Best Music Streaming Trials and Offers During Lockdown

If music be the food of love...

by Andy Bassett
Hi-Fi Article

20

Best Music Streaming Trials and Offers During Lockdown

Whatever situation you find yourself in, music is a sure way of enhancing your mood and lifting spirits. We look at some of the best deals available for music streaming services to help listeners get their toes tapping through challenging times.

As the UK population gets used to life under coronavirus lockdown conditions, residents are looking for extra ways of passing the time, entertaining themselves and hopefully retaining an optimistic outlook. Music is a great way to boost emotions and even get a daily workout to, and accessing it at home has never been easier. Here are the deals and offers currently available for listeners who want to use a new or alternative music service to put together their self-isolation playlists. 

Spotify

Free Tier: Yes (ad supported, other limitations)

Current offers: 

  • Spotify Premium for £1.99 for two months for new users only. Sign up via the Sony PlayStation Network (you can do this via a computer, you don’t need a PlayStation console). Remember to cancel if you don’t want it to auto-renew after two months.
  • Spotify Premium free for 6 months with a Curry’s purchase. Qualifying purchases include any laptop, video game, games console, tablet, smart TV, smart home device, smart watch. plus any audio product above £49. So, if you’re in the market for a new device you can take advantage, however it appears cheaper items such as a £10 Steam gift card are also included so it might be worth hunting around to make the offer even better value. The offer lasts until 4th Oct 2020.
  • Spotify Premium: twelve months for the price of ten. Buying a Spotify Premium gift card using PayPal will cost £99 rather than £120, even for existing users.

Thereafter:

  • Premium account £9.99 per month.
  • Family account £14.99 per month (up to 6 accounts).
  • Student account £4.99 per month. 

The Netflix of music streaming services (i.e long established, almost everybody has it, huge library), Spotify has always had a free tier to allow users to get a feel for the service, so if you are happy with the no-downloads and shuffle-play-only limitations that come with using it gratis, then you’re off and running with 40+ million tracks and just a few ads ringing in your ears. 

The Family account offer is ideal for a house full of music fans and if you are using all 6 available Premium accounts under the umbrella, it’s still the equivalent of only £2.50 per month each.

However, the venerable music streaming services is being left behind in the Hi-Res music stakes as more services adopt higher streaming resolutions and while it’s likely that Spotify will add Hi-Res audio at some point in the future, its 200 million users seem happy enough with the way things are.


Deezer

Free Tier: Yes (ad supported, only plays in shuffle mode)

Current offers:

Thereafter:

  • Premium account £9.99 (or £99.90 annually).
  • Family account £14.99.
  • HiFi Account £20 per month.
  • Student account £4.99 per month 

Deezer has been around since 2007 and has around 14 million active monthly users and over 50 million songs. There’s also live programming, themed stations and over 40,000 podcasts. 

The free tier locks the quality to a lowly 128kbps but 16-bit CD quality streaming is available on the top end HiFi tier which also boasts 360 Reality Audio tracks which use Sony’s new 3D surround format to envelop the listener and place instruments and vocals anywhere in the audio landscape. Users have to wear headphones to experience this and a separate iOS / Android app is required too.

Deezer’s Family plan matches Spotify’s in price and number of profiles (six) and becomes increasingly better value the more people who use it.


Tidal

Free Tier: No

Current offers: 

Thereafter:

  • Premium account £9.99 per month,
  • HiFi account (includes Hi-Res Tidal Masters) £19.99 per month. 

Building on its reputation for sound quality, Tidal’s top end HiFi plan features CD quality streams as well as millions of Hi-Res MQA audio tracks called Tidal Masters, There's also a huge 60 million track choice in 320kbps in its lower £10 per month option, along with music videos, documentaries and live events. 


Amazon Prime Music / Amazon Music Unlimited

Free Tier: Amazon Prime Music is free to Prime account holders

Current offers: 

Thereafter: 

Amazon Music Unlimited: 

  • Individual £7.99 per month (or £79 annually) for a Prime account holder or £9.99 per month if not 
  • Family £14.99 per month (or £149 annually for Prime members) 
  • Single device (Echo, Dot, Fire TV) £3.99 per month. 

