In years past, discovering new musical artists, genres or songs looked a little different than it does today. Essentially, you were at the mercy of suggestions from friends, listening to a radio, or just taking your chances with an album or song purchase.
Thanks to technological advances in the last couple of decades, streaming services now put the musical world literally at your fingertips. Whether you’re looking to take your favorite music along on your smartphone or use that fancy wireless home speaker system, internet-based streaming services offer a limitless range of music and other audio content to choose from.
To help you get the most out of your listening experience, we’ve compiled a list of our favorite music service platforms from around the world. Especially if you’ve used streaming sites in the past, a few of the services we’ll cover here will likely be familiar names. However, several lesser-known platforms also offer impressive features that you don’t want to miss.
If you’re ready to elevate your music listening game, let’s get started.
The late 1990s and early 2000s ushered in the era of the MP3 and music file sharing, and consumers largely left the practice of buying physical recorded albums behind.
In 1999, Napster introduced its file-sharing platform, and the site gained exceptional popularity on college campuses across the United States. However, a lawsuit from the Recording Industry Association of America followed shortly after Napster’s rollout, and the litigation lasted for years. Other file-sharing sites followed in Napster’s path, but unfortunately, the vast majority of music downloads remained illegal.
Since consumers showed little interest in returning to the days of purchasing CDs, the music industry needed a digital solution to battle the continuing rampant piracy. Pandora Internet Radio blazed a brave new trail for music lovers in 2000, and Apple iTunes came along in 2003 as one of the first legal solutions for owning digital music. However, Spotify’s appearance in 2008 ushered in music streaming in the form that we recognize today.
Streaming platforms use an internet connection to send data to a user’s device without requiring much or any memory space. The platform delivers small amounts of pre-buffered data continuously, so the user can enjoy an uninterrupted audio stream as long as they have a solid internet connection.
Today’s world of mobile devices provides the perfect environment for music streaming services to flex their muscles. Thanks to minimal memory requirements and widespread internet service, there’s never been a better time to listen to your music while you’re on the go.
Since 2005, the annual Tomorrowland music festival has welcomed hundreds of thousands of electronic dance music lovers from around the globe with elaborate stage sets and an array of talented artists. If attending the Tomorrowland festival is a dream of yours but you can’t make it to Boom, Belgium, the One World Radio music service can be a great way to enjoy the sounds of the festival from your own home.
As opposed to a traditional online radio station that only offers a live stream, One World Radio offers users the chance to listen to live content or use the on-demand feature to relive their favorite moments from past festivals.
One World Radio is available as a free download on Apple and Android devices. Even though some app users report issues with bugs or internet connection issues, the app offers high-quality sound with an intuitive interface and pleasing appearance. If you prefer to listen online, you can also access One World Radio through the website, YouTube and TuneIn.
SoundCloud is a German-based service available in 14 countries, including the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, UK, Ireland, Belgium, France, Switzerland, Portugal, the Netherlands, Germany, Spain and Italy.
One of SoundCloud’s most popular features is its wide mix of indie artists and little-known genres. Additionally, SoundCloud is also an awesome platform for new artists to introduce their work to the world. Emerging creators can upload their tracks onto the SoundCloud platform, engage with fans and participate in online artist communities. Even if you’re not a creator yourself, using SoundCloud can be a perfect way to support others in their musical career.
SoundCloud Go offers the option to save songs to a playlist that you can access offline and listen with no ad interruptions. The Go+ option adds full access to the SoundCloud catalog and enhanced audio quality. The ad-supported version is free to use, while SoundCloud Go costs $4.99 monthly and Go+ will set you back $9.99 per month.
Available on iOS, Android, Chromecast, Sonos, Xbox One and the web, you shouldn’t run into any trouble accessing your SoundCloud tunes no matter which device you prefer to use.
Offered as an option that retained the function of Spotify with the addition of exceptional sound quality, Tidal started as a Swedish company that American rapper Jay-Z has since purchased.
Tidal offers two subscription service levels, Premium and HiFi. While both subscriptions offer high-definition music videos and a music offering tailored to your tastes, the two levels differ in the sound quality they offer. The Premium level offers the standard sound that you’re probably used to hearing from other streaming services. For true audiophiles that yearn for crystal-clear sound quality, the HiFi service delivers with Dolby Atmos Music and Sony’s 360 Reality Sound technology.
Both service levels are available for single users or as family plans that allow for up to six total users. A single Premium subscription costs $9.99 monthly, and a Premium Family plan costs $14.99 every month. You’ll pay a monthly $19.99 charge for a single HiFi subscription, and a Family HiFi will run you $29.99 per month.
