(Pocket-lint) - There are several music streaming services available in the UK, but there are a few that can be considered the "big players": Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube Music, Amazon Music Unlimited, Tidal and Deezer.
All offer access to similarly large catalogues of music, but each have their own unique features to help differentiate. That means picking the service that is right for you can be tricky.
Fortunately, we're here to help run down the services available and what they offer so you can choose the best music streaming service for you.
Apple Music combines your iTunes library (if you have one) with any songs you add from Apple Music servers. You can stream over 90 million songs ad-free, download your favourite tracks and play them offline, listen across your devices, view music videos and access exclusive content. There's also the 24 hour Apple Music 1 radio station (previously Beats 1).
Spotify has a free tier and a Premium tier, both of which allow you to stream over 82 million songs and 3.6 million podcasts, as well as ready-made playlists and Spotify Radio. You can add your own music to your Spotify library and Spotify can be accessed on a huge range of devices.
YouTube Music takes over from Google Play Music. It offers a free and Premium tier, both of which offer official albums, playlists, singles and videos, as well as recommended music based on your tastes. You can add your own songs to your online library, and there is also access to live performances and remixes too.
Amazon Music Unlimited has different pricing tiers for exactly the same content, depending on if you're a Prime subscriber or if you just want to use it through an Echo device. There are personal recommendations, thousands of playlists and stations and a catalogue of over 75 million songs, along with the ability to add your own music to the library.
Tidal has both free and premium options, both allow you to access over 80 million songs and 350,000 music videos for artists all over the world. Tidal offers extremely high fidelity audio options in FLAC and spatial formats and has a large focus on ensuring artists get paid fairly.
Deezer gives you access to over 90 million songs worldwide along with other audio content like podcasts, similar to Spotify and Tidal. Its big focus has always been high-quality audio with its Premium plan offering access to CD quality 44.1kHz tracks in FLAC format, while it was also the first service to launch Sony 360 Reality Audio on its platform.
What is it?: Apple Music is a service with access to over 75 million songs. It's designed to combine music you have bought with music you've saved from Apple's cloud services in the Apple Music library. The app has five tabs comprising Listen Now, Browse, Radio, Library and Search.
The Listen Now 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 Apple Music 1 (formerly Beats 1), which is a 24-hour live global station, along Apple Music Hits and Apple Music Country.
Library is where all your music lives, whether it be songs you've imported from your computer, bought from iTunes or added from Apple Music servers. And finally, Search is where you can search for any music you want to listen to.
Siri has been programmed to work with Apple Music so you can ask her to play the best songs from 1994 or ask to her find a song from some lyrics 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.
If the song you're listening to isn't in your library, you can add it to it, add it to a playlist, create a station of songs based on the one playing or share it with friends.
- £9.99/month per user
- £14.99/month for a family of six
- £4.99/month for Student Membership
- £4.99/month for Voice Plan
- Free to listen to Apple Music 1 without a subscription
The Apple Music Family plan offers individual accounts for each family member, the ability to choose what you do and don't want to share and the ability to share your existing music library.
The Apple Music Voice Plan gives you access to Apple Music but you can only use your voice and Siri to access.
- Apple Watch
- Apple TV
- Amazon Echo
- Samsung Smart TV
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 for you.
What is it?: Spotify has been around since 2008 and as of 2021, boasts 406 million users, 180 million of which pay for Spotify Premium. 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 some other Premium features such as being able to download music for playing offline or using Spotify Connect.
There's access to over 82 million songs, 3.6 million podcasts, ready-made playlists and Spotify Radio, whether you're on the Free or Premium tier and you can add purchased music into Spotify using your computer, though you have to add them manually so it's not as simple as Apple Music for this feature.
Spotify learns as you listen and through associations, makes recommendations based on your tastes. There is also Facebook integration so you can follow your friends to see what they're listening to and there's Chromecast and Chromecast Audio support, allowing you to turn speakers into smart connected players. Meanwhile, Spotify Connect (Premium tier only) allows you to play Spotify through compatible speakers.
- Free tier with adverts
- £9.99/month for individual Premium tier
- £12.99/month for two individuals Premium tier
- £14.99/month for family of six Premium tier
- £4.99/month for student Premium tier
Spotify Premium for Family offers six Premium accounts for family members living under one roof. All six accounts get ad-free music, the ability to download music to play offline and there's a Family Mix playlist too that is regularly updated with music you all like.
- App integrations (full list here)
- Smart speakers (full list here)
- Smart displays (full list here)
- Wireless speakers (full list here)
- Gaming consoles (full list here)
- Smart TVs and streamers (full list here)
- Wearables (full list here)
- Headphones (full list here)
- Audio streamers and Hi-Fi (full list here)
- Car audio (full list here)
Conclusion: Spotify is the most widely available music streaming platform that offers a huge range of songs at a reasonable price. It also has the free tier, which Apple Music doesn't offer.
What is it?: YouTube Music is the music streaming service offering from Google, taking over from Google Play Music, which closed in October 2020. Like Spotify, it has a free tier and a Premium tier, with the YouTube Music Premium tier offering ad-free listening, the ability to download music and listen offline, listening to music with your screen off and extra features like working with Sonos, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, for example.
Both tiers offer official albums, playlists, singles and videos, as well as recommended music based on your tastes and what's trending in the community around you. It's also possible to search for tracks by lyrics or descriptions and you can access live performances and remixes too.
