Most Popular Music Streaming Platforms Right Now
Updated: December 16,2022
Listening to music nowadays doesn’t involve carrying discs around, or even iPods. Thanks to the increasing number of streaming platforms, everything you could wish to hear is on the cloud.
Streaming platforms have taken the world by storm, and there’s a growing number of providers to choose from. We look at the most popular music streaming services, what they offer, and how they stack up against each other across several categories to find something for everyone’s ears.
Streaming Platforms: An Overview
Let’s first explore those which are considered the most popular platforms in the music streaming world. These services have the biggest market share and pop up most frequently in the streaming habits surveys.
Without any particular order, here are the top five music streaming platforms:
There is no bigger site for video sharing than YouTube. Launched way back in early 2005 with the famous “Me at the Zoo” video, it quickly gained popularity as everyone’s favorite place to upload video content.
Over time, YouTube has become host to a staggering number of music videos, full albums, EPs, and singles. The platform owners saw an opportunity to capitalize on that and, in 2016, launched YouTube Music.
Unlike other popular music streaming platforms we’ll be talking about today, it’s not mandatory to purchase a subscription for YouTube Music to gain access to its content. As a matter of fact, there aren’t any particular limits on how much you can stream for free on this platform.
Subscribing, however, allows for an ad-free experience and increases audio quality from 128 kbits/s to 256 kbits/s.
The platform’s biggest strength is its availability. If you can watch YouTube in your region, it means YouTube Music is available, too.
For most people, the term “music streaming” usually means streaming on Spotify. The platform is regularly ranked among the top music streaming services thanks to its truly impressive catalog and a massive user base. More than 430 million people actively use Spotify every month.
Spotify was sort of a pioneer in this field, the platform that standardized algorithmic music recommendations. Artists and labels that publish music on this service take roughly a 70% cut of the platform’s revenue, and they get rewarded based on the number of streams.
So, how big is this service? Seven million artists, 80 million songs, four million podcasts, and 188 million paying subscribers. Another reason Spotify is such a popular music streaming platform is its availability in 180+ markets and the ability to access it on pretty much any device. There are probably smart fridges being made right now that can play Spotify.
The service isn’t without its flaws, though. It recently came under fire from independent artists due to its low payouts and huge focus on only the most popular music genres and labels, leading to several boycotts.
Tidal is one of the most popular music streaming services among the audiophile crowd. Sporting a massive library of albums and singles, it’s also hosting music videos and podcasts, all in Hi-Fi quality.
That audio quality is the biggest selling point for Tidal. It’s the only service with Master Quality Authentication (MQA), meaning that you’ll be listening to music at up to 9216 kbits/s.
Aside from providing access to online music streaming, Tidal frequently puts up live shows and offers its users numerous ways to connect with their favorite artists. One of the biggest events is a concert called Tidal X, where all the biggest music stars perform their greatest hits.
Currently, Tidal is available in 61 countries, and the subscriptions are frequently offered for free as part of the ISP and phone carrier plans.
If you’re an avid Amazon user, chances are you’re subscribed to Amazon Prime. Additionally, you have access to its music streaming library.
But Amazon Music wasn’t originally created to compete with music streaming sites. When the service launched in 2007, it offered only paid downloads of songs in mp3 format through what was called Amazon MP3. Only later did the service get an upgrade to the streaming format and change its name to Amazon Music.
Similarly to YouTube Music, Amazon Music can be accessed for free if you have an Amazon account. Subscriptions are tiered, with the option to get unlimited access to the whole catalog or a limited version as a part of the Amazon Prime deal.
Availability is still limited. Outside of the United States and Canada, Amazon Music works in the UK, Japan, Australia, Brazil, and a few select European countries. On the flip side, it has full integration with various Amazon Echo devices.
We can’t talk about popular music streaming services without mentioning Apple Music. The iPhone and iMac manufacturer has been in the music business ever since it released the revolutionary iPod. But, with Apple Music, it became a major competitor in the streaming market.
What separates Apple Music from other platforms is that it’s not limited to audio files. And, for that matter, it’s not just a music service anymore. Touted as a “one-stop shop for pop culture,” it offers music on-demand but also several radio stations, concert footage, podcasts, and web shows.
It is a big Tidal competitor, as it offers Dolby Atmos support that provides an immersive audio experience for supported devices. Speaking of devices, the strength of Apple Music is its direct integration with everything Apple. No other popular music streaming sites and services can match the Siri integration, or sending songs to your Apple Watch.
Apple frequently offers free trials for Apple Music, with up to six months of free play if you buy any of the more recent AirPods or Beats products.
Ranking the Streaming Services by Popularity
Marking any of these services as a clear winner is a tough task. Each platform offers something unique and worth subscribing to. Whether that’s unmatched sound quality, a massive library, or social features, each streaming service is notable in some way or another.
According to recent surveys, based on their paid subscriber base, the stream services ranked would look like this:
- Apple Music
- Amazon Music
- YouTube Music
That being said, YouTube is still the king of multimedia. With two billion users and no paid subscription requirements, no other streaming platform could ever come close to it. After all, why would people switch over when they get everything for free (including ads) on one site?
Obviously, some users prefer to pay for a service if that means other benefits. Spotify’s shared playlists or Tidal’s crisp sound are just some of the perks that come to mind. Whichever option you end up with, make sure your life’s soundtrack rocks.
Frequently Asked Questions
YouTube is currently the most popular platform for listening to music among Americans. The platform allows every registered user to upload videos, turning YouTube into a great tool for sharing music and promoting independent artists and labels.
Since YouTube doesn’t require any payments to access the majority of its content, it comes as no surprise that it’s still the most popular platform of its kind.
If we’re just taking paid subscriptions into account, then Spotify is the most subscribed to music platform. It currently reports 188 million subscribers.
Although Spotify has a larger subscriber base, Tidal surpasses it in the quality of service. It has the best audio quality of all services right now, matching the quality of master recordings thanks to its lossless compression. But, compared to the most popular streaming services, its library lacks the diversity that Spotify provides.
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With a degree in humanities and a knack for the history of tech, Jovan was always interested in how technology shapes both us as human beings and our social landscapes. When he isn't binging on news and trying to predict the latest tech fads, you may find him trapped within the covers of a generic 80s cyberpunk thriller.