The Best Music Streaming Services and Online Radio Stations

Ready. Set. Stream Your Music.

Whether you want to discover new music, access your existing favorites or keep your party guests entertained, these online radio stations and music streaming services are for you. The traditional radio station format involves a human DJ making the playlist decisions, often in real time. Self-directed streaming services leave the playlist decision-making up to you. Some services are a blend of these experiences. This collection of the best music streaming services and online radio stations has something for everyone.

Apple Music quickly gained an enormous paid subscriber basis for its streaming catalog of more than 10 million tracks in all genres. The paid service features artist exclusives, an iCloud Music Library that syncs across all your devices, customized playlists and live radio. 

Beats 1 is a free worldwide radio station from Apple. Additional free live stations include Bloomberg Radio, ESPN News and Sports and NPR News. If you also have an Apple Music subscription, you can listen to curated on-demand stations and create your own custom radio stations.

Although this is Apple's premier music service, it is compatible with Android devices and PCs running iTunes, along with all Macs, Apple TVs, and iOS devices except than iPod nano and iPod shuffle. Apple Music is a paid music service, priced comparably with other paid music services. It offers a lengthy free trial period and individual, student and family plans. More »

If you have an Amazon Prime account, you already have free access to more than two million songs on demand on Amazon's Echo, Echo Dot or Tap devices as part of a Prime Music account.

However, if you spring for one of Amazon's paid Music Unlimited plans, your access expands to tens of millions of songs available on all your devices. This premium subscription service is ad-free, offers downloading and offline listening, hand-curated playlists and personalized stations.

In addition to free Prime Music accounts, Amazon offers paid Echo, Individual and Family plans with free trials. Amazon Prime members receive a discount on paid plans. The streaming service is available on Mac and PC computers, Android and iOS devices, Echo, Echo Dot and Tap devices, Amazon Fire TV devices, Fire tablets and many third party speaker and sound systems.

Google Play Music
Google Play Music. screenshot

Google's Play Music offers both free standard and paid accounts. Standard account users can upload their own music collection up to 50,000 songs and then listen to it anywhere they can access the service. Songs can be downloaded for offline playback and on computers. The free service includes curated radio stations. The trade-off for a free account is that it is supported by video and banner ads. When you listen to curated radio, you are limited to skipping only six songs per hour.

With a paid All Access account, subscribers can on-demand stream from the 40 million song library. There are no advertisements and you get unlimited skipping when listening to the radio, which supports discovering plenty of new music.  Definitely, give Google Play a try when you are shopping for your next music streaming service.

Google Play Music can be listened to from a browser on the Google Play website. Mobile devices use a Google Play Music mobile app for Android and iOS devices. 

In addition to the free Standard account, Google Play Music is available as an individual All Acess plan or a Family All Access plan with a free trial. More »

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Spotify streaming music. (Spotify.com)

Spotify is a massive hit with listeners. Spotify differentiates itself other services by behaving like a huge external hard drive. As a recommendation and discovery tool, Spotify stands out: It reads your own music collection and then suggests new releases and top-10 lists. The interface is clean, and the search box is convenient. It is easy to stream an artist's entire catalog. 

Spotify has free and premium tiered subscription options.  The Spotify Free version pauses between songs intermittently and restricts how many songs you can play on demand.  Spotify Free has ads and limits the number of skips you can make. You can't listen offline and the quality of the audio is not as good as the quality of a Spotify Premium subscription delivers. 

Spotify Premium is ad-free, offers unlimited skips, delivers high-quality audio and unlimited access to its entire music library. You can listen offline. Family and student plans are available. More »

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Tidal is appreciated by audiophiles because of its high-fidelity sound quality. Its top of the line subscription service uses lossless audio to deliver the best sound possible to discriminating users. Both subscription plans offer access to more than 46 million tracks in an ad-free environment. Tidal claims it pays its music artists more than any other streaming music service. The two subscription plans are Tidal Premium and Tidal HiFi.

Tidal Premium delivers standard sound quality and high-definition music videos. It contains expert-curated editorial content.

A Tidal HiFi subscription upgrades your account to lossless high fidelity sound quality. Free trials are available, as are student, military and family plans. More »

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Image © Pandora Inc.

For years, Pandora operated solely as a free personalized music and radio service, and it still offers that free account, which uses a form of low-level artificial intelligence to discern your music habits and then suggest new music that you might like. The service continually evolves with your tastes based on your musical choices. You can use Pandora to create your own radio stations that contain playlists based on your favorite song, artist or genre. 

Recently Pandora began offering two premium paid subscriptions in addition to its free ad-supported account.

Pandora Plus is ad-free and adds to the base features the ability for listeners to replay tracks, listen to three of their most played stations offline and have a longer timeout period. The audio quality is higher than that of the regular Pandora free account.

The Pandora Premium account includes all the Pandora Plus features in addition to adding unlimited search and online play of songs, fully customizable playlists and additional offline listening options. Pandora Premium is available only on Android and iOS mobile devices. More »

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Modern-day Napster has little in common with its past history. It recently acquired the Rhapsody music service and rebranded itself as a legitimate paid streaming music service. Napster helps you personalize its more than 30 million song catalog by suggesting new songs based on your listening history. You can listen to music on mobile devices, computers and home audio equipment. You can also download songs to listen to offline and build your own playlists with the service's Playlist Maker. The service is ad-free. 

Napster offers two plans: unRadio and Premier. UnRadio offers personalized radio based on your favorite artist or track. The audio is high quality and ad-free on mobile devices and computers. You can skip as many songs as you like.

The Premier subscriptions adds to the features in the unRadio plan. You have unlimited on-demand access to millions of songs, and can download any song to listen offline.

Napster offers a free trial with either subscription plan. Family plans are available.

  More »

Image © Riprockradio Inc.

This stylish single-channel site is dedicated to the classic rock FM culture of years past. RipRock blends all the recognizable FM classics from the rock genres with new and obscure pieces from Van Halen, Rolling Stones, Tom Petty, The Police, 38 Special and others. Requests are accepted, and there is a charming basement-studio flavor to this station. If you are new to internet radio, but know FM rock radio from your youth, then check out RipRockRadio. More »

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Image © SHOUTcast Inc.

SHOUTcast is a massive selection of individual radio stations (more than 75,000 at last count). Use the genre list to sort the stations to the genres you prefer. There are so many stations here, it is intimidating to find just the right one, but if you like niche music that is hard to find, SHOUTcast probably has it, whether your favorite is Gothic metal from the 90's, big band swing remixes or German synth music.

The stations are free to listen to and are supported by 2-minute ad breaks during the stream (up to five an hour). More »

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8tracks.com
8tracks.com. 8tracks.com

8Tracks is a  music service based on socially curated playlists. The name comes from the original requirement that each playlist have at least eight songs. The value of this service is that you can discover some terrific lesser-known music through the recommendations of its thousands of members. 

The site offers free ad-based subscriptions and 8Tracks+ paid subscriptions that offer unlimited listening and an ad-free experience. You get a chance to become a type of DJ, too, as you submit your own 8-track playlists to the world.

8Tracks offers more than 2 million playlists to choose from, so there's something for everyone. More »