Best Websites To Listen To Music Online: Free & Paid (2024)

Last Revised:
2024-02-06
(YYYY-MM-DD)

The Best Online Music Streaming Platforms

Best Music Streaming Platforms - Article Cover Image

In this article, I made a list of the best music streaming services to listen to music online without downloading. I provide an in-depth review of each one, with some extra notes and tips based on my personal experience; as well as a list of pros and cons.

I wrote this article to help you make a choice between the most popular ones. Each platform has its own features, some being a huge Quality of Life improvement, and some just being awful.

All pros listed apply to both the streaming service's paid & free versions. Some cons listed only apply to the free versions, for example: getting a paid subscription would, of course, remove some cons like ads and restrictions. I marked those as "free limitation".

Note: if you are a free mobile user, you get an extra con to everything listed: forced shuffle.


July 2023: New YouTube Music UI Spotify-like side bar.

July 2023: Spotify price increase ($9.99 to $10.99). YouTube Music price increase ($9.99 to $10.99).

August 2023: Amazon Music Unlimited price increase ($8.99 to $9.99).

August 2023: Added a warning about Apple Music cancellation.

September 2023: Deezer price increase ($10.99 to $11.99). You still get -25% if paid annually.

October 2023: Updated Amazon Music free plan.

November 2023: Deezer revamp. Really a scuffed Spotify clone now with less functionality.

February 2024: Updated Free Amazon Music letting you listen to previews instead of random songs again.

Best Music Streaming Services 2024

1. Spotify

Spotify logo

General Information

Spotify is available in 3 formats: you can listen to it on a website, you can download the desktop app or you can download the mobile app.

The UI is clean with everything you need on a left side bar (home, search, your library, create playlist, liked songs and all your playlists), you can even create playlist folders to organize them.

The web/desktop UI is split into 3, the left part is what I just said above, the middle part is the songs and the right part is something you can close if you want to: it show the album cover and artist information. You can also resize both left and right part.

After you type something into the search bar, the search results are organized into categories: most relevant, songs, artists, albums, playlists, podcasts, episodes, profiles.

Spotify has a huge music library with over 100 million songs. After using it for a while the algorithm will recommend you more relevant songs, you can like songs, follow artists and make your own playlist or find one you like to help with the recommendations.

Community Playlists

Spotify has community playlists which are user made playlists (like my personal curated playlists) that are public and can be found after typing something in the search bar. Because of this, Spotify has the best playlists and playlist system, not including the official ones that are usually bad.

Free Spotify

Free online streaming usually comes with ads, you will get a bunch of 30 seconds ads from time to time. The volume of those audio ads are also way above what you were currently listening to, which can be quite frustrating.

When you cancel your premium subscription (switch back to the free plan), Spotify shows you a list of feature changes:

Paid Spotify

The default Spotify premium plan costs $10.99 per month, it will:

Other Spotify plans can be found on their official website.


Note: Some more niche music like old game soundtracks, is either not on the platform or got deleted (you will see grey songs in playlists) for reasons explained later in the article.


TIP: If you're still wondering if Spotify is any good then the answer is yes, go for it.

Spotify Pros

Spotify Cons

2. YouTube Music

YouTube Music logo

General Information

YouTube Music is available in 2 formats: the desktop website and the mobile app that you can download.

The UI is tab organized, giving a similar feel to web browsers.

As of July 2023, the web app got a UI redesign, there is now a Spotify-like side bar (one of my account has it, the other one doesn't, it started rolling out in June 2023, still not done yet). Some elements are still tab organized but most standard things like your library and playlists went in the side bar.

The search results are also in tabs (songs, videos, community playlists, albums, artists).

YouTube Music has a huge music library with over 100 million songs. Same as before, the algorithm will get better at suggesting you relevant songs the more you listen, like and subscribe.

Community Playlists

YouTube Music has community playlists but you'll see a lot of irrelevant ones with just a handful songs.

Back in 2021, YouTube Music added a "from the community" tab after you search for something. This was a result of separating the featured playlists from the community generated ones.

Since then, everyone's (public) playlists have become searchable, like on Spotify, and later on it has been renamed to just "community playlists".

