one another to find out the best performance, affordability and coverage
  • Check out if how many users they allow, tracks and special features
Amazon Music

Read our Amazon Music Review

Free Option:
30 day free trial

Basic Plan:
$11.99/mth (Individual)
$4.99 (Echo Plan)

Premium Plan:
$17.99 (family)

Number of tracks:
Over 50 million

Platform:
Echo, PC/Mac, iOS, Android, Fire phone/tablets, Amazon Fire TV, Fire TV Stick, Roku, BlueSound, Sonos, Bose SoundTouch, HEOS, Play-Fi

Play offline:
Yes

Discovery:
Recommendations based on your taste

Special features:
Music is available on-demand and ad-free, with unlimited plays.

Deezer

Free Option:
Ad supported

Basic Plan:
None

Premium Plan:
$11.99 (single) $17.99 (family)

Number of tracks:
Over 30 million

Platform:
Android, iPhone, Windows Phone, PC/Mac, Tablets, iPod Touch, TVs, sounds systems, cars

Play offline:
Premium Plan Only

Discovery:
It gets to know what you like and what you don’t, and plays an infinite stream of music chosen just for you

Special features:
See the lyrics to all your favourites on-screen

Apple Music

Read our Apple Music Review

Free Option:
3 month trial for 99¢

Basic Plan:
$11.99/month ($119 yearly)
$5.99 (student)

Premium Plan:
$17.99 (family)

Number of tracks:
Over 50 million

Platform:
iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Mac/PC, Apple TV, Apple Watch, CarPlay, Sonos

Play offline:
Yes

Discovery:
Recommendations based on your taste

Special features:
Beats 1: Innovative radio and on‑demand shows hosted by top DJs and artists

Spotify

Free Option:
Ad Supported

Basic Plan:
None

Premium Plan:
$11.99/month ($5.99 for students)

Number of tracks:
Over 50 million

Platform:
PC/Mac, iOS, Android, Windows Phone, BlackBerry, Sonos, Squeezebox, PS4, Xbox One

Play offline:
Premium Plan Only

Discovery:
Recommendations based on your taste

Special features:
Follow artists or friends to keep up with their recommendations

Music Streaming – A World of Music in Your Pocket

From its humble beginnings as a renegade method of listeners sharing music, to the global powerhouse of the entertainment industry that it is today, music streaming has changed the music world from top to bottom. With hundreds of millions of people worldwide getting their music almost entirely through streaming services, it’s also changed the way people listen to their favourite artists.

What we know today as music streaming actually sprang into life as something a little bit more primitive – and most definitely illegal. The year was 1999, and a little app called Napster had shown up to help fans (mostly US college students at the time) upload and share songs with each other. It relied on people making copies of the music themselves – usually “ripped” from compact discs – and found itself a big following in no time. People were sharing rare recordings, their own concert recordings, as well as commercial albums and singles by the thousands.

Needless to say, the record industry wasn’t amused, and the lawsuits started flying around as various other music-sharing apps showed up to complicate things (the best known of which were Limewire and KaZaa). Stadium rock band Metallica famously spoke out against Napster, resulting in backlash from their fans and a very funny early episode of South Park making fun of all the fuss.

But one thing was clear – people immediately loved the ability to get online and access a catalogue of music. Legal music download stores had started appearing – most famously Apple’s iTunes – but that still relied on the traditional model of buying albums and singles, just like you would in a store. Online radio station services like Pandora turned up, but just like regular radio, you had no choice of what to listen to. It wasn’t until 2008 that the revolution properly started, with the arrival from Sweden of the name that would change everything – Spotify.

What Do Music Streaming Services Offer You?

The idea is actually pretty simple – provide a catalogue of every locally available music release, digitise it all, and make it available for instant playback online, completely legally. Deals were made with record companies where each play of a song by a user would be paid for by the streaming service, so naturally the services needed a way to make money from their user base. Exactly how that’s done varies between the different music streaming services out there, but they all have one thing in common – their music libraries.

Thanks to the way music licensing works, what you find on Spotify is mostly the same collection of music that you’ll find on iTunes or Amazon Music – though there are exceptions, especially when a big name gives their music to one service exclusively (Peter Gabriel, for example, only let Apple Music stream his music initially, though he’s now on Spotify too).

So what it comes down to for most people will be the basics – features, pricing, and sound quality. We’ll take a look at each service in a moment, but first, how do they manage to deliver music to you almost instantly whenever you want to hear it – and how does that affect the sound quality?

The Smart Squish

It was the famous MP3 file format that really kicked off the online music revolution. While there had been ways of reducing the size of digital audio files for years, they weren’t especially good at handling music. MP3 was invented to fix that problem – designed from the ground up to compress music files to a tenth of their original size or even less without overly affecting sound quality.

MP3 (and the formats that followed it) depends on some clever computing when the files are created. It “listens” to the source music and decides which parts of it the human ear wouldn’t be able to easily hear – and it removes those parts. For example, if a piano is playing during a song but it’s not clearly audible over a loud guitar solo, the sound of the piano is removed from the music – and because you never heard it in the first place, you don’t hear any difference! It took years for MP3 to get good at doing this, and these days there are far better-designed formats used by streaming services that do this trickery even better. That’s where sound quality comes into play – you want your stream to sound as much like the original CD as possible.

The Top Music Streaming Services

The past few years have seen quite a few music streaming services appear, only to vanish almost as quickly in the face of competition from the big names in streaming. And it’s not surprising – there’s a lot more to running a music streaming service than just sticking a catalogue of songs online and letting customers loose. The ones that dominate today are there because people love spending time with them for other reasons as well.

