Whatever you do during your waking hours – work at home or away from it; commuting in a car, a train or by walking from your bedroom to your living room; or spend your days watching the kids or looking for a job – you probably spend at least some of that time listening to music. But where do you find that music? And if you already have a site that you visit regularly, would you like to try something new?
There is now a wealth of streaming music services available for anyone who wants to listen and experiment. Some offer both free and paid subscription versions. Others are completely free.
We asked the staff of The edge to tell us about their favorite music streaming services. Some listen to major outlets such as Apple Music, Spotify or YouTube Music, while others have discovered lesser known but interesting locations.
This is what they recommend.
For some reason, my partner and I have become addicted to the popular music of the early 20th century, usually the 1920s and 1930s. Fortunately, in recent years we have become familiar with the sounds of Cliff Edwards, Bessie Smith, Ruth Etting, Annette Hanshaw, Paul Whiteman, Cab Calloway and Ethel Waters. (Here she is, in one of her unfortunately few film appearances, singing “Birmingham Bertha.”So we spend a lot of time listening to Radio Dismuke, a little-known streaming service sponsored by Music preservation in the early 1900s, which gives us a constant diet of early 1900s pop and jazz. – Barbara Krasnoff
Soma fm started life as a true micro power radio station in San Francisco in 1999, but took over to the Internet in 2000. Since then it has been one of my favorite audio sources. The site has tons of different genre stations. While I’m at work, I jump in between Groove Salad (ambient / downtempo), Secret agent (think classic Bond meets modern sensibilities), and Drone Zone (very chilly). Early 2000s Indie Pop Rocks was my secret weapon to find new bands that my friends didn’t know yet. When the holidays come, Soma holiday stations will make your party twice as festive and half as corny. There are apps for all platforms, but if you use it Switch for terrestrial radio the Soma stations are also listed there. It’s all free, but if you use it a lot, find a way to do a little chipping – after more than 20 years of streaming, Soma deserves it. – Dieter Bohn
Most of my time on YouTube is not spent watching videos; it is listening to music. YouTube Music is everything I wanted from Google Play Music, plus some. The music catalog is incomparable, mainly thanks to users uploading music that is otherwise not available on streaming services. It has recent hits and full albums if you want to use it, like Spotify, for example, but my destination is for listening to uploads of older music or obscure tunes, live performances and compilations of video game soundtracks. (For some reason, I know the Ghost trick original soundtrack by heart, but I haven’t played much of the game.) I’m always a little concerned that my favorite playlist or an upload of a hard-to-find album will be deleted, but maybe it’s that rush that I’m listening to there these days more often than any other music streaming service.Cameron Faulkner
I confess that I don’t regularly listen to 8tracks these days, but using them is a predictable way to trigger a burst of nostalgia. The streaming service was launched in 2008 and allows users to upload playlists of at least eight songs (or 8 songs). You can search through playlists based on their tags (including artists, genre, or “mood”), but you can’t see the song list in advance. They are revealed while you listen. You also only get three skips per playlist per hour. The forced discovery helped me find songs and artists that I would never have listened to. 8tracks shut down in December 2019, but was brought back to life last April by a new startup called BackBeat. All the playlists I made in high school are still intact, but they’re very embarrassing – so I’ll keep that username a secret. —Nicole Wetsman
KEXP, a Seattle public radio station, is my favorite radio station in the world. It mainly plays alternative and indie rock, but there are also weekly blocks of completely different genres, such as blues, Latin music, songs entirely by Pacific Northwest artists, and my wife and I especially enjoy reggae on Saturday mornings. We regularly stream the station to our kitchen speaker while eating or doing chores. The music selection is always excellent, and it is also a regular reminder of the city where we met and fell in love.Jay Peters
As The edge’s regular Post Malone fan, I recently discovered Aux Live when a recording of his performance at PostyFest in 2019 was shown. My first intention was to only keep the subscription long enough to watch that one concert, but in the end I really enjoyed the service. Aux Live is a music-focused service offering a range of live concerts and documentaries across an extensive range of genres and legendary artists. It works both in the browser and through the app. It costs $ 4.99 a month, but that feels reasonable given the sheer number of artists featured on the service. —Kaitlin Hatton
After buying a portable DAC to listen to higher resolution music on my phone, I was looking for a place where I could actually do it listen to music with a higher resolution. I found Qobuz, which allows you to stream songs with a sampling frequency of up to 192 kHz and a depth of 24 bits. You can also buy high-resolution songs or albums and download them from the Qobuz store without subscribing to the service. Revisiting some of my favorite albums that I listened to during my iPod days gave me a renewed appreciation for those recordings, and I ended up paying more attention to the way they were mixed and mastered. —Andru Marino
Okay, fine – I’ll be the boring employee who recommends Spotify. Yes, other streaming services may offer better audio quality or curation, but Spotify has a nice user interface and compatibility with almost every piece of streaming hardware on the market, which is really all my basic music taste needs. And soon, with the launch of Spotify HiFi later this year, the audio quality will get a big boost. It helps that I’ve been using Spotify for almost a decade now, so it has almost unlimited data on me to create custom playlists tailored to my tastes. The daily mixes are far from perfect, but they are good enough that I use them regularly when I can’t be bothered to pick a specific band to listen to. – Jon Porter
I use Apple Music for a very specific reason: because it allows me to listen to music not on Apple Music. Let me explain. A solid 10-15 percent of the music I listen to isn’t on Spotify or any other streaming service. Whether it’s something I made or one of my friends made, a rip from a long forgotten song posted on YouTube or SoundCloud, an album that too copyright infringing be allowed on streaming services, or just music that is on Bandcamp, but no streaming services, I still want a good way to sync all the music I like across devices – and Apple Music does a great job of that. I just drag and drop something into the application formerly known as iTunes, and in a few moments it shows up on my iPhone, syncs with my iPod, and can even be played through my HomePods. I’d write more about how much I love this one aspect of Apple Music, but honestly, I’m starting to sound like an annoying hipster, even to myself. —Mitchell Clark
Did you know that you can listen to more than 200,000 concerts in sound quality without loss for free? And I mean really free. The Live Music Archive, part of the Internet Archive, houses a huge vault with live performances from a wide variety of artists who have given their blessing to have concerts traded among fans. Yes, there is a ton of Grateful Dead material and jam bands in it, but the LMA also includes hundreds of recordings from acts like the Drive-By Truckers, John Mayer, Elliott Smith, Smashing Pumpkins and more. Every now and then I start searching the archive and land on a gem I hadn’t heard before. Most are public recorded shows as commercial releases are (understandably) not allowed.
Now, the Internet Archive isn’t exactly known for its intuitive navigation, and the Live Music Archive site can be very clumsy to use. Fortunately, there are apps such as this one for iPhone or this for android that serve as easier-to-browse portals for everything in the live music archive, complete with features such as offline downloads.Chris Welch