SoundCloud has launched a new pay-monthly service in the UK called SoundCloud Go.
For £9.99 a month, users will get access to the full range of 125 million tracks as well as ad-free and offline listening. There is a 30-day free trial so you don't have to dive straight into a subscription.
You can still stick with the existing (free) site, but this comes with a smaller library of music and you'll now have to put up with adverts between songs.
— SoundCloud (@SoundCloud) May 3, 2016
Annoyingly, free listeners will also be regularly prompted to upgrade to premium, either through seeing 30-second previews of tracks that are only available on Go or trying to click the offline/download button that every user will see but only subscribers will be able to use.
SoundCloud will only be paying royalties to creators whose songs have been used in remixes, rather than to the remixers themselves, although it’s finding a way to pay them as well.
Not for you? There are now obviously many online music platforms to choose from, offering high-quality streaming of millions of tracks.
But which platforms are the best, and how much do they cost? loveMONEY takes a look through some of the most popular options.
Soundcloud isn't just for music streamers, but musicians themselves. The standard service allows anyone to upload music they create, with free accounts allowing users to upload up to three hours of music. Larger capacity accounts for uploaders cost up to £8 per month.
If you just want to listen to music, there is no need to sign up for an account at all; you can search for artists, tracks and podcasts for nothing, but there is no guarantee that the tracks you want will be on this particular site.
That’s a cost-free risk though, and many well-known artists post at least some of their tracks, including exclusive material, mixes, and drafts for upcoming releases on Soundcloud.
You can sign up for a free account even if you don’t want to upload anything but want to gain access to features such as messaging, saving your favourite tracks, and keeping up to date with favourite artists. But as we mentioned earlier, if you want additional features like offline listening, access to more tracks and no ads, then you'll need to sign up for the new £9.99 monthly service.
Spotify comes in a free and premium version. The free version allows you to select songs on a computer and listen to shuffle play on your mobile, but you have to listen to adverts interspersed between your music.
Like Soundcloud Go, the premium edition comes with a 30-day free trial, allowing on-demand play from a mobile device, offline listening of your playlists (you’ll need to download them first, so long lists will need some patience) and there are no advertisements. It costs £9.99 per month.
Deezer offers a free service that allows you to stream unlimited music on your computer and tablet, but this again contains advertisements. If you’re listening from a mobile phone, there are limitations on your ability to choose which song to listen to next.
A premium subscription costs £9.99 per month. This lets you stream unlimited music on your mobile, supplies you with personalised editorial recommendations, allows you to access music offline and you can also import your own MP3 files into playlists.
Google Play Music
With Google Play Music, you can upload and back up your own music (up to 50,000 tracks) on Google’s servers and stream them on the go – or download them to another computer. This feature is free. You can also buy music from the Google Play store to expand your collection.
An Unlimited account will allow you to stream Google’s catalogue of music, which contains millions of songs, alongside your own. You can trial the service for three months for free, and after this period, you’ll be charged £9.99 per month.
Apple Music has approximately 30 million songs and several radio stations curated by Apple are available for streaming, with the option to access music offline.
A free three-month membership period is available. Following this, it will cost £9.99 per month in the UK, while a family account allowing up to six members to stream will cost £14.99 per month.
Last.fm offers a slightly different service to the other providers. It tracks (or ‘scrobbles’) what music you listen to in order to build a picture of your musical tastes. It then offers recommendations based on this history, and the site’s design means that fans with similar tastes can communicate with each other. This is a free service.
The online Last.fm player allows you to search for a specific artist or genre to listen to, which will then be played via embedded YouTube videos, with Last.fm choosing the next songs in accordance with your listening history.
For £3 per month or £36 for a 12-month subscription you can remove advertising from the site. Last.fm no longer runs its own desktop streaming service. This was discontinued in April 2014.
TIDAL comes with a free 30-day trial, but there is no free subscription tier. TIDAL Premium costs £9.99 per month, which gets you standard sound quality, HD music videos and editorial content. You can reduce the price slightly by paying six months up front at £8.49 per month, or £50.94 in total.
The other type of account is TIDAL HiFi, which is the same as Premium except that you can stream lossless quality music (essentially, it sounds better). It costs £19.99 per month or £16.99 for six months, a total of £101.94.
You can add up to four additional family members on your Premium or HiFi package, knocking 50% off each additional account. So if you add three people to your Tidal Premium account, it would cost you £24.96 (£9.99 + £4.99 + £4.99 + £4.99). Great if you're in a flatshare.
Which is best?
If you can deal with adverts, then there’s a case to be made for the free versions of Spotify, Rdio and Deezer. If you’d rather not, the price for each is rather similar so it’s a matter of personal opinion of the service as much as cost.
Most of the streaming services offer a free trial of their services, and if you sign up for all the free trials in sequence, you can get several months of free streaming. This presents you with a good opportunity to test out the services for ease of use, reliability and the range of music available, which should help you to pick your favourite.
Just remember to cancel any and all free trials before the trial period ends or you will be charged for the next month.
Price only accounts for so much, and with streaming platforms it’s important to know the quality of service you receive.