Most of us now stream our music, whether from Spotify, YouTube Music, Tidal, or something else entirely, and the reasons are obvious: you pay one subscription and get to listen to almost any song out there.

Still, there are lots of music streaming services out there and though they may seem similar, they're not all created equal. Some offer discounted family plans, some deliver high quality lossless audio, some throw in podcasts, some include music videos, and some even let you upload your own music files to keep in the same library.

So, to help you make the right decision we’ve put together this handy guide which explains what they have to offer and how they compare.

These are the best music streaming services of 2021:


Spotify Premium

  • Huge selection of music
  • Shareable Playlists
  • Podcasts 

Spotify has become synonymous with music streaming, as the company has gone from strength to strength over the past few years and established itself as the world’s most popular service, boasting over 200 million active users.

This popularity is aided by the various tiers on offer. There’s a free version that’s ad-supported, but which still gives you access to the 40-odd million songs on the platform. If you want offline listening on your phone then the Premium subscription is the way to go, while students benefit from their own tier that offers Premium at half price. As is now the norm, a family subscription is available which consists of six premium accounts for a very reasonable £14.99/$14.99 per month, while Duo covers a couple for £12.99/$12.99. Here's the full range: 

  • Free
  • Student Premium: £5.99 / $4.99
  • Premium: £9.99 / $9.99
  • Duo: £13.99/$12.99
  • Family: £16.99 / $15.99

As we’ve already mentioned, there’s a huge selection of music available, and this is accompanied by playlists Spotify creates based on your listening habits, called Discover Weekly. There’s also Release Radar and Time Capsule that highlight new and classic tracks that the service thinks you’ll enjoy, plus radio stations built around certain songs and artists.

Podcasts are a recent addition, with plenty to choose from, and there are also a splattering of music documentaries and live performance videos. Add to this the social element that allows you to share directly playlists with friends, while also being able see what they’re currently listening to, and it’s a potent mix for discovering and enjoying new music. 

Get Spotify

Apple Music

Apple Music

  • Exclusive albums
  • iTunes library integration
  • Beats 1

Apple may have entered the streaming market a bit later than some of its competitors, but that hasn’t stopped it recently taking the top slot in the US as the most used service. There’s an obvious link with iPhones, iPads, and Macs, but Apple Music is also available on Android and PCs, making it an option no matter which hardware you prefer.

A catalogue of over 50 million songs gives it an advantage over the likes of Spotify and Google Play Music in terms of choice, and just like those services Apple Music offers custom playlists each week created around the songs you listen to regularly. There are also playlists generated by the tracks your friends are enjoying, plus numerous top 100 charts from all around the world. 

A number of exclusives are offered, such as live performances, special sessions, and interviews with popular and emerging artists. This is accompanied by the Beats 1 radio station that has live shows with DJs such as Zane Lowe, and a large selection of other stations that cover specific genres. Music videos are also available, so you can turn your iPad or iPhone into MTV, plus the service integrates your existing iTunes library into search results, so you can easily include them in playlists.

Apple Music has come a long way in a short time, making it an excellent all-rounder for music, radio, and video content. Best of all there’s a free three-month trial so you can explore its features without spending any money. Here are the paid options (monthly pricing):

  • Student: £4.99 / $4.99
  • Individual: £9.99 / $9.99
  • Family: £14.99 / $14.99

Get Apple Music

YouTube Music Premium

YouTube Music Premium

  • Wide range of music videos
  • Links to your YouTube library
  • Exclusive live performances

Google’s newest platform is YouTube Music Premium, which combines a classic music streaming service with a large selection of music videos. There’s the expected range of playlists and new releases, plus the added features of being able to listen to YouTube in the background, no ads, and offline listening.

While you might expect something with YouTube in the title to be a video-only service, you’re able to turn off the visuals and revert all content to audio instead. This saves not only battery life and data on mobile devices, but also means you can put together an impressive collection of live, rare, and official versions of songs that you wouldn’t get on another platform.

