Music streaming has really taken off over the last couple of years, even more so in the last 12 months. There are a huge number of services available delivering all-you-can-eat tracks that are accessible to all.
Probably the most famous of the legal streaming options is Spotify, which launched in 2008 and offers access to millions and millions of songs from Oasis to Led Zeplin. It's not on its own though. Apple was one of the last to join the streaming party when it launched Apple Music earlier this year, going up against plenty of others, all with different prices, catalogues, music quality and accessibility.
The competition between music services has meant prices are continuously changing, family plans are being added and listening limits have been removed as everyone battles it out. The only problem is picking the service that is right for you, which is where we are here to help. Here are the music streaming services available and what they offer to help you work out which is best for you.
In a nutshell: Apple Music is a service with access to tens of millions of songs. It has been designed to combine music you have bought with everything from the Apple Music library. The app has five tabs/features comprising For You, New, Radio, Connect, and My Music.
The For You tab serves up a mix of handpicked albums and playlists based on the music you like, while the New tab presents the week's newest tracks, videos and playlists that have been selected by Apple Music editors. The Radio tab is where you'll find Beats 1, which is a 24-hour live global station led by DJs such as Zane Lowe, Ebro Darden, and Julie Adenoma, as well as other expertly-created stations created by radio DJs.
The Connect tab is about allowing users to follow their favourite artists, get an inside look into their world and share it with friends. This area allows unsigned artists connect with fans and upload whatever they want. Lastly, My Music allows you to add tracks from the Apple Music library to yours. It's also where you search and browse for new music to listen to and where you can create and view your playlists.
Siri has been programmed to work with Apple Music so you can ask her Siri to play the best songs from 1994... and she will do just that. All content displayed in the app is presented in two panes. The All tab is where the artist's entire library on iTunes is available and My Music is where locally stored and owned content is displayed. Apple also allows or music to be downloaded directly to a microSD card for storage locally.
Price: Apple Music costs £9.99 a month per user. Apple has also made it possible for an entire family of six to have one account subscription for £14.99 a month. You can also get the first three months free via a trial. Those without a membership but an Apple ID will be able to view and follow artists feeds on Connect, listen to the Beats 1 radio station and love, comment, and play Connect content or radio songs. Everything else requires an Apple Music membership.
Devices: Apple Music is available for iOS, Mac, and PC devices. An Android version is incoming.
Conclusion: Apple Music is a single app that combines your music, a streaming service and a worldwide live radio station. Everything lives in one place, so you can stream anything choose or you can let Apple Music choose.
In a nutshell: Spotify is the big guy in the music streaming world. It launched in 2008 and has more than 20 million users and content deals with companies including Sony, EMI, Warner and Universal. Spotify comes in paid-for and ad-supported versions - both of which are available in app form.
You'll be able to add your purchased music into Spotify using your computer, making it similar to Apple Music in that it offers access to streaming and local files, but if you use iTunes, Apple Music does the latter automatically, while Spotify requires you to do it manually. You will be able to listen to tracks offline if you pay for the Premium version however, meaning you can listen to your favourite playlist on the plane or underground.
Spotify gives you access to millions and millions of tracks, as well as ready-made playlists and Spotify radio. Like Apple Music, it will learn as you listen and through associations, will make recommendations based on your tastes. There is also a band merchandise store front that will give you easy access to your favourite band's T-shirt, for example. Spotify also offers Facebook integration so you can follow your friends to see what they're listening to.
Additionally, Spotify teamed up with Google to offer Chromecast and Chromecast Audio support allowing anyone to turn any speakers into smart connected players and Spotify Connect allows you to play the service through compatible speakers. It is also integrated into mutli-room systems like Sonos, while Apple Music is still missing.
Price: Spotify is available for free on mobile, tablet and computer but comes with adverts. Premium subscribers are charged £9.99 a month but this doesn't just enable you to use Spotify anywhere, it is ad-free and offers unlimited skips and the ability to play any track. Students get 50 per cent off Premium with Unidays or NUS Extra and PlayStation Music users get Premium for free for two months.
Spotify Family allows one account holder to sign up a further four family members in order for all five to have full Spotify Premium access and their own profiles. It costs £5 per additional family member so for you and four others, you're looking at £29.99, which is double the price of Apple Music for one less person.
