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2 Jan 2022

Free music services: are they any good?

We reveal how different free music streaming services stand up to each other, and whether you're better off paying to access your favourite tunes without restrictions.
Person considering buying a music subscription

Music streaming services can be great for listening to your favourite songs on the go. If you don't want to pay a monthly subscription, most companies will offer a free version with certain restrictions, like unskippable adverts or playlists always being shuffled. But are these free services any good?

We surveyed over three thousand music streaming users who use free services and over four thousand who have a subscription to find out which free and paid-for services are the best*.

One thing to bear in mind with free services is that, based on our survey, we know people get wound up by ads and locked features. But they are a good way to find out whether a service is for you. Plus they're free - so you've nothing to lose.

Here, we've rounded up the most popular free music streaming services, Spotify, Deezer, Amazon Music and YouTube, to put them head-to-head and see how they compare to each other.

To discover the full results of our research into music streaming - both free and paid-for services - go to the best music streaming services.

Girl in headphones on a train

Spotify vs YouTube Music

These are two of the biggest streaming services, both in the UK and worldwide. Both Spotify and YouTube Music provide a free basic service with the option to upgrade to a Premium service for a fee.

If you want to try either subscription service before you buy, YouTube Music offers a one-month free trial of its Premium service, while Spotify offers a three-month trial of Spotify Premium.

Our survey showed that both of the free versions of these services fared almost identically in terms of the wide selection of music, a great search function, and a range of both exclusive and original content. Both great contenders, Spotify Free cinched a win over YouTube Music in terms of better audio quality.

However, both contenders featured annoying adverts interrupting their streaming, something which is not found in Premium subscriptions. Spotify Free also limits the amount of songs the user can skip. While YouTube Music features unlimited skips, you must have the app open to continue streaming. Once you close the app, the music stops.

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Amazon Music vs Spotify

Amazon Music is another popular music streaming service - its paid version is called Amazon Music Unlimited.

You don't need a Prime membership to access Amazon Music. But if you do have one, you may prefer to use Amazon Prime Music instead because it features personalised streaming stations.

Amazon Music fared well in our survey in terms of sound quality and ease of use, scoring the same as Spotify. However, the catalogue of songs to choose from is far more limited than Spotify, and there's less original and exclusive content to browse.

Deezer vs Spotify

Deezer is a slightly less well-known music streaming service, with Deezer Premium as its paid version.

Deezer was fairly popular with our survey, sitting just below Spotify and YouTube Music in our best free music streaming services results table. The selection of music is impressive, and although you can't stream offline, Deezer provides plenty of free downloadable podcasts to listen to at any time.

Plus, while you're limited to six skips an hour on a mobile device, skips on a computer are unlimited.

Spotify still proved to be superior in terms of its larger catalogue of music and content, plus users found it easier to use with a better search function. However, if you stream on a desktop or laptop and don't want to be limited to a certain number of skips, Deezer Free may work for you.

Boy listening to music through headphones

Our free music streaming services verdict

Spotify Free certainly tops our charts as the best free streaming service, with its huge catalogue of songs, podcasts and exclusive content. The app is also easy to use and understand, and it's a great way to stream your favourite songs for free - if you don't mind the adverts.

YouTube Music also impressed in our survey, with a great selection of music and unlimited skips, although having to keep the app open to listen could become tedious. Deezer featured a great selection of songs but had less exclusive content, and Amazon Music's library of content could be bigger.

While these free music streaming services have their perks, we think the way to get the most out of your music streaming is to pay for a subscription, provided you have the budget for it. Annoying adverts and locked features like offline streaming will be a thing of the past.

Most premium memberships will set you back around £10 per month, with student and family discounts also widely available for most streaming services. If this is too steep for you, then use our best free music streaming services full results table and research to help you pick a service that's right for you.

For more information about pricing plus to discover which paid-for subscription services are the best rated by their customers, go to music streaming subscription services rated.

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*Survey: online, Sep/Oct 21; 3,187 Which? members and general public who use at least one free music service; 4,322 Which? members and the general public who pay for at least one music streaming service.