The holidays (whatever your version), the New Year, family gatherings, end of the year festivities, all make me think about setting a mood. Music is an integral part of ambiance, emotion, celebration, and motivation. For many of us, music brings back memories of fond events or times in our lives.

But we don’t listen to music the way we used to. Gone are the days when we had to carry around CDs, cassettes, or purchase vinyl.

Streaming music services and smartphones, tablets, even computers, now give us access to massive libraries of songs with just a few taps. Whether in your kitchen, the car, or out for a run, music is easily accessible.

Besides the convenience factor, it’s relatively inexpensive to access streaming music. You can discover new music and change what you are listening on a whim because you don’t have to buy anything to check it out.

These services make listening to your favorite music easy because they let you:

  • Create your own groups of songs, called “Playlists.”
  • Listen to pre-curated ‘stations’ (like radio stations) where you can choose to listen by artist, genre, or mood.
  • Most of the paid versions of music services allow you to download music directly to your device so that you don’t have to use data or be connected to Wi-Fi to listen. It is important to note that once you stop paying, you no longer have access to the music, even if you downloaded it to your devices.

Music Streaming Service Options

There are a lot of streaming music services available, and they will vary depending upon your physical location.

Key factors to consider when choosing whether or not to pay for streaming include your musical preferences, budget, the frequency of listening, the ability to create playlists, download them to your devices, and whether you care about advertisements interrupting your listening.

Because there are so many services, we will highlight a few of the major players, and give you a glimpse of how to control what you are playing.

Spotify

Spotify is one of the top streaming music services for a few reasons, but the main one is how well it works across all platforms: iOS, Android, Mac, Windows, and now WatchOS. Spotify is also supported by most smart speakers, so it’s generally available on all platforms.

Some of the other plusses of Spotify are that it has an extensive collection of over 30 million songs and great playlist recommendations that cover the wide variety of tastes of most listeners.

Spotify’s pricing basically set the standard for many of the other music streaming services – from their free version to their premium and family options.

Apple Music

Apple Music is another dominant player tied to Apple devices. Apple boasts a catalog of 30 million songs and there are no ads in the subscription service. Their free service is minimal and not one I would recommend.

Apple Music offers a free three-month trial and is an excellent option if you have an Apple household: HomePod, Apple Watch, iPhone, iPad, Mac, or AppleTV.

Amazon Prime Music

If you are an Amazon Prime Member, Amazon Music is worth checking out. With your Prime membership, you have access to a library of 2 million songs for free. With their premium option, Amazon Music Unlimited, you have access to a catalog of 40 million tunes.

Amazon offers discounted Echo-only options, which may be appealing to you if you have an Echo or Dot household. Amazon’s trial period is limited to 30 days.

These are just a few options; others include Deezer, Pandora, Tidal, and Google Play Music. The great news is that all of these services offer free trial periods and no contracts, so you can test them out to see what works best for you.

One thing to note: if you are using the free version of any of the services you will have to deal with ads and a much smaller catalog of music.

It’s Time to Start Listening

Once you decide which music service you want, it’s time to start listening. Download the app to your devices, log in, control the music within the app of the service you choose, or if you have an iPhone, in the Control Center, and on the home screen.

And, before I forget, let me just say that a yearly subscription to a music service makes for a great Christmas gift for young and old. So, keep that in mind and happy listening.

How do you listen to music? Are you signed up for a service? Do you put up with ads and listen to a free option? Or do you prefer the olden ways of vinyl and CDs? Please share how you find your tunes in the comments below.

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