As with Apple Music and Spotify, you can add your own music to YouTube Music, as well as transfer your music from Google Play Music (learn how here), both of which will appear in the Library section of the app.
- Free tier with adverts
- £9.99/month per Premium user
- £14.99/month for 5 family members
- £4.99/month student
The YouTube Music Premium family plan allows for five members of your household to take advantage of the premium tier but all have to be over 13 and live at the same address.
- Google Home and Nest speakers
- Smart TVs
- Google Pixel Buds
- Apple CarPlay
- Android Auto
Conclusion: YouTube Music has a large library, including access to live performances and remixes, and it offers smart suggestions, plus you can keep your own music library backed up and easily accessible.
Amazon Music Unlimited
What is it?: Amazon Music Unlimited is Amazon's own fully-fledged music streaming service offering access to over 75 million songs, like Spotify and Apple Music. It also offers thousands of curated playlists and stations, as well as the ability to add your own music to it and there are personalised recommendations too.
Amazon Music Unlimited runs separately from Prime Music, which is only accessible for Prime subscribers and included with Prime. Prime Music has a much smaller catalogue of music with only two million available to stream, but both Amazon services offer ad-free listening and the ability to download music to play offline.
There's also the standard Amazon Music tier, which offers thousands of stations and top playlists but not the catalogue of songs available on either of the other Amazon music services.
Amazon Music Unlimited's pricing structure is slightly different to the likes of Spotify and Apple Music depending on whether you're a Prime subscriber or if you want to use it solely through one of the company's Echo devices.
Finally, over 60 million of the songs available through Amazon Music are available for no extra cost in HD versions that are lossless. This is currently unmatched by Spotify, which only offers compressed music streaming.
- £9.99/month for non-Prime subscribers
- £7.99/month for Prime subscribers
- £3.99/month when used through a single Echo device
- £14.99/month for up to six family members
- £4.99/month for students
The Amazon Music Unlimited family plan offers individual accounts for up to six family members, 13 years old and above.
- Web Player
- Amazon Fire devices
- Select home entertainment systems and cars
Conclusion: Amazon Music Unlimited has a number of pricing options that undercut its rivals whilst offering a similar catalogue of songs and features, meaning it could be a great option, especially for Prime subscribers or Echo users and those seeking HD audio.
What is it?: Tidal is a digital music streaming service that gives you access to over 80 million songs and 350,000 videos from music artists all over the world. Like many of these services, Tidal offers curated playlists and stations, as well as personalising recommendations to your preference.
A big selling point for Tidal is that it offers an unprecedented level of insight into how premium subscribers are directly supporting the artists that they love. Tidal delivers 10 per cent of a users monthly HiFi Plus subscription directly to their most-streamed artist.
Tidal offers the widest variety when it comes to audio quality options, from a measly 160Kbps MP3 on its free tier, all the way up to 9216Kbps Master Quality Audio on the HiFi Plus plan, a level of quality that is currently unmatched by competitors.
Tidal's support for music videos is quite unique too, while some services offer this to a degree, none go as far as Tidal. You can find an extensive library of music videos on the platform and there are even full-length music documentaries and movies available to stream.
Until recently, Tidal was only available as a premium service but with the launch of its ad-supported free tier in the US, it has become all the more compelling of an option where available. Tidal has yet to announce when its free tier will launch in the UK, but there is an option of a free 30-day trial.
- Free tier with adverts (US only)
- £9.99/month for HiFi tier
- £19.99/month for HiFi Plus tier
- £14.99/month for family of six HiFi tier
- £4.99/month for student HiFi tier
The Tidal family plan offers individual accounts for up to six family members.
- Web Player
- Smart Speakers
- Smart TVs and Streamers
- Automotive Systems
- DJ equipment
- Full list can be found here
Conclusion: Tidal is one of the best options for those interested in super high-quality formats like MQA and Dolby Atmos, or those who just want to ensure that artists are being paid fairly. It is a shame that the free tier isn't available in the UK yet, but we imagine it is just a matter of time.
What is it?: Deezer is a music streaming service that gives you access to over 90 million songs worldwide along with other audio content like podcasts, similar to Spotify and Tidal.
Deezer's big focus has always been high-quality audio and it was the first service to launch Sony 360 Reality Audio on its platform. The Premium plan grants access to CD quality 44.1kHz tracks in FLAC format - something that is not currently offered by Spotify.
As with the other services on the list Deezer puts a lot of effort into tailoring music recommendations and provides curated playlists and radio stations to help with your music discovery. You can also download songs for offline listening, just like on Spotify.
Deezer has a free tier supported by advertisements and keeps things simple by offering a single premium tier, called Deezer Premium. The paid option gives you access to all of Deezer's content including lossless and spatial audio tracks.
Deezer used to be one of the cheapest options for lossless audio streaming but has recently been undercut by Tidal's pricing change. However, Deezer Premium is still the cheapest way to stream spatial audio thanks to its Sony 360 Reality Audio support.
- Free tier with adverts
- £11.99/month for Premium tier
- £17.99/month for family of six Premium tier
- £5.99/month for student Premium tier
The Deezer Family plan offers individual accounts for up to six family members living under the same roof, all accounts get access to CD-quality music.
- Web Player
- Smart Speakers
- Smart TVs and Streamers
- Automotive Systems
Conclusion: Deezer offers a great service for music streaming but with so much competition it does little to make itself stand out. If you're excited about 360 Reality Audio and want to give it a try, then Deezer is a compelling option.