Are you an audiophile? If so, you can find hundreds of websites that provide audiophiles with ways to listen to, discover, and buy music. But with so many out there, what are the essential sites you should bookmark?
As is our wont here at MakeUseOf, we have uncovered the biggest sites for music fans in several categories. Whether you want to buy an album, stream endless songs, discover new music, or just learn more about it, these pages have what you’re looking for…
We start with the best services for streaming music, since buying music is so old-school, right? If you don’t like any of these services, check out the best music streaming sites that have zero restrictions.
Pandora is the king of internet radio, and for good reason. The service allows you to create a station from any artist, song, or genre and hear music similar to it. Rating the songs allows you to personalize your stations, but it’s also a great service for getting some music going without thinking too much.
You can listen to Pandora for free if you don’t mind putting up with ads and limited skips. Pandora also offers a $5/month Plus plan with ad-free radio and a few extra perks, and the $10/month Premium plan that allows for on-demand listening like the services listed below.
If Pandora is the best option for listening to “radio,” then Spotify is the boss of music streaming. In just a few minutes, you can sign up for an account and start listening to any song you want. Spotify has also expanded in recent years to offer a lot more than music, including podcasts and even some videos.
Spotify’s Free plan includes adverts and limits you to shuffle mode when listening on your phone. However, we think the $10/month Premium plan is a great deal if you don’t already subscribe to another service. You can use Spotify’s Web Player, but it’s pretty terrible, so you should probably just stick to using the desktop app instead.
Apple Music offers a similar package to Spotify, but it’s unsurprisingly tailored for those in the Apple ecosystem. The service prides itself on helping you discover new music and creating high-quality playlists. You can also merge your existing iTunes library seamlessly with the music you stream.
Apple Music is available on iDevices as well as Windows (via iTunes) and an Android app. Unlike Spotify, it doesn’t offer a free plan — after a three-month trial, you have to pay $10/month. Since the services are so similar, check out our comparison to see which is the best for you.
On the other side of the mobile coin is Google Play Music. It’s quite similar to Apple Music in that it doesn’t offer free on-demand streaming. However, with a free plan you can upload up to 50,000 of your own tracks and listen to radio. Subscribing to Google Play Music also includes YouTube Red, the premium plan for YouTube that removes the ads and grants paid subscribers some special features.
Google Play Music is available on the web as well as Android and iOS apps. Check out how it stacks up to Spotify and Apple Music if you can’t decide.
Spotify, Apple Music, and Google Play Music all offer almost exactly the same package. But Tidal, owned by rapper Jay-Z, works a bit differently. Tidal prides itself on high-fidelity music, and offers two plans: Premium and HiFi. Premium is $10/month, while HiFi is $20/month and provides you with lossless quality music.
Tidal also offers exclusive content, including music videos. It claims to pay more royalties to music artists, but as many of the owners are already millionaires we’re not sure if this is a big deal for most people. $20/month is a lot to ask for HD audio when other services offer “good enough” quality for half the price, though — so we’ll see if Tidal will stand the test of time.
Other Streaming Services
We could fill an entire article with various streaming services. But here are a few others worth your consideration if the above don’t fit your needs:
- Deezer: Another streaming app similar to Spotify, Deezer is fine but doesn’t do anything particularly standout.
- Napster: We checked out the new and improved Napster. Like Deezer, it’s a decent service and worth a look if you want to avoid the more mainstream options.
- Amazon Prime Music and Music Unlimited: Amazon offers two separate music streaming plans. Prime Music is included with a Prime Membership and features a limited catalog, while Music Unlimited is more akin to Spotify and Apple Music. The latter is $8/month for Prime members and $10/month for everyone else.
Do you prefer to purchase music so you aren’t tied to streaming and can load up your standalone MP3 player instead? Then here are your best options.
Until the music streaming revolution began, iTunes was the destination most people headed to purchase digital music. While paid music sales have declined, you can still buy music and load up your iPod Touch or iPhone, or listen in iTunes on your desktop.
Pricing varies, but as a general rule, new songs cost $1.29 each and albums cost $10 or $11. Deluxe albums, older music, and the like may feature different prices. If you buy a lot of albums, it’s hard to justify paying $10 for each one when $10 gets you Apple Music for a month though.
If you don’t have any Apple devices, Amazon is a great option for purchasing digital music. Once you buy some music, you can listen to it using the Amazon Web Player. If you don’t like this, you can also download your MP3s and listen to them through your favorite desktop media player.
Like iTunes, songs typically cost $1.29 each and new albums go for around $10-$11. If you want to go really old-school and buy a physical CD, Amazon also includes a digital version of the album at no extra cost. In some cases this is actually cheaper than buying the album digitally, like with Michael Jackson’s Thriller above.
Google Play Music, which is included on Android, offers a similar deal to iTunes if you want to purchase music instead of stream it. Visit the page for any album or song, and you’ll see options for buying it. Per the standard, songs cost $1.29 each and albums cost between $7 and $12 depending on their popularity and the number of songs.
Watch the homepage for specials if you want to get hold of music on the cheap.
A Note on the Microsoft Store
Microsoft recently announced the end of its Groove Music service in favor of Spotify. In fact, this also applies to its music sales. On December 31, 2017, Microsoft will stop selling music and focus on streaming instead. You will still be able to listen to music you’ve purchased in the past through the Groove Music app, but you will no longer be able to stream it.
This means you need to download any music you’ve purchased from the Microsoft Store before the end of 2017 to avoid losing it.
If you want to find new music or take your listening to the next level, these sites will help.
Last.fm has been around for a long time, but it once suffered from trying to wear too many hats and not wearing any of them very well. Over the past few years, Last.fm has completely revamped itself for the better. No more radio or pseudo-social network features; Last.fm is now solely about helping you to discover new music.
It does this by scrobbling — keeping track of the music you listen to everywhere and using it to recommend more music to you. This makes Last.fm one of the best ways to discover new music, so use the instructions to link your Last.fm account to your favorite music services and you’ll have new suggestions ready before you know it.
Listening to recorded music is awesome, but there’s no substitute for seeing your favorite band live. BandsInTown helps make sure you never miss a concert in your area. You can set how far you’re willing to travel for a show, and decide which bands you want to see notifications for. It’s an all-in-one solution for making sure you know when the artists you love are playing nearby.
Musixmatch is a premier lyrics website. If you’re ready to stop humming the parts you don’t know and instead actually learn the words to your favorite songs, this is a great site to bookmark. Enter any song, and you can view its lyrics in a clean layout. Generous contributors have also translated many songs into other languages.
If you follow any independent artists, you’ve probably visited Bandcamp a few times. This service allows artists to set up their own page with their music, merchandise, social links, and more. While the artist usually sets a price for their music, they can also use a “name your price” scheme and even let you download the album for free.
Many YouTube artists that create covers of video game music, or similar “alternative” types of music, use Bandcamp. It’s a great place to support musicians who can’t afford to host their music anywhere else, and you may even end up discovering your new favorite band.
Jamendo is a community for people who love music. It features hundreds of thousands of tracks from independent artists that you can stream and download at no cost. The interface is extremely polished, too. You’ll find hand-crafted playlists, a radio function, and you can even create an account to track your favorites.
What’s great about Jamendo is that the company helps artists make money by connecting them to people who need music for commercial use. Anyone looking for background music for a commercial, for instance, can visit Jamendo and get in touch with an artist who’s willing to license their music. It’s also one of the best ways to discover indie artists.
SoundCloud needs no introduction. It’s one of the most popular sites for uploading and sharing your music with the world. Anyone can use SoundCloud for their cover or original song, but there’s a lot more to the service than meets the eye, including some major artists. If you want to find music you’ve never heard before, this is a great site to visit.
SoundCloud offers two premium plans: SoundCloud Go and SoundCloudGo+. The former is $5/month; it removes the ads and lets you save music for offline listening. Go+, which we previously reviewed and found a waste of money when it was named SoundCloud Go, is $10/month and includes “premium” tracks. These are songs by “big name” artists like you’d find on other music streaming sites.
For our final category, let’s look at the best sites that dive deeply into music. These offer reviews, analysis, and more.
Genius is a site that lets you dig into your favorite music. Any user can sign up to help add information about albums, artists, and songs. If you search for a song, you can then see user annotations over its various lyrical lines. These let fans of a band discuss what they think the lyrics mean.
For some artists, you’ll even find links to interviews or other official sources where they confirmed the meaning of a song. Rounding out this collection of knowledge are brief bios and links to social media sites on artist pages.
Lyric interpretations are the coolest part of the site, but you’ll find music news and videos too. Join the community and you’ll earn “Genius IQ” points for contributing.
MusicBrainz is what you’d get if Wikipedia and IMDb had a baby that was exclusively interested in music. This site isn’t the prettiest to look at, but it contains a wealth of information about music. Like Wikipedia, it lets anyone contribute and like IMDb, it contains everything you’d want to know about an artist and their work.
You can search by a wealth of different criteria, but it’s a bit tough to navigate around the site for a few reasons. One of them is how the service keeps a separate entry for every album version, including deluxe editions, two-disc sets, re-releases, and the like. Also, it doesn’t organize searches by relevance. If you look up “Rush,” you get a no-name rapper and several other little-known groups before the band you’re probably actually looking for.
However, if you can look past the hiccups, this site has a lot to offer. It keeps a unique ID for every element on the site, helping you distinguish between two artists with the same name for example. If you look up a track, you can see every album it was released on, including greatest hits albums and covers. Open up a band member, and you might find that they were in other group for a time.
Take a look and you could discover some cool connections!
AllMusic is a good all-round music site. It features news, recent reviews, and editor’s choices on the front page. If you sign in, you can even get personalized recommendations based on your tastes. But we’ve included AllMusic on the list for two standout reasons.
The best thing about AllMusic is its recommendation feature. Whenever you visit an artist’s discography page, you’ll see a blue logo next to the site’s top album pick. Select any album, and you can also see top tracks for that release. This is a fantastic feature that helps newcomers to a band know which albums and songs to check out first.
Second is the Discover page. Visit this, and you can search by an impressive amount of filters. You can fine-tune your genre selection, recording type, and even moods and themes. Want to find some live acoustic Chicago blues music released between 1980 and 1987 that has a bittersweet mood and an empowering theme? You can look that up here.
What Are Your Favorite Music Sites?
In this guide we have provided a snapshot of some of the most useful music sites on the internet, whether you’re an audiophile or not. Whether you want to start streaming with a new service, purchase some music, discover some fresh tunes, look up reviews, or just learn about the music you love, these sites can help you out.
Of course, these are far from the only important music-related sites. We didn’t include SongMeanings, a good place for discussing lyrics if Genius lets you down, and Wikipedia, which is, of course, a great place to learn a bit about any artist, song, or album you care to mention.
For even more sites, check out the most important music sites for audiophiles.
Now we want to know what you, fellow music lovers, think. What websites do you consider essential bookmarks? Do you usually visit sites to listen to music, discover new tracks, or something else? Please add your favorite music sites to the list in the comments below!
Image Credit: peus/Depositphotos