Spotify

Having just reached its 10th birthday, Spotify sits almost unchallenged as the biggest music streaming service on the planet – though not without its controversy. With a gigantic user base of nearly 200 million users, Spotify’s success comes from two things. For starters, it’s a free service with optional monthly payment – though nearly half of Spotify’s users choose to pay, and you quickly see why when you try the free version. Supported by frequent audio ads and restricted to low sound quality, the free version of Spotify at least lets you sample what’s on offer before you hand over the cash. But once you do, you get access to vastly improved sound quality and no interruptions from ads. As you start listening, Spotify notices what you play and starts recommending stuff to you – and it’s remarkably accurate. The weekly “Discover” playlist that’s auto-created for you is designed to point you in the direction of stuff you haven’t heard before, and it quickly gets to know your tastes better than your friends do.

Amazon Music

Another service with a “free” tier – kind of. If you’re an Amazon Prime member, you get access to a free version of Amazon Music with some fairly tight limitations. It’s a restricted catalogue of artists and albums, though as a general cross-section of music it’s pretty good, covering everything from Lorde to Midnight Oil. You’re also limited to streaming 40 hours of music per month, a limitation that’s unique to the Australian service. However, if you sign up for the full service at $11.99 per month, the catalogue of music expands to cover everything you’d expect to find. The big advantage of Amazon Music is, of course, its integration with Amazon’s devices. So if you’ve got one or more Amazon Echo smart speakers in your home, this could be the perfect streaming service for you, allowing you to send music all around your home just by asking to hear it.

Apple Music

A relative latecomer to music streaming, Apple’s music streaming service is tightly integrated with both the iTunes Store and the iTunes app itself, something that will please some and annoy others. There are key advantages to both, though. The use of iTunes Store files as the source for music streams means that you get the exact same sound quality as the versions you’d buy from iTunes – complete with the benefits of Apple’s “Mastered For iTunes” program, which lets artists and producers tweak the sound for better streaming sound quality. Apple also uses the AAC audio format, a replacement for MP3 that’s designed to be an extremely high-quality way of storing music. And the integration with the iTunes app on Mac and Windows means that your existing collection of songs shares space with the songs you save to your library from Apple Music, making playlists a breeze and browsing easy. Apple Music has no free tier, though the initial free trial is for a generous three months.

Deezer

The biggest music streaming service in its native France, where it launched a year before Spotify, Deezer has slowly made its way across the world and found itself a lot of fans thanks to its direct support on many devices, from AV receivers to smart TVs and dedicated music systems. Mirroring a few of the features from Spotify, Deezer offers a free tier that gives you access to its whole library, but with occasional ads in between songs, and with all albums and playlists restricted to shuffle play. Paying for a Premium subscription removes those restrictions, and also allows you to download music to play when you’re offline. Deezer offers a student subscription for only $5.99/month, too, along with a premium “HiFi” tier that lets you stream high quality “lossless” audio (identical quality to the original) for a somewhat heftier $23.99/month.

Mobile Plans with Streaming Music

Unlike video streaming services such as Netflix, music streaming doesn’t consume an especially large amount of data, making it ideal for listening on the go. However, if you’re streaming high quality audio continuously, you can end up chewing through up to 100MB in an hour of listening which, depending on your mobile data allowance, might not be ideal. Fortunately, the major mobile providers have offers that take that worry away, and which might influence your choice of streaming service.

Telstra

Telstra is still offering 6 free months of Apple Music on their post-paid or prepaid plans until the end of February 2019, but separately from that, all of Telstra’s mobile plans include completely data-free (unmetered) streaming of Apple Music – so you can listen all day and all night if you like, without ever having to worry about using up even a tiny bit of your valuable data. The exception here is any radio stations in the Apple Music service that aren’t run by Apple, and downloads of any music. It’s a definite reason for Apple Music users to check out what Telstra’s mobile plans have to offer.

Optus

Not to be outdone, Optus Mobile includes data-free streaming of Spotify across all of its consumer plans, also including Google Play Music and iHeartRadio in the unmetered category. The restriction here is simply that you have to stream at 512 Kbps or below – not a problem at all, as the top data rate you’ll find on Spotify (at the highest quality setting) is 320 Kbps. They also don’t include downloads or video content in the data-free pool, but stick to your music playlists and you’ll be fine!

What’s the Best Music Streaming Service?

An easy question to ask, that’s also a hard one to answer. Each of these services comes with its own benefits and features, and depending on the computer, phone and other hardware you use, it’s very likely that one will already be the best go-to option for you. If you’re just jumping into music streaming, though, it’s hard to go past Spotify. Its recommendations system is uncannily accurate, and it’s available on just about every platform under the sun.

With all these services similarly priced, though – and all offering obligation-free trial periods – it’s worth giving them all a test drive to see which one fits in best with your gear and your lifestyle. Let the discovery begin!

Music Streaming FAQs

Can I Buy Music to Own from A Streaming Service?

In general, no you can’t – the exception being Apple Music, which lets you buy music to own from the iTunes Store that’s integrated with the service. In general, though, music streaming services are all about not needing to pay up every time to buy songs or albums.

Do Songs and Albums Stay on Streaming Services Forever?

That’s the catch with any streaming service – you can only stream content for as long as the service has the rights to it (Netflix users will be familiar with the concept!) It’s entirely possible for a favourite album or song to disappear down the track, for a variety of reasons. If you want to make sure you can always play it, buy it from iTunes – or even on good old Compact Disc!

Are Music Videos Available to Stream?

It depends on the service, but generally the focus of these services is on streaming music audio to listen to at home or on the go. However, Apple Music integrates music videos with its catalogue as well, and even offers special video features such as live concerts from time to time.