Devices: Android, BlackBerry, Boxee, iOS, Linux, MeeGo, Microsoft Windows, Openpandora OS X, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Roku, S60 (Symbian), Samsung Smart TV, Sonos, Squeezebox, Telia Digital-tv, TiVo, WD TV, webOS, Windows Mobile, Windows Phones and Withings Aura. Home entertainment systems and even cars can also access Spotify and there are more than likely a few more.
Conclusion: Spotify is the most widely available music streaming platform that offers a huge range of songs at a reasonable price, despite being more expensive than Apple Music. It has a streaming top end of 320kbit/s so if you are after something of higher quality, that's where you need to look at services like Qobuz.
In a nutshell: Qobuz is a French company that offers high-quality music streaming to the discerning audiophile. It offers three separate packages based on the quality of music you want to hear. The cheapest is the same 320kbit/s as Spotify, but Qobuz also offers True CD quality at 16 bit/44.1kHz and Studio Masters at 24 bit/192kHz.
Qobuz "cherry-picks" what it finds interesting across each musical genre, offering access to over 30 millions tracks, which can be enjoyed through the app or across its various Hi-Fi partners.
As we mentioned, there are three packages available. The Premium option is all about MP3 quality tracks. The Hi-Fi option is all about True CD quality at 16 bit/44.1kHz and the Sublime option is where 240bit Hi-Res tracks come into the mix. With the Hi-Fi package, you'll get the entire catalogue of tracks in True CD quality, while the Sublime package will offer you that, plus 24-bit downloads for MP3 prices, which you will then be able to stream.
Price: For the same quality as Spotify it will cost £9.99 a month, or £100 for the year. For the Hi-Fi package, with True CD quality FLAC it will set you back £19.99 a month, or £200 for the year. The Sublime subscription is done on a yearly basis only and costs £219.
Devices: Qobuz will work on Mac and PC, offering FLAC, Apple Lossless or Windows Media files. Qobuz works with Sonos sound systems offering high-quality audio even in 5.1 surround, although Sonos doesn't support 24-bit as yet, and Samsung has also added functionality for its Wireless Audio Multiroom System. Qobuz is also available in app form for iOS and Android devices.
Conclusion: If quality is of great importance to you, this is a great service for you. It also represents a potential saving over Spotify and Apple Music if you pay annually.
In a nutshell: Deezer is another French company and it has 16 million monthly active users. It boasts a whopping 35 million tracks in its library, but there is also Deezer Elite that offers high-quality FLAC streaming. This streaming service has over 20,000 news and entertainment shows too, along with live football commentary for Premier League and FA Cup games thanks to a partnership with talkSport.
Like Spotify and Apple Music, Deezer will also recommend tracks to suit your tastes. There is a feature called Flow that knows your library and selects the songs you want to hear. You can tell Flow what you do and don't like and it will react accordingly. The more you listen, the more Flow learns your tastes and therefore the better the recommendations.
As you would expect, you can create playlists, as well as import your favourite MP3s, as you can with competing services. It's also possible to sync those playlists and tracks in order to listen offline, but you'll need the Deezer Premium+ account for both the importing and listening offline. This subscription plan also gives you high-quality sound over standard.
Price: Deezer offers a free unlimited ad-supported service and Premium+, which is ad-free. There is a free 30-day trial with the latter if you want to try out what it has to offer before you commit, although you can cancel the subscription at any time. Deezer Premium+ costs £9.99 a month for unlimited listening but there are deals for Orange and EE customers.
The Deezer Elite service that gives access to 16-bit/44.1kHz CD-quality audio tracks costs: £14.99 per month for 12 months, £9.99 per month for 1 year (£120 paid upfront), £9.99 per month for 2 years (£240 paid upfront). It is a free upgrade for Sonos users with a Deezer Premium+ account. It's also free for six month to Three customers.
Devices: Deezer works on PC and Mac but can also be found in app form for iOS, Android, BlackBerry and Logitech and Sonos home entertainment systems. It also works on many smart TVs like LG and Samsung, Xbox 360 and even BMW cars and Parrot systems.
Conclusion: Deezer offers a huge catalogue of tracks for the same price as Spotify and Apple Music. It is also available on a wide range of devices and there are some good offers for Sonos users which could make this a very appealing service for some.