A free tier allows you take access all content, but these are interrupted by ads, can’t be downloaded, and require you screen on to hear them. Moving up to the Premium level removes these restrictions, and there are the now standard levels for students, individuals, and families. All of these come with a one-month free trial, so you can give the YouTube Music Premium a proper test-run to see how it stacks up against the competition.

These are the monthly plan costs:

  • Free
  • Student: £4.99 / $4.99
  • Individual: £9.99 / $9.99
  • Family: £14.99 / $14.99

Get YouTube Music Premium

Amazon Prime Music Unlimited

Amazon Prime Music Unlimited

  • 2 million songs free with Amazon Prime
  • Hands-free listening with Alexa-powered devices
  • Single device plan for Echo or Fire TV

If you are already an Amazon Prime member then you’ll have access to Amazon Prime Music as part of your subscription. This entitles you to a couple of million tracks that are ad-free and can be downloaded to your device for offline listening. Should this not be enough, then Prime Music Unlimited boosts this to over 50 million songs for an additional monthly fee.

One unique tier on offer is for a Single Device. This is limited to the Amazon Echo and Fire TV family, but if you just want to listen to music at your work desk or home then it’s a nice addition for £3.99 / $3.99 per month. Here are other options for listening:

  • Amazon Prime Music included in the £7.99 / $7.99 Prime membership
  • Single Device: £3.99 / $3.99 per month
  • Student: £4.99 / $4.99 per month
  • Individual: £7.99 / $7.99 per month (£9.99 / $9.99 for non-Prime members)
  • Family: £14.99 / $14.99 per month

Whichever Unlimited tier you choose, you’ll find the standard features of playlists, themed ‘radio stations’, recommendations based on your listening habits, and ad-free offline listening on your smartphone or tablet. Due to Amazon also making its own Alexa-powered devices, you have the ability to use the music service hands-free simply by asking Alexa to play certain albums, match your current mood, or find a song based on some lyrics you remember.

At the time of writing, Amazon Music Unlimited is available with a free three-month trial, so that will give plenty of time to see if it’s the one for you.

Get Amazon Music Unlimited



  • 60 million tracks
  • HiFi quality FLAC 
  • Master Quality Authenticated

Tidal has come a long way since it's flashy celebrity-endorsed re-launch in March 2015. Gimmicks aside, the services has established itself as a solid option in the music streaming market and has a number of benefits.

A huge libary of audio and videos aside, the lure of Tidal really comes when you look at the HiFi subscription tier. This provides the more savvy listener with lossless HiFi (high fidelity) quality sound starting with with FLAC, a CD quality streaming format.

It means lossless content that is uncompressed, unlike the inferior MP3. Furthermore, it has other benefits such as Sony 360 Reality Audio and Dolby Atmos Music.

Something which might seal the deal is Master Quality Authenticated audio which in Tidals words "a way of compressing digital music without limitations to deliver guaranteed master-quality sound" allowing users to "hear music just as it was recorded in the studio."

Just note that this isn't available for the whole library, but around 450 albums-worth and some of it can be hard to find.

As well as the typical apps for Android and iOS, Tidal is supported on a huge range of audio products including Sonos, Naim, Denon, Devialet along with streaming devices such as Apple TV and even various cars.

The main caveat here is that Qobuz (below) offers high quality streaming for a lower price.

These are the subscription tiers and prices per month:

  • Premium: £9.99 / $9.99
  • HiFi: £19.99 / $19.99
  • Family Premium: £14.99 / $14.99
  • Family HiFi: £29.99 / $29.99
  • Student Premium: £4.99 / $4.99
  • Student HiFI: £9.99 / $9.99

Get Tidal



  • CD quality and Hi-Res audio
  • Option to purchase albums
  • 50 million tracks, 240,000 better than CD quality

Qobuz offers lossless music streaming, with a choice of two subscriptions. The Studio Premier plan includes all of its 50 million tracks in Flac format (CD quality) as well as 240,000 albums in Hi-Res (better than CD quality). The other is called Sublime + and also includes discounts on album purchases, if you wish to buy an album outright.

Unlike some other streaming services, for example Tidal, Qobuz streams all their music in the FLAC open standard format, which is lossless and can be played on every audio capable device - be it a computer, mobile device and many hi-fi stereo systems - though you'll need compatible audio gear to make the most of the Hi-Res tracks.

