Apps like Spotify, Tidal and Apple Music have changed the game when it comes to listening to music at home and on the go — access to millions of tracks from anywhere makes it seem like you have every song ever released at your fingertips. But if you’re paying for a subscription to any of those apps, you should be aware that there are a lot of ways to stream music for free as well. Here are seven of the best free music apps for iPhone and Android.
Spotify isn’t just one of the most popular subscription music apps, it’s also one of the best ways to stream music for free. You can sign up for a free Spotify account and listen to the service’s full catalog of 90 million songs, though you will have to contend with ads and albums set to “shuffle mode.” Those drawbacks aside, Spotify doesn’t hold much back; you can search for artists, albums and songs, and you can favorite songs and artists for later. Spotify also throws in podcasts, playlists, and music sharing with friends. Download Spotify for iPhone or Android.
Pandora works a little differently than most music apps in the sense that it’s structured like a radio with stations built around musical styles. Choose an artist, for example, and you can listen to their music along with tracks by artists with a similar style. Rate the songs Pandora plays to fine-tune the app’s recommendations. If you register for a free account, you can use the same settings and favorites on multiple devices, or subscribe to remove the ads. Download Pandora for iPhone or Android.
Audiophiles love Tidal because it offers high-fidelity, near-lossless tracks, but until recently it offered no free tier. That’s changed now; Tidal Free gives US users access to Tidal’s usual array of more than 90 million tracks, but does it with limited commercial interruption and a more modest 160kbps sound quality — similar to what Spotify and many other music services offer. Moreover, you’ll only be able to choose shuffle play, rather than choosing specific tracks. Even so, it’s a good introduction to the streaming service, in case you want to try out the catalog before stepping up to the paid version. Download Tidal for iPhone or Android.
One of the oldest music streaming apps, iHeart has lost the “Radio” from its name but still works much like a modern radio, allowing you to favorite and follow artists and stream their music or listen to a vast array of radio stations, both local to you (you can search by zip code) and internet radio. iHeart is also a comprehensive hub for podcasts as well. The app has some other interesting features, like the ability to set a sleep timer that turns off your music after a set period of time. Download iHeart for iPhone or Android.
Don’t be confused by the free trial screen the first time you start TuneIn; you can dismiss it with the nearly invisible X in the upper corner and use the app for free, with commercials, of course. And like iHeart, TuneIn’s specialty is radio. You can stream a very wide selection of radio from this app, including local radio as well as talk radio, music stations, news, and sports from around the globe. There are more than 100,000 stations in total, and you can save your favorites for easy access. And like iHeart, TuneIn has podcasts as well. Download TuneIn for iPhone or Android.
Perhaps because YouTube has become such a popular hub for music videos, YouTube Music is here with a dedicated streaming music experience. The free version is ad-supported, of course, but you can upgrade to the ad-free version for $10 per month. Either way, the app delivers smart recommendations based on your preferences and has a large library of audio-only and videos (including live performances) to choose from. Particularly welcome: Many songs have lyrics as well. Download YouTube Music for iPhone or Android.
While the other apps will give you access to mainstream and popular music, SoundCloud is where you can go to get the scoop on new, upcoming, and user-generated music you won’t hear elsewhere. It’s a popular resource for people to upload their own home-recorded tracks and for undiscovered artists to share their art. There’s a vast library of music waiting to be discovered here, and SoundCloud gives you great ways to find music you might otherwise never have experienced — including a novel fast forward button that lets you slip around within a track. Download SoundCloud for iPhone or Android.