In a nutshell: Rdio has 35 million songs on offer and, like Spotify, also offers deep Facebook integration so users can follow friends and find out what they're listening to. It's mission is to "provide access to every song, on every device, anywhere in the world instantly, online or offline — tuned to you".
You can tune into over 500 radio stations as well as make and share playlists, get personalised recommendations and stream or download songs and albums. Listening to radio stations is free but if you want to do the rest, you'll need to upgrade to the Unlimited service.
The Rdio Unlimited subscription offers listening at 320kbit/s, which is the same as Spotify's maximum.
Price: Rdio's Unlimited subscription plan costs £9.99 a month, which will offer you unlimited access across your devices. There is of course also the free ad-supported service if you can put up with that. For family and friends, Rdio offers 20 per cent off for two subscribers and 50 per cent for the third, fourth and fifth.
Devices: Rdio is available on Mac, PC, iOS, Android, Windows Phone and BlackBerry, Sonos, Roku, and the Bose Jambox.
Conclusion: With 35 million songs in the library, a good number of devices compatible, and decent pricing options, Rdio could be considered a very tempting option, especially for those who love the radio.
In a nutshell: Napster is the original peer-to-peer music sharing client that started all the furore about digital rights. It's had a rough ride, being shut down and restarted, but it's back with over 20 millions songs, available in 16 European countries, including the UK.
There are curated playlists and this streaming service also offers interviews with artists and a feature called TrackMatch that will allow you to match a track that you are listening to. A little like Shazam but within the Napster app. You can listen online and offline, share music with your friends through social media and save your favourite tracks by clicking the heart button.
There are also a range of radio stations and Napster also offers a 'New & Good' playlist for new releases so you'll be able to find them easily. Another good feature is the ability to import your previously built playlists into Napster for those that are looking to switch streaming services. Like Spotify and other, Napster offers a bit rate that tops out at 320kbit/s.
Price: Napster can be trialled for a free 30 days like many of its competitors. After that point you can opt for the online only Napster Unlimited for £5 a month or the app-compatible Napster Unlimited plus mobile for £9.99 a month.
Devices: The online only version works on Mac and PC. The app is available on up to three phones, your home entertainment system and your computer. The app works on iOS, Android and Windows Phone.
Conclusion: Despite being the first of its kind to make it big, Napster offers more or less the same as everyone else at this stage. It's well spread across Europe but has no killer function that makes it special over Spotify, other than the transfer of playlists from other services.
Google Play Music All Access
In a nutshell: Google Play Music All Access has 35 million songs on its database and it allow you to add up to 50,000 of you own, locally stored music to stream from your device anywhere.
It's able to curate radio stations from artists of your choosing if you pay for the Unlimited packages, but you'll get recommendations based on your tastes within the free subscription. The option for offline listening also comes with the Unlimited option, which also applies to radio stations.
At the moment there is no option to expand your personal collection above the 50,000 mark but Google+ is built in so you can share your music choices with others and see what your friends are listening to for recommendations.
Price: As usual you get a 30-day free trial. After that point you can continue to use the online locker for your 50,000 tracks for free. For the full streaming of 35 million other songs and the other features, you'll need to pay £9.99 a month.
Devices: Android devices are obviously supported, as well as computers, but it's also on iOS - making it a real threat to Spotify.
Conclusion: This sounds like one of the best services out there. It's affordable, it has a large library, allows sharing, radio and smart suggestions, plus you can keep your own music library backed up and easily accessible.
In a nutshell: Xbox Music has been rebranded to Groove Music, a service that allows you to stream and download new tracks and familiar favorites from a selection of over 40 million songs across a range of devices.
Groove will enable you to play and manage your music, as well as add MP3's and iTunes tracks to OneDrive so you can listen to them on all your devices through the Groove app. If you opt for Groove Music Pass subscription, you'll be able to listen to artist-based radio, curated playlists and there is support for offline listening.
This service also offers an ad-supported version for those who don't want to pay for the full subscription however, but like the others, you won't get the full rack of features.
Price: You can stream everything for free on your Windows 8 devices or any browser window from Mac and older PCs. The full version is free for 30 days and then it will cost you £8.99 for a one month pass.
Devices: Not only does Groove Music work on Microsoft devices like Xbox, Windows 8 devices, and Windows Phones, but it's also available on iOS and Android, plus systems including Sonos.