The interface is clean, modern, and sample, and all high-resolution albums have a gold Hi-Res Audio logo next to them with the bitrate displayed. The Qobuz library does cater more towards jazz, world and classical music though, so may not suit every taste, and one omission is the lack of algorithm-driven radio stations or playlists.

Another standout feature is the buy option. Yes Amazon does let you buy music - but only as a compressed MP3. Qobuz sells albums and tracks in CD and Hi-res quality. They're DRM-free and can be downloaded and played on any device, and you get to keep them forever, even if you stop using the service. Prices start from £7.99 for CD quality, and £11.99 and up for Hi-Res downloads - or less if you subscribe to the Sublime + plan.

There's a one-month free trial for Studio Premier, though no trial period for Sublime+.

  • Studio Premier: £14.99/$14.99 per month or £149.99/$149.99 per year
  • Sublime+: £24.99/$24.99 per month or £249.99/$249.99 per year

Get Qobuz

Written by Dominik Tomaszewski



  • 53+ million tracks
  • Flow
  • Hi-Fi tier

French company Deezer has been around since 2007 and has grown itself into a service, going by all the figures provided, with the largest music catalogue in the business at over 53 million tracks. Alongside the copious albums, EPs, and singles, there is also a good selection of podcasts, live radio stations, and specially recorded Deezer Sessions by artists such as Jade Bird, Dua Lipa, and The Streets.

The Flow feature is a continuous shuffle mode with tracks chosen to match the tunes you listen to most, and Deezer states that the more you use the service the more it will learn how to hone the selections to your taste.

As you’d expect, there are the regular tiers of Premium, Family, and Student, but Deezer adds a couple of extra options. Hi-Fi costs £19.99/$19.99 per month and supplies the music at CD-quality FLAC (16 bit/44.1kHz) so that you can play it though your desktop or sound-system and hear its full glory. The Hi-Fi plan also includes 3​60 by Deezer​, which is an app that offering '360 music technology', which are tracks that have been remastered by artists to create spatial sound.

Then there’s the option to pay for a Premium account all in one go, reducing the cost by around £20/$20. Here are all the options:

  • Student (Premium): £4.99 / $4.99
  • Premium: £9.99 / $9.99
  • Family: £14.99 / $14.99
  • HiFi:-£19.99/ $ 19.99
  • Annual Premium Plan: £89.91 / $99.90

Fitbit users, at least those with Ionic and Versa devices, will also be glad to hear that Deezer works on their trackers, making those long runs more enjoyable, and the service also has its own SongCatcher technology that works like Shazam to identify whatever tunes you’re hearing.

A free ad-supported, tier allows you to sample all that Deezer has to offer, and we think you’ll discover that it’s quite a lot. 

Get Deezer

What should I look for in a music streaming service?

It’s fair to say that there has been a fair amount of standardisation in the music streaming landscape over the past few years. When you sign up to one, you can expect a large range of music (both new and old), various playlists that gather together related songs, and recommendations based on your listening preferences.

Many services now include podcasts, and some even have videos too, with YouTube Music Premium being the most advanced in that particular area. 

If a service has a free tier, such as Spotify, Deezer, or Amazon Music, then these will usually be quite restrictive, with offline listening disabled, ads played between tracks, and, in some cases, a reduced selection of music. Most offer individuals plans for around £10/$10 per month and Family plans that cost £15/$15. The latter can be particularly good value as it usually includes six individual premium accounts, albeit ones that need the members to live in the same household.

Some services, like Tidal and Qobuz, also offer higher quality audio files for audiophiles, with lossless tunes in CD quality or even better. This is great if you have the gear (and the know-how) to appreciate it, though most people will be happy enough with MP3.

There’s not really a ‘best’ service, as that particular accolade depends on what you like to listen to and how much you’ll use the additional features. But, with all of the ones listed below featuring free-trials of their Premium offerings, we recommend trying one after the other to see which one fits your lifestyle and music needs.

For other subscription-based entertainment, read our roundups of the best movie & TV streaming services and best game streaming services.