A series of updates have been made since to help with the community playlists discovery. The ranking system is really what needs an update, I talked about what you currently see in the community playlists tab on YouTube Music, in this article about using curated playlist to find new music that you will like.

Free YouTube Music

You will have to deal with YouTube ads. An over-sized video will be next to the songs you listen to, this is either a static art track or a custom video if this video was uploaded on an official artist channel.

Paid YouTube Music

YouTube Music premium costs $10.99 per month, you'll get:

For more information, check the YouTube Music premium plan on their official website.


Note: On YouTube if you make a music playlist you will also see it in YouTube Music (and vice versa), but for some reason some of those videos will randomly turn grey in YouTube Music. Niche music is also missing but can partially be countered by adding a third party video of the song (you need to find it and add it on YTM directly or it might turn grey).


TIP: When you make a playlist do it on YouTube Music directly, not on YouTube. Strong Spotify rival being developed in the right direction, 100% worth a try.

YouTube Music Pros

YouTube Music Cons

3. Deezer

Deezer logo

General Information

Deezer is available in 3 formats: you can listen to it on a website, you can download the desktop app or you can download the mobile app.

As of November 2023, the UI is now also almost identical to Spotify's. With the exception that you cannot personalize it like on Spotify, so it's really scuffed right now. On the left navigation you have home, explore, favorites then the playlists you saved (or made).

After you type something into the search bar, the search results are organized into categories: all, tracks, artists, albums, playlists, podcasts, episodes. A QoL improvement over Spotify is that you can click on the categories instead of having to scroll down. (June 2022, Spotify added this QoL feature).

Deezer has a huge music library with over 120 million songs. Like the above ones, after using it for a while the algorithm will recommend you more relevant songs.

Also the one with the most missing songs, that I have to replace in my curated playlists. Game publishers might not be familiar with Deezer, so expect a lot of missing game OSTs.

Community Playlists

User generated playlists are for the most part a little bit on the weak side. This platform needs a bigger community mostly. But at least, they are a feature, and the ranking is working fine (not like on YouTube Music).

Free Deezer

Like on Spotify you will get a bunch of ads, but way more often. The free Deezer plan is no longer available in some countries. If you play a song and you see 30 seconds then you are limited to previews.

Paid Deezer

For $11.99 per month you get the Deezer premium plan and:

You can also get 25% off if you pay yearly, find more about Deezer plans on their official website.


Note: Quite a bunch of missing tracks that I have to replace in my playlists.


TIP: Spotify look-a-like. Definitely worth a try if the free plan is still available in your country.

Deezer Pros

Deezer Cons

4. Apple Music

Apple Music logo

General Information

Apple Music is available in 3 formats: a website, a desktop app (iTunes) and a mobile app.

The UI has a side search bar and menu: listen now, browse, radio.

After you search something the results are organized by categories like this: top result, artists, albums, songs, playlists.

Apple Music has a huge music library with over 100 millions songs. Like other platforms the algorithm will suggest you better songs based on your listening history. I couldn't find proper playlists for my different search terms.

Community Playlists

There are no searchable community playlists on Apple Music. You'll need a direct link to get to someone's playlist.

And of course, non-mainstream genres have like no (official) playlists available.

Free Apple Music

You can only listen to a preview of each song, you can see the word "preview" next to each song you play.

To active your Apple ID account you will have to go through iTunes (download on desktop or mobile) before you can login on the website, you will have to link your credit card to it.

I don't consider a registration requiring you to link your card "Free", even if they don't charge you. So, Apple Music Free is listening without creating an account, which means that you can't save anything.

Paid Apple Music

Apple Music has 2 individual plans, a $4.99 and a $10.99 one (price is per month), the cheap one is an audio-only device locked plan, with both you'll get:

More Apple Music plans are available on their official website.

WARNING: Cancelling your Apple Music subscription will delete all your stuff (liked songs, downloads, playlists, etc..). Even if you get a subscription back, you're not getting your library back after the grace period (the exact time for it seems unanimous between users, 30-day is the most common number I saw).


Note: Niche music missing.


TIP: If you are a free user it's limited to previews, not worth it. As a paid user you get a 30-day free trial first, so give it a shot.