Conclusion: This is a really huge library of songs, it'll truly work on most platforms, streams at 256kbit/s and works offline. Plus there's a free version. It's an attractive music service that, when paid for annually, is cheaper than the competition.
In a nutshell: MixRadio is a free music app that learns what you like. You can tell the app who and what your favourite artists and tracks are and using a heart and a feature called My Mix and it will give you personalised mixes and recommendations.
Over time, MixRadio will continue to learn what you like. The more you listen, the better it gets. You can also download up to four mixes to take with you in offline mode. Mixes can be shared online so you can find those of friends and vice versa.
Mixes are personally ordered and suggested based on what you like. There is everything from the latest chart hits and party sound tracks to genre specific mixes such as pop, rock, hip hop, soul and jazz. Or you can create your own artist mixes, and MixRadio will add in some similar artists it knows you'll appreciate.
Price: It's free with no adverts. For a monthly fee of $4 you can get unlimited track-skipping, unlimited offline mixes, high-quality audio over Wi-Fi (256kbit/s) and more.
Devices: Windows Phone 8, Asha, iOS and Android devices can now all access the service.
Conclusion: It's the best totally free music service for shuffle play. It's simple and smart and learns your tastes. The extended offerings cost little more and offer plenty. It's the equivalent of buying a Shuffle over an iPod - but smarter.
In a nutshell: Tidal describes itself as a streaming service that offers "high-fidelity CD sound quality, high quality video, expertly curated content and editorial, and unique artists experiences."
The company was recently bought by Jay-Z's company and it offers 35 million songs and 85,000 videos at your fingertips. There are two subscription options comprising Tidal Premium and Tidal HiFi. Tidal Premium offers standard sound quality, high definition music videos and curated editorial.
Tidal HiFi is where this service differs slightly from some of the other competitors offering the same as the Premium option but with lossless high fidelity sound quality instead. Offline listening is available for both subscription plans.
Price: Both subscription services offer a free 30-day trial. The Premium service will then cost £9.99 a month or £8.49 a month if you pay six months upfront. The HiFi plan is £19.99 a month or £16.99 a month if you pay six months upfront. There is also a family plan available that gives other members of the family (up to four attached to a main account) their own logins for 50 per cent of the normal fee so you and four people would cost £29.95 on a Premium subscription and £59.95 on the HiFi option.
Devices: Along with PC and Mac, Tidal also works on iOS and Android devices. It is also compatible with Sonos, Bluesound, Linn, Auralic, Mirage, Squeezebox, Amarra, Wadia, Electrocompaniet, Meridian and Lode.
Conclusion: With the backing of Jay-Z and a library that should continue to grow, this is a great service for those that want the extra sound quality.
In a nutshell: Shuffler is an internet radio platform that selects the best music sites and blogs worldwide and pulls the top tracks in for users to listen to all in one place.
Shuffler uses music curators to offer the best selections including Pitchfork, Fact, The Fader and Boiler Room. These all update daily charts.
Users can also subscribe to sites and artists or create personal Radar and Shuffler scans to find the latest tunes best suited to them. Playing by genre is also an option, much like listening to a real radio station.
Price: Free to use as it's an online platform.
Devices: Shuffler is now also available on Sonos speakers. It is also available on iPhone, iPad, as well as within Spotify and Deezer.
Conclusion: Shuffler is a free service that offers a curated way of finding new songs and artists to listen to. It's available as an app on iOS but could be more widely accessible.
In a nutshell: MixCloud is an online radio platform that combines DJ mixes, podcasts and radio shows. MixCloud was funded by its founders and is still owned by them as it grows. Anyone registered can upload their mix which will get shared and rated, presuming it's good enough to be enjoyed.
The app allows you to listen to MixCloud anywhere and you can listen and upload as much as you like. It claims to offer the largest collection of radio shows, podcasts and DJ mixes.
Users can search by music genre to discover music shows, as well as by topic for discovering talk shows.
Price: Free to use as it's an online platform.
Devices: Web browser access allows for instant playback for anyone. The iOS and Android app is also free to download.
Conclusion: As a way of listening to music and mixes that have been crowd-sourced by other users, this is a great platform and community. Since it's free all the music must be accredited in order to maintain intellectual property rights - this likely limits some artists who don't play nice with shared free music.
If you know of any other UK service you think we should include, please let us know in the comments below. This feature is designed to be updated as and when there are changes to the streaming services featured or new ones appear.