Amazon Music HD 

  • £12.99 per month (for Prime members) 
  • £14.99 per month (for non Prime members)

Rather like Amazon Prime Video, if you already have an Amazon Prime account that you use for free deliveries for your online shopping, well, Amazon Prime Music is included anyway and you already have access to 2 million free tracks as a taster. What’s more, these free tracks are available at an acceptable 256kbps and without interruption from adverts.

If you want to step up to the next music tier that Amazon provides, which is called Amazon Music Unlimited, it will cost an additional £7.99 per month (£9.99 if you’re not a Prime account holder) to gain access to up to 50 million tracks. The monthly cost for Family (£14.99) and Single Device (£3.99) plans remains unchanged regardless of whether you have a Prime account though you don’t get the option of the £149 annual Family subscription if you are not signed up to Prime. It’s worth noting of course that the Family plan becomes better value the more people who use it (up to 6).

The final tier Amazon provides is the leap up to its Amazon Music HD service which delivers CD quality for 50 million tracks as well as millions of ‘Ultra HD’ 24bit / 192kHz tracks. This costs an additional £5 per month for Prime members on top of the £7.99 per month for the Amazon Music Unlimited element of the subscription, in other words, a total of £12.99 per month for the HD service, which rises to £14.99 if you are not a Prime member.

One thing to look out for is Amazon’s tendency to auto-renew at the end of trial periods and every twelve months, so if you want to unsubscribe you’ll have to dig into your Amazon Music Unlimited/HD account and do it manually.


Apple Music

Free Tier: No

Current offers: 

Thereafter: 

  • Single membership £9.99 per month (or £99 annually)
  • Family membership £14.99 per month (up to 6 members)
  • Student membership £4.99 per month 

The app based offers from Sweatcoin or Shazam, appear to be able to detect whether you have already used the three month Apple Music trial, so you’ll only get an extra month via Shazam if you have. The apps need to be downloaded (Sweatcoin from Google and Apple stores, Shazam looks to be Apple only) and the Apple Music offer initiated through that app interface.

Apple Music boasts the most subscribers in the US, nudging out Spotify with it’s loyal Apple user base, 50 million plus tracks, ability to sync up with tracks already purchased on iTunes and live shows such as radio station Beats 1 which boasts well known DJs and musicians hosting its playlists.

Although aimed squarely at Mac and iOS users, Apple Music can be used on Android devices and Windows PCs via iTunes.


Qobuz

Free Tier: No

Current offer:

Thereafter:

  • Studio Premier tier £14.99 per month (£149.99 annually)
  • Sublime+ tier £24.99 per month (£250 annually) 

French streaming service Qobuz makes no pretense towards the compressed audio that the other services are prepared to handle in their lower cost tiers (or indeed, all the way up through their service if they’re Spotify!) and instead commits wholeheartedly to musical integrity. As such, Qobuz probably beats all the other music services when it comes to the quality of its files.

The entire library of tracks are played in the lossless FLAC open standard format meaning CD quality on all the music Qobuz provides. There’s also nearly a quarter of a million Hi-Res album tracks which display a gold Hi-Res logo and the relevant bitrate, though listeners will need appropriate audio equipment to make the most of the high resolution audio quality. All this is available in the Studio Premier plan which also allows DRM free downloads of CD quality and Hi-Res albums, while the Sublime+ tier comes with additional savings on downloads.

The available library might not suit those who just want the latest pop and dance tracks to boogie on down to since there is a notable classical, world music and jazz presence to the music on offer.


Google Play Music

Free tier: Yes (ad supported, upload songs only)

Current offers:

Thereafter:

  • Individual plan £9.99 per month
  • Family plan (up to 6 people) £14.99 per month

Google Play Music offers 40 million tracks to subscribers, along with offline listening and ‘radio stations’ based around moods or activities. The service will also allow up to 50,000 tracks from a user’s music library to be stored on its servers even if not subscribed, while the £14.99 per month Family plan allows up to six users access across ten devices. 

Google Play is undergoing something of a transition at the moment as it prepares to become part of YouTube Music and a Google Play Music subscription gives you automatic membership of YouTube Music. 


