Music streaming is fast becoming the most popular way for us to consume music. Where once we had to import and rip CDs to our computers, or download songs (legally we hope), we now access to the world's music catalogue through our smartphones.
There's fierce competition between music streaming services too. Swedish service Spotify was one of the first services to launch and has since emerged to place itself at the top of the streaming hierarchy with around 50 million paying subscribers. That's thanks in no small part to it offering an extensive library of music and an easy-to-use app.
Apple has also now joined the music streaming market after relying on the iTunes download store for many years. With so many people buying iPhones and into Apple's ecosystem, it's a genuine contender for Spotify's crown.
With so many different services offering largely the same catalogue of music, they're now having to resort to exclusive content or new and intuitive features to get customers to sign up. Which means the only real 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 music you've saved from Apple's cloud services in the Apple Music library. The app received a huge update with the introduction of iOS 10 and now has five tabs/features comprising Library, For You, Browse, Radio, and Search.
The For You tab serves up a mix of handpicked albums and playlists based on the music you like, while the Browse 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 Adenuga, as well as other expertly-created stations created by radio DJs.
Library is where you'll find all your music, whether it be songs you've imported from your computer, songs you've bought from iTunes or songs you've added from Apple Music's servers. And finally, Search is where you, well, search for any music you want.
Siri has been programmed to work with Apple Music so you can ask her to play the best songs from 1994... and she will do just that. Once you've started playing a song, you can swipe up to reveal the next songs in the playing queue or lyrics to the song that is currently playing (you'll only get these features if you have iOS 10 installed).
If the song you're listening to isn't in your library, you can add it, add it to a playlist, create a station of songs based around the one playing or share it with friends.
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 listen to the Beats 1 radio station. Everything else requires an Apple Music membership.
Devices: Apple Music is available for iOS, Mac, PC and Android.
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 now boasts around 125 million users, 50 million of which pay for the service. The rest subscribe to Spotify's free tier, which limits music quality and plays adverts every few songs. The free tier also excludes users from using other features such as being able to use it with Sonos and Spotify Connect.
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 you'll have to add local files manually. Apple Music on the other hand, does this process automatically because of the integration with iTunes. You will be able to listen to tracks offline if you pay for the Premium version, meaning you can listen to your favourite playlist on the plane or underground. You can't download songs for offline playback with the free tier.
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. Apple Music isn't supported by Chromecast at the moment, but both it and Spotify can be integrated into multi-room music systems such as Sonos.
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 five people to all enjoy separate Spotify Premium login accounts. At £15 per month that works out as £2.50 per 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 via Spotify Connect and integration with the car's infotainment system respectively.
Conclusion: Spotify is the most widely available music streaming platform that offers a huge range of songs at a reasonable price. It has a streaming top end of 320kbps, so if you are after something of higher quality, that's where you need to look at services like Qobuz or Tidal
In a nutshell: Qobuz is a French music streaming service that offers high-resolution 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 24-bit Hi-Res Audio 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: Qobuz costs £9.99/month for the Premium, £19.99/month for the Hi-Fi tier with True CD quality FLAC files and £220/year for the Sublime subscription. Sublime is only available as a yearly subscription, you can't pay for it on a month-by-month basis.
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, including 6 million paying 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, ad-free listening and offline playback.
Deeper also offers an 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). The only catch with the Elite service is that it is available exclusively through a Sonos Multi-Room music system.
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: 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 40 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 bit like Shazam but within the Napster app. There are two plans available, Napster Unlimited and Napster Unlimited + Mobile.
The former will only let you listen via a PC or Mac, and you can't download songs for offline playback. The Unlimited + Mobile tier will let you listen to music on your smartphone or tablet and let you download songs to listen to when you don't have signal. The Mobile tier can also be integrated to home entertainment systems.
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
In a nutshell: Google Play Music All Access has 35 million songs in its library, but also allows you to add up to 50,000 of your own locally stored tracks, to stream to your device and download it for offline playback with the Unlimited tier.
It's able to curate radio stations from artists of your choosing if you pay for the Unlimited package, 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.
Amazon Music Unlimited
In a nutshell: Amazon Music Unlimited is Amazon's own fully-fledged music streaming service. It's only just launched in the US in October 2016 and has promised to make its way across the pond to the UK. It may be late to the party, but Amazon's service has a few tricks up its sleeve to entice customers.
The service has access to "tens of millions" of songs from the major labels which can be accessed via the Amazon Music app, available for a range of devices.
Music Unlimited has just one tier, but different pricing options depending on whether you're a Prime subscriber or if you want to use it solely through one of the company's Echo devices.
Price: If you're not a Prime subscriber, Music Unlimited will set you back £9.99 a month, however if you do subscribe to Amazon's Prime service this reduces to £7.99/month or £79/year making it slightly cheaper per month. But if you want to just use it through the Echo devices it will cost £3.99/month, but it can only be used on a single Echo device. Amazon has said there'll be a Family Plan soon for up to 6 family members, which will cost £14.99/month or £149/year.
Devices: The Amazon Music App is available on Android, iOS, Mac, PC, Web Player, Echo, Amazon's Fire devices and select home entertainment systems and cars.
Conclusion: Amazon Music Unlimited has some ground to make up on its competitors, but with a number of pricing options that undercut them, it could certainly be a force to be reckoned with.
In a nutshell: Xbox Music has been rebranded as 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.
Groove Music is available on Windows PC, Windows Phone, iPhone, Android, Xbox, a Web Player for Mac and Sonos.
Price: You can stream everything for free on your Windows 10 devices or any browser window from Mac and older PCs. The full version is free for 30 days and then it will cost you £9.99 for a one month pass.
Devices: Groove Music is available on Windows PC, Windows Phone, iPhone, Android, Xbox, a Web Player for Mac and Sonos.
Conclusion: Groove Music offers a huge library of songs, and is available on most platforms. It streams at 256kbit/s and can offer offline playback as well as a free, ad-supported version. Groove Music is attractive music service that, when paid for annually, is cheaper than the competition.
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: 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.