Best Websites to Listen to Music Online: Free & Paid (2023)

The Best Online Music Streaming Platforms

Article Updated: 2023-01-24

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 improvements, and some just being awful.

All pros listed apply to the streaming services 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.

Best Music Streaming Services 2023

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.

User interface (UI)

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 organise them.

Search bar

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

Library

A huge music library with over 70 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.

Paid Spotify

Removes ads and you can download music for offline listening.


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.

Pros

  • Desktop website, desktop app and mobile app

  • Clean user interface, user friendly

  • Can create playlist folders

  • Search results by categories

  • Huge song library (70m+)

  • Relevant recommended songs

  • Best playlists and playlist system

Cons

  • 30 seconds ads from time to time (free limitation)

  • niche music missing or randomly deleted

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.

User interface (UI)

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

Search bar

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

Library

A huge music library with over 50 million songs. Same as before, the algorithm will get better at suggesting you relevant songs the more you listen, like and subscribe.

Community playlists

There are 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

No ads, you can remove the video by switching to audio only mode and you can also offline download.


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.

Pros

  • Desktop website and mobile app

  • Tab organized interface

  • Search results in tabs

  • Huge song library (50m+)

  • Relevant recommended songs

  • Community playlists

Cons

  • YouTube ads (free limitation)

  • video next to the tracks playing (free limitation)

  • niche music missing (partially countered by using videos)

  • weird interaction with normal YouTube

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.

User interface (UI)

The UI is clean with everything you need on a left side bar (music, podcasts, radio, explore and favorites with subcategories that are basically your library navigation), it looks very similar to Spotify's UI.

Search bar

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).

Library

A huge music library with over 90 million songs, the biggest so far. Like the above ones, after using it for a while the algorithm will recommend you more relevant songs.

Somehow the biggest and also the one with the most missing songs 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 from time to time. 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

No ads, offline listening and high fidelity audio (1411 kbps).


Note: Quite a bunch of missing track 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.

Pros

  • Desktop website, desktop app and mobile app

  • Clean UI, very close to Spotify

  • Search results by categories and quick access

  • Biggest song library (90m+)

  • Relevant recommended songs

  • Community playlists

  • HiFi Audio (1411 kbps) (paid)

Cons

  • ads (free limitation)

  • previews only in some countries (free limitation)

  • niche music missing

  • needs a bigger community

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.

User interface (UI)

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

Search bar

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

Library

A huge library with over 75 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.

Niche genre have like no (official) playlists available.

Free Apple Music

You can only listen to 1min30 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

No ads and offline listening.


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.

Pros

  • Desktop website, desktop app (iTunes) and mobile app

  • Clean user interface, straight to the point

  • Search results organized by categories

  • Huge song library (75m+)

  • Relevant recommended songs

Cons

  • limited to 1 minute 30 seconds previews (free limitation)

  • credit card information to active your account (free limitation)

  • no save or playlist add without an account (free limitation)

  • niche music missing

  • lack of playlists

5. Amazon Music

Amazon Music logo

General information

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

User interface (UI)

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

Search bar

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

Library

Over 75 million songs in the 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.

You can't listen to the songs you want to, it will redirect you to random ones asking you to get a subscription, and you get ads on top of it.

You can't make playlists, after naming a playlist a pop-up will tell to get a subscription.

Paid Amazon Music

It really only comes as a paid service, you can use it normally if you get a subscription.


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).

Pros

  • Desktop website, desktop app and mobile app

  • Clean user interface (but no sidebar)

  • Search results by categories

  • Huge song library (75m+)

  • Relevant recommended songs

Cons

  • extremely limited (free limitation)

  • random songs (free limitation)

  • ads (free limitation)

  • can't make playlists (free limitation)

  • lack of playlists

  • niche music missing or randomly deleted

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.


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 great free experience without much limitations.

I would recommend you to give all 3 a shot and stick with your favorite one afterwards. YouTube Music lets you add videos which partially counters the non-available songs.

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.

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