Tidal is available in 55 countries in Europe, North and South America, Australia, Asia and Africa. Users in these countries can enjoy Tidal through a desktop app or web-player or on their iOS or Android mobile devices.
PlayFM’s goal is to introduce users to music from around the world, and city page directories help users explore artists, clubs or recording labels unique to certain localities. Registered users can upload their original recordings to PlayFM for easy and widespread sharing.
Geared to electronic dance music fans, PlayFM breaks down their content into specialized genres. Whether you prefer to immerse yourself in dubstep, reggae, hip hop or one of several other beats, you have a wide selection to choose from. What’s more, recordings span anywhere from 30 minutes to several hours in length, so this format is perfect for users who want to enjoy a seamless listening session with no audible break between songs.
PlayFM offers its online service for free, and any user around the world with access to an internet connection can use the website to listen or upload their work.
This app connects you with over 1,000 Belgian radio stations in a wide variety of genres, such as Nostalgie Italia, Zen FM or popular french music. With the capability to tune into music, news, talk, sports and other categories, you should be able to find a station that fits your mood on any given day. While Radio Belgium has a simple, easy-to-use interface, it doesn’t list stations in alphabetical order, so you may have to scroll for a while to find a specific choice.
One cool feature is that the app also contains an alarm function, so your favorite station can be the first thing you hear upon waking up. You can also seamlessly receive calls while you’re running the Radio Belgium app.
Get Radio Belgium on iOS and Android devices as a free, ad-supported download, and iOS also offers an ad-free paid version for $3.90.
Hailing from Paris, France, Deezer serves users in over 180 countries around the globe. With 56 million individual tracks in their library, Deezer easily has one of the largest music service collections out there. Fortunately, curated song recommendations based on your listening history spare you from having to wade through the entire library to build a playlist that you’ll love.
The free Deezer version allows you to access the entire library from your mobile device and offers a shuffle feature. Deezer Premium carries a $9.99 monthly fee, and you’ll get offline listening across all your devices, an ad-free interface and unlimited song skips. For $14.99 per month, Deezer Family supports up to six users and offers all the same features as the Premium version.
For true audiophiles, Deezer also offers a HiFi plan for $14.99 per month. The HiFi version uses Free Lossless Audio Codec, or FLAC, technology to deliver exceptional sound quality, and this version is also compatible with many home sound systems. With millions of Deezer tracks in high-definition sound, you’ll have an impressive CD-quality library to choose from.
The Radio Record app lets you unlock access to 50 Russian FM radio stations from anywhere you can download apps on your mobile device. Even though Radio Record has a heavy emphasis on the electronic dance genre, there are also a few podcasts and talk radio stations available.
A favorites list and play history are two organizational features that let you easily find a specific song or podcast whenever the mood strikes. If you plan to be in the area, Radio Record also has a music festival ticket interface that gives you the ability to purchase tickets to local festivals.
While Radio Record’s text is completely in Russian, a variety of vivid images serve as helpful guides, so you shouldn’t run into too much trouble navigating the variety of artists, albums and stations even if you don’t speak Russian.
Radio Record is a free download for Android devices and Apple iPhone users. One downside is that the most recent app version does tend to have some glitches with random notifications and the screen display.
Based in Hong Kong, JOOX is a free music service available in Hong Kong, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Myanmar and South Africa. JOOX offers users access to a library of over 30 million songs in countless genres.
JOOX’s free version offers a variety of smart and convenient features, including access to the more than 50 stations on JOOX Radio, lyrics included with all songs, sharing capabilities and personalized song suggestions. While JOOX does use visual advertisements, you’ll never have to worry about audio ads interrupting your listening experience.
JOOX VIP is the paid monthly subscription plan available through iTunes. Special VIP upgrades include an ad-free platform and unlimited song skips. Users in Hong Kong will pay about $6.19 monthly, and users in the other service areas can expect to pay somewhere between $3.00 and $4.16 per month.
Which music service ends up being the best one? The answer to that question depends on your individual preferences.
If you’re looking for a platform to discover emerging artists and share your own original music, SoundCloud can be a great place to start. One World Radio, PlayFM and Radio Record all offer a wealth of options if electronic dance music is your genre of choice. For those who place a high priority on crystal-clear sound quality, the HiFi versions of Tidal and Deezer offer some of the best technology available. If you enjoy a wide range of musical genres or radio stations, JOOX and Radio Belgium offer great variety.
There’s a music streaming service out there for everyone, so go forth and find your next favorite song!