Head to Head Comparison of 14 Streaming Music Services

| Analysis

When I wrote up Rhapsody's unRadio service on Wednesday, my knee-jerk reaction was "Who cares?" The streaming music market is already crowded, the independent services aren't making any money, and unRadio was just more of the same.

That got me thinking about the market, though, and I realized I couldn't put my finger on exactly which services offered which features. I also had no idea who was charging what. The obvious solution was to put together a chart and discuss the differences and advantages of these services.

Apples to Apples

Note, however, that I've spent little time using most of these services. iTunes Radio and Pandora are what I use when not listening to music I

quaintly own, and this feature comparison is more about paper specs than user experience. I researched the ever-loving crap out of these services, however, and the difficulty of finding all of this information only emphasized the usefulness of the chart.

First, we'll look at the chart. My thoughts follow, below the fold.

[Update 2: Sony's service was corrected to Music Unlimited and more compatible devices were added. In addition, Rhapsody's flagship service was added as a separate entry from unRadio making a total of 14 services. A clarifying statement about Rhapsody's catalog was also added. - Editor]

[Update: the table has been updated with additional services that are available on Sonos. - Editor]

Streaming Music Feature Comparison
  Free
(Ads)
Ad-Free Stations Playlists

Human
Curated
Content

Albums Platforms Quality Catalog Size
iTunes Radio Included with $25 iTunes Match subscription     iOS, OS X, Windows, Apple TV 256 Kbps 26M
Beats Music   $10/mo.   iOS, Android, Browser, Windows, Sonos 320 Kbps 20M
Spotify $10/mo.    

(paid)

iOS, Android, BlackBerry, OS X, Windows, Sonos 320 Kbps 20M
Pandora $5/mo.       iOS, Android, BlackBerry, Browser, Pandora 192 Kbps 1M
Google Play   $10/mo.     iOS, Android, Browser, Sonos 320 Kbps 20M
Last.fm $3/mo.     iOS, Android, OS X, Windows, Linux, Browser, Sonos, Xbox 128 Kbps  
Rdio $10/mo   iOS, Android, BlackBerry, OS X, Windows, Browser, Sonos 192 Kbps 20M
iHeart Radio N/A Free       iOS, Android, BlackBerry, Windows, Browser, Sonos, Roku, Xbox   15M
Music Unlimited
(Sony)
  $5/mo. (desktop and gaming only)
$10/mo. (+mobile)
  iOS, android, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4 PlayStation Vita, Browser, Sony TVs & Blu-ray Players 320 Kbps 25M
Amazon Prime Music N/A Included with $99 annual Prime subscription     iOS, Android, Kindle Fire, Fire Phone, OS X, Windows, Roku, Sonos, Browser, Samsung TVs Up to 256 Kbps 1M
Rhapsody unRadio   $5/mo.   √ (limited) iOS, Android, BlackBerry, OS X, Windows, FordSync 192 Kbps 32M*
Rhapsody/Napster   $10/mo. iOS, Android, BlackBerry, Windows Phone, Windows, Browser, Sonos, Xbox, Car, Various Receivers, Various TVs, FordSync 192 Kbps 32M*
Slacker $4/mo.
$10/mo.
    iOS, Android, Windows, Browser, Sonos, Xbox 128 Kbps 13M
Xbox Music $10/mo.       iOS, Android, Windows, Browser, Xbox 192 Kbps

18M (US)

30M (Global)

*32 million tracks are available in Rhapsody's global catalog. The company doesn't break down availability by country, and it's not clear if all tracks are available in all markets, including the U.S.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Next: Price, Catalog Depth, and Quality

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Comments

Allister Jenks

You missed an important column. International availability. This matters greatly to a large section of your readership, many of whom will have a choice only from a far shorter list.

Kareem Haskett

Good article.  BTW, Sonos also has Beats Music.  I use it all the time with my Sonos and I love it.  I have tried ITunes Music and Spotify also but I by far enjoy Beats Music the best. Their human curated music is impeccable. It’s almost like they know exactly what you want to listen to.

Rodthunder

Great piece! A couple of things: 1) You don’t include the full Rhapsody service. I subscribe to it and find it quite robust. 2) A large library is crucial to a robust discovery feature and not to be dismissed as just a point for bragging. Additionally, a large library gives me comfort that no matter how obscure my music tastes can be at times, there’s a better chance I can find it on Rhapsody than any of the other services available. That said, it’s always good to supplement with sites like Bandcamp and Soundcloud.

paikinho

Not exactly a music service, but if you want to explore independently spun mixes and great playlists, Soundcloud is fairly awesome. One can waste hours and days exploring all of the user created content. Plus many songs are freely downloadable as well.

jhorvatic

I think iTunes has it covered with the second biggest library and the highest quality music and also the price. $25 a year commercial free which includes iTunes Match which no other company offers is an unbeatable deal. With the new Beats offering to be combined in the future everyone else is toast.

paikinho

iTunes Match certainly is a nice feature, but I wish that there was no limit on songs.

I have about 39000 songs in my CD/LP collection and with a 25k limit I can’t quite fit all of my albums so I haven’t decided to use that feature yet.

I wish they had iTunes match for my DVD collection as well…. with the possibility to upgrade all the movies to HD for a buck or 2. That would certainly be a great value add and I could box up my 400+ DVD’s for archival purposes to free up shelf space. I would love to have all of my movies available on my Apple TV or for streaming on my iPhone or to stream on my various computers.

David Begler

Which service compensates artists the most fairly? I would gladly switch to a service that supports musicians as they are the ones who are losing out in the new streaming landscape.

Shannon Rogers

Is it just me or are sponsor ad’s covering part of this chart?

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