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Not Just the Big Boys: A Guide to Music Streaming Websites for 2021
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Not Just the Big Boys: A Guide to Music Streaming Websites for 2021

Since they emerged in the early 2010s, music streaming websites such as Spotify, Apple Music, and Google Play have become the dominant way to listen to your favorite tunes.

Streaming services offer access to nearly any recording from the last century, either for free with advertisements or for a monthly fee. Whether you are a fan of the latest pop hits or the most obscure jazz, folk, or classical, your streaming service of choice likely offers it.

Though the economics involved can be controversial, streaming music is most likely here to stay.

Not all streaming services are created equal, however. All of them have strengths and weaknesses. Some are better for hardcore music lovers, while others may be better for casual listeners.

Read on to discover the pros and cons of the top music streaming services, as well as to discover some more obscure options.

Spotify and Apple Music

These two streaming services are the two most popular options for streaming music.

Apple Music offers deeply specific curated playlists and the ability to integrate with iOS and Mac devices. If you are firmly committed to the Apple ecosystem of products, Apple Music makes having all your music on any device a snap.

Apple Music has a 24/7 live radio station, Apple Music 1. This station has made waves with its famous hosts such as Elton John and Snoop Dogg. It plays an eclectic mix of rap, indie, and other music.

Apple Music also makes it easy to manage your library and save songs for later. Spotify also allows you to save a library, but navigation is slightly more difficult.

Playlists and Exclusive Content

Both Apple Music and Spotify have a robust catalog of playlists, which are constantly updated with the latest new music. Both genre-specific playlists and general mood playlists are offered.

Apple Music’s playlists win in specificity, with deep dives into new and old music scenes. Fans of more obscure genres and hidden gems will find lots to love. Their radio shows are also saved as playlists, allowing users to enjoy an archive of the selections of celebrity hosts.

Spotify’s playlists often have exclusive content, however. Listeners to the biggest Spotify playlists can enjoy interviews and videos with the artists.

Spotify has also invested heavily in the podcast market. Many extremely popular podcasts are now exclusive to Spotify, including The Joe Rogan Experience and podcasts on the Gimlet Media network.

Apple Music has no free version, while Spotify has a free tier. However, it does not let you listen to specific songs, just a mix based on the music you specify.

Both Apple Music and Spotify Premium cost $9.99 per month for unlimited ad-free listening. Both services are excellent choices, with a deep library and more features added every day.

Those who prefer a seamless experience with their other Apple Products should check out Apple Music. If you’re looking for exclusive podcast content, Spotify might be the best choice for you.

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Amazon Prime and Google Play

Tech giants Amazon and Google have made their own ventures into the music streaming world. They have seen slightly less success than Spotify and Apple Music, capturing about 18% of the streaming market combined.

However, their integration into common smart devices such as Amazon’s Echo and Google’s Home Mini may make them good choices for heavy users of those devices.

These services are quite similar, so the choice of Amazon Prime Music vs Google Play may largely depend on your other home devices.

Amazon Prime Music is free to anyone with an Amazon Prime subscription, with two million songs available. However, upgrading to Amazon Music Unlimited ups the number of songs to 50 million.

This means Amazon Prime Music is best for very casual listeners, or as a demo before upgrading to Amazon Music Unlimited.

Google Play Music, recently rebranded to YouTube Music, costs $9.99 a month but offers access to millions of songs.

Its most notable feature is the ability to suggest playlists based on the time, your location, and even the weather. Sunny weather might prompt it to suggest a summer-themed playlist while relaxing at home in the evening might prompt more laid-back suggestions.

YouTube music, naturally, also integrates video much more naturally into its playlist. Many songs allow you to see the video version with the touch of a button.

Lesser-Known and Free Music Streaming Websites

Aside from the tech giants, there are a number of lesser-known streaming sites. Some of these are great choices for casual listening or guided, radio-like experiences.


Formerly Slacker Radio, LiveXLive not only streams music but focuses on offering live shows hosted by DJs. Its shows count down the latest hits and more.

LiveXLive has a free tier and several paid tiers that offer the ability to skip songs and enjoy ad-free listening.


iHeartRadio streams live, free radio from around the world and in many genres. It includes sports and talk radio as well as music. The ability to build a library is limited, but two premium tiers offer the ability to skip songs, save playlists, and play shows offline.


Deezer, a streaming service similar to Spotify, is completely free on mobile (with ads). It also has a number of podcasts and exclusive live EPs recorded by artists.

It also offers over 80 streaming radio stations and a price tier that allows you to stream tracks in lossless CD quality.

Choosing the Best Music Streaming Websites

Whether you’re seeking out obscure albums 24/7 or just need some tracks for the commute or gym, there are music streaming websites for you.

For more on today’s latest software and technology, browse the other articles in our technology section.

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