How to choose the best streaming music for you

Apple Music, Spotify, Pandora, YouTube, oh my! When it comes to streaming music, there are more options available than ever. Wherever you can connect to the internet – phone, car, computer, etc. – you can stream music. With so many choices, we realize it can be hard to decide, so we’ve rounded up the latest to help you select just the right one.

Some services, such as iHeartRadio and Spotify, have free options that let you try before you subscribe, while others, such as Apple Music, are strictly premium experiences. Many services display lyrics, so you can sing along with your favorite song. While others offer family plans that let a set number of household members share a premium account.

While there are many to choose from, the best way to start is to think about what you want most from the service you choose: Classical, podcasts, family plans, local news, etc. Many of these offer free trial periods, so you can give them a spin to see how they fit your routine, or even free basic subscription levels.

Here we’ve laid out some of the best for different types of music listeners.

Spotify

BEST FOR: Podcasts and Family Plans

For families who want to hear plenty of different types of music on a variety of devices, this service is for you. Spotify is also great for podcasting and has planted a flag in the market by hosting some exclusive and very popular podcasts, including Michelle Obama and Joe Rogan.

Spotify works with a variety of connected devices, including the Sonos One and Google Home Max smart speakers, as well as the Sony PlayStation 4 game console. Desktop apps are available for Apple and Windows, and mobile apps are available for Android and iOS.

Spotify offers a free 30-day trial period and a free basic membership for users who don’t mind listening to ads. Their Premium tier, which costs $10 per month for individuals or $15 for up to six family members, grants ad-free on-demand access to Spotify’s library of 60 million tracks. Students can pay a discounted rate of $5 and get free access to Hulu (with commercials).

Apple Music

BEST FOR: Apple and iPhone users

For those who are already devoted Apple and iOS users, or have large iTunes libraries they’ve compiled over the years, Apple Music integrates with all you’ve got like a dream. It offers a library of 60 million songs that can be accessed on devices running macOS, Windows, iOS, or Android. And if you have a Apple smart speaker, (the HomePod), Apple Music is the only service that will stream directly without needing to connect your phone. It also has a novel feature that lets you search for songs using lyrics, which is useful if you can’t remember the title.

Apple Music offers a 3-month free trial period. After that individuals pay $10 per month; it costs $15 for up to six family members. Apple Music also has a discounted rate of $5 for students. There is no free level of membership.

Pandora

BEST FOR: A customized, low maintenance experience

Tell Pandora which artist you want to hear and it creates a channel with selections from that artist and others with similar styles, which you can then adjust to match your tastes. Paid subscribers can stream specific tracks, as they can on any other service, but Pandora works best for those who want tailored recommendations and the kind of hands-off listening experience you get with a live radio station. It’s easy to use, apps are available for most major platforms, including web browsers, Android and iOS smartphones, and most smart speakers.

Pandora streaming radio is free with ads or $5 per month without ads. For $10 per month, you get ad-free streaming radio and access to an on-demand library. A $15 family plan is also available. Pandora offers free trial periods for the paid plans, and discounts for students and members of the military.

Amazon

BEST FOR: Amazon Prime members and Amazon device integration

If you subscribe to Amazon Prime, then you already have access to Prime Music, with ad-free on demand service. The next level up is their premium tier, Amazon Music Unlimited, which gives you access to 60 million songs, thousands of hand-curated playlists, and personalized stations. If you have an Amazon speaker, you can connect using Alexa.

Alexa voice assistant users without a Prime account can access free, ad-supported playlists and stations by asking Alexa to play music. Amazon Music Unlimited costs $8 per month for Prime members, $10 per month for non-Prime members. They also offer a free three-month trial and a family plan for the service.

SiriusXM

BEST FOR: Internet Radio – on the go, in your car, everywhere

SiriusXM is best for people who like to listen to traditional radio stations but want more options and a commercial-free experience with the option of skipping tracks. If you have good cell service on your commute, plus an unlimited data plan, you can stream to your car stereo from your phone.

There’s no free trial, but there are discounted rates for the first few months of two packages they offer. The Essential package costs $8 per month and gives you access to hundreds of channels, including comedy, sports, talk radio, on-demand shows, and commercial-free music with skippable tracks. For $22, you can upgrade to All Access, which adds two dedicated Howard Stern channels and play-by-play sports.

iHeart Radio

BEST FOR: Live Radio

iHeartRadio offers live, free radio streams. Its homepage prominently displays a grid that highlights Comedy, Jazz, News & Talk, Rock, Sports, and other content categories. Clicking a panel and then the Get Stations icon lets iHeartRadio know the genres that you want to hear. If you like live radio custom stations, or podcasts, you’ll like iHeartRadio. The service manages to capture radio’s spontaneity (complete with audio ads and annoying DJs), while giving users options to create personalized experiences.

Idagio

BEST FOR: Classical Music Lovers

Idagio is meant for fans of classical music. It’s easy to find favorite classical tracks, whether you want to search by composer, performers, or other factors, such as recording date. Idagio also has a number of browsing tools, such as curated playlists and the option to sort by various instruments. Idagio lets you choose to stream high-quality audio files at no extra charge.

Idagio costs $10 per month and comes with a free two-week trial period. Students can get 50 percent off, and there’s also a free basic level of membership.

Kristy CooperHow to choose the best streaming music for you