YouTube Music Premium

Free Tier: Yes (ad supported, )

Current Offer:

Thereafter:

  • YouTube Music Premium Individual plan £9.99 per month
  • YouTube Music Premium Family plan £14.99 per month (up to 5 people aged 13+)
  • YouTube Music Premium Student plan £4.99 per month

Launched back in 2015 by Google, one of YouTube Music Premium’s big selling point, not unsurprisingly, is the addition of a huge number of music videos that come with the package. While this might appeal to many, there’s also the option of turning these off to just concentrate on the audio (while saving battery life and mobile data) which can encompass many live, rare and alternative versions of well known songs. 

The app is available through Sonos speakers and Google Home devices and the audio is streamed at 256kbps in the AAC format. Still, for many, the option to watch long forgotten video gems from the heyday of MTV (if there are no rights issues) will be the biggest draw.


SoundCloud

Free Tier: Yes (limited to 64kbps)

Current Offer:

Thereafter:

  • SoundCloud Go £5.99 per month - removes ads and allows downloads
  • SoundCloud Go+ £9.99 per month access to all tracks and improved audio quality 
  • SoundCloud Go+ for students £4.99 per month
  • SoundCloud Pro £7 per month (or £63 annually) for musicians / uploaders
  • Soundcloud Pro Unlimited £10 per month (or £90 annually) for unlimited upload time plus SoundCloud Go+ for £4.99 per month 

More of a repository for the internet music community than an outright streaming service, this is ideal if you fancy a musical road less travelled. Featuring 150 million plus songs, podcasts and remixed oddities from unknown and up-and-coming artists, there’s a community spirit to the experience since users can connect directly with like-minded fans and even the artists themselves. If you fancy a break from mainstream artists, this could be the service to go to next.


Primephonic

Free Tier: No

Current offer: 

Thereafter:

  • Standard tier £10 per month (or £100 annually)
  • Platinum tier £15 per month (or (£150 annually)

For fans of classical music, Primephonic claims to offer over 3.5 million tracks and provides helpful navigation and curation for those who may be exploring the genre for the first time.

The Standard tier delivers music as 320kbps streams while the top end plan moves to 24bit FLAC streams. There are a few missing contemporary artists and there’s no desktop app but the high audio quality and option to play offline should persuade most classical fans to at least give it a try using the 2 month free trial period.


Popped at the end for the sake of completeness, TuneIn Radio and Jango qualify as online radio services rather than streaming services, but still have something to offer.

TuneIn Radio

Free Tier: Yes

Current Offers:

Thereafter:

  • Premium version for $9.99 per month following 7 day trial
  • Premium version for $99.9 annually following 30 day trial

TuneIn Radio spreads its wings beyond just music (though there is plenty of that via the myriad of music radio stations that can be found by region or genre) to encompass sport, news, discussions and podcasts both local, national and global.

Essentially free to use, unless you are desperate for the live play-by-play of every NFL, MLB, NBA and NHL game plus commercial-free news from MSNBC, Fox News and CNBC that the premium plan brings. 

Jango

Free Tier: Yes (ad supported and limited track skipping)

Providing over 800 curated playlists, Jango is a great way to quickly start listening to music. Simply search for an artist or genre and Jango will serve up playlists featuring your chosen artist as well as those in a similar vein.

There’s no option to pay for the Jango service since it’s funded by ads so if you just use the search and listen functionality it will throw in the occasional audio ad. Creating a free account reduces the incidence of these to one per day if you link your account to your facebook account. Even better, the mobile apps are currently ad-free.

You can influence which tracks you here by liking favourites and banning those you don’t like so the playlist / stations get more tailored to your tastes though if you want to save these preferences you’ll have to sign up


And that completes our run through the main music streaming services currently available. They all rotate and re-introduce their deals and trial periods so if you don’t fancy what’s on offer now, or you just missed an attractive bargain, you have the option of waiting to see if it returns or something better is introduced later on.

Which of these streaming services do you swear by and what would make you give it up for one of the others? Why not drop into the chat thread and see what others are using? 

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