Apple Music Pros

Apple Music Cons

5. Amazon Music

Amazon Music logo

General Information

Amazon Music is available in 3 formats: a website, a desktop player and a mobile app.

It has a clean interface (even without a side navigation bar).

Top to bottom you will see: top results, songs, artist, playlists, stations and podcasts.

Amazon Music has over 100 million songs in their library. And a great lack of playlists to put them in.

Community Playlists

There are no community playlists on Amazon Music. You'll need a direct link to someone's playlist.

Also, there are not even many official playlists available for the different search terms I used. For niche genre, literally 0 playlists.

Free Amazon Music

While Amazon technically gives you a free version, it is extremely limited in what you can do.

"Start listening to thousands of ad-supported stations and top playlists with no subscription required.", this is what you can do when you have no subscription.

You can't directly listen to the tracks you choose, because the on-demand listening is behind a paywall.

This means that whatever track you select it will start a station and play it in shuffle mode, sometimes it starts on the track you selected, sometimes it starts on a different related artist. It's currently a preview of the track again, they keep going back and forth on this.

You also can't make playlists.

Paid Amazon Music

It really only comes as a paid service, you can use it normally if you get a subscription to either Amazon Prime (it's free if you have Prime) or Amazon Music Unlimited (you need Prime first, then add $9.99 per month on top of it), you'll get:

The full information about Amazon Music that comes with Prime and Amazon Music Unlimited can be found on their official website.


Note: Niche music also missing.


TIP: Free users, if you plan to stay free then you cannot use this one. You can still get a 30-day free trial with Amazon Prime (credit card linking required).

Amazon Music Pros

Amazon Music Cons

6. Other

Where Is That "Niche Music"?

Since I listed in the cons of every streaming service "missing niche music", you probably wonder where I find it. Well, on YouTube and SoundCloud, if you don't mind it also getting randomly deleted from time to time.

Songs Turning Grey

The deletion is copyright infringement (illegal uploads) related on those 2, and the songs will be completely deleted. While on every streaming service listed above it seems to be a rights holder issue, and you will still see the songs, but they will be grey.

Usually the rights holder (like the game publishers) have a contract with streaming platforms, and it expires if not renewed, which removes all songs from the platforms. The removed songs will turn grey, meaning unavailable, but you can still see them.

TIP: Both are free and great alternatives if you can't find the music you like on the other music streaming services.

Conclusion

Best Free Music Streaming Services

The best and safest choices for free music streaming platforms are Spotify, YouTube Music and Deezer (if there's still the Deezer free plan in your country). Either one of those 3 will provide you with a decent to great free experience without much limitations.

I would recommend you to give all 3 a shot and stick with your favorite one afterwards. Spotify is my personal favorite one. YouTube Music lets you add videos which partially counters the non-available songs. And Deezer has too many missing tracks.

Best Paid Music Streaming Services

When it comes to the paid versions, they are all pretty similar. Most of the songs are available in each ones libraries and they all provide very similar perks.

Now, keep in mind that if you are not a mainstream music listener, getting a subscription will not change the fact there is a lack of non-mainstream playlists. Spotify, YouTube Music and Deezer will still be the best paid ones for you.

Deezer is the only one to give you a HiFi quality streaming at 1411 kbps, this is the equivalent of CD quality. Other platforms will give you 256 or 320 kbps, which is mp3 quality.

I personally use Spotify and YT Music the most. If you choose them, take a look at the playlists I'm curating on them (also on Deezer).

Why Did Spotify Grow So Big?

Spotify was the first to provide a great free experience to its users. The paid business model of Amazon Music and Apple Music only works because they are carried by their brand name. Deezer existed for a long time, and became a Spotify clone later on, then they removed the free version in many countries, wanting to go the Apple/Amazon way.

Official playlists are usually considered bad. Post-2012 YouTube algorithm for music was awful and full of compilations (I talk about this in the first part of the article). Spotify introduced the ability to browse through community playlists back in 2013. There was no competition to this. So, who did get everyone looking for non-mainstream music? Spotify did.

The most recent one: YouTube Music. Going forward not being a clone; being a great free experience; having the YouTube name; has a fair chance at growing bigger then Spotify. It requires some severe improvements at the moment, but they did understand what is actually important.