Free Music Online
Stream music free incl Spotify, Deezer, Apple Music
Want to listen to the latest and greatest hits without faffing about with CDs or forking out for MP3s? Whether you're a fan of Bieber, the Beastie Boys or The Beatles, here's our round-up of the best online music services that let you listen for free...
What is online music streaming?
The internet is a great way to browse, discover and pay for music. The music streaming industry has exploded in the past few years – according to the British Phonographic Industry, over 68 billion songs were streamed in the UK in 2017, a 52% increase on 2016.
What's the difference between streaming and downloading?
There are two ways to listen to music online:
Downloading. The first is by downloading the songs you want to listen to. This can be costly if you're doing it legally, especially if you're downloading a whole album of songs. Once you've paid for a track or album, it's yours to keep and listen to for as long as you like.
Streaming. The other way is online streaming, where you don't actually save the track to your phone, tablet, computer or other device, you just play it while you're online and every time you listen you're effectively 're-downloading' the track (unless you're on a plan with 'offline listening'). You'll only have access while logged in to your profile with the service (though many are free to use).
Streaming lets you listen to your favourite tracks and albums instantly. Its main boon is you get instant access to huge catalogues of music, without having hundreds of CDs cluttering up your house or thousands of MP3s cluttering up the memory of your devices.
These services are legal and above board, but the music is interrupted every now and then with an advert you can't skip. It can also be difficult to find the exact songs you want to hear, so streaming isn't for everyone.
Before you consider streaming, a word of warning: ensure your broadband and mobile data connection are fast enough and you've a generous download limit. While you're not actually downloading a track to keep, streaming will use up your monthly allowance. Otherwise you risk being hit with added costs and constant buffering.
As a general rule:
You need a high (or unlimited) download limit, or you could be slapped with gargantuan charges.
For example, if you're going to listen to about six hours of internet radio per week, and that is all you'll be doing, you'll need a monthly download allowance of at least 5GB.
If you're going to be streaming more music, or doing other data-heavy things, like streaming movies, it's worth considering a broadband package with unlimited downloads, so you'll not have the worry of exceeding your limit, and using Wi-Fi on your smartphone whenever possible. Full details in the How to get the Cheapest Broadband guide.
There are plenty of online music-streaming services that are legal, though thousands more aren't. The Government and internet providers are cracking down on the illegal ones, while some services only work in certain countries due to music licensing restrictions.
All those included below are legal, and will work in the UK.
Always check any software you put on your computer is suitable. Ensure it's compatible with your existing set-up. No liability can be accepted for any problems caused from acting upon the info given.
Music streaming isn't always free – but you can cut the cost when it's not
Many music streaming companies do offer free versions of their services, often with ads and/or certain limitations (such as lacking the ability to play offline). If you're happy to put up with these, then by all means go free.
If you want an ad-free, fully fledged experience, though, you'll need to upgrade to a premium subscription or consider a paid-only provider. Plans typically go for £10/month, though the good news is there are ways to cut the cost...
Most of the big names offer some sort of family or shared subscription, which lets multiple listeners (usually up to six) use the service each with their own profile and playlists.
One monthly payment is due for the entire group – and at £15/month they work out cheaper per person than individual plans. Obviously the more there are of you, the better value they become.
These providers offer family plans (for comparison they're normally £10/month per person):
- Paid-for Spotify (£14.99/mth)
- Paid-for Deezer (£14.99/mth)
- Amazon Music Unlimited (£14.99/mth, or £149/year if you've Amazon Prime)
- Apple Music (£14.99/mth)
- Google Play Music (£14.99/mth)
A (smaller) number of streaming services also offer student discounts on their individual plans – usually 50%. Eligibility is determined via Unidays/NUS Extra.
Providers with UK student discounts include:
Top free online music services
Here are a few music streaming providers with free versions worth considering, and remember there's no limit to the number you can use, so you could get thousands of hours' worth of music for absolutely nowt.
Probably the biggest name in online music, the Spotify streaming service works on a plethora of devices. It has over 200 million active monthly users globally and over 50 million available tracks.
It offers free music streaming on desktops, laptops and Android or iOS devices, though there are ads, you have to listen to tracks by adding them to a playlist and playing them on shuffle, you can only skip songs six times per hour and you must be online to listen. Alternatively you can pay to upgrade to its Premium service which offers ad-free, unrestricted streaming.
Spotify offers an array of clever extra features to both free and Premium users, including the ability to follow what friends are listening to on social media. You can also find music already on your computer and add it to your Spotify library, so you can listen to it on other PCs just by logging in to your account.
Spotify automatically generates daily and weekly personalised playlists based on the artists you follow and tracks you listen to most. This feature is available to free users as well as subscribers.
Used Spotify? Tell us what you think in the forum.
- Free 30-day trial available for Premium newbies – you'll be charged £9.99/mth automatically at the end unless you cancel.
- Spotify no longer allows payments for Premium to be made via Apple's in-app payment system, as it charged customers extra – you'll need to register direct with Spotify.
- The Spotify Family plan for sharing with up to five others (each with their own profile) costs £14.99/mth.
- The Student plan's available for £4.99/mth.
- Works on PCs, Macs, iPhones, iPads, Android phones & tablets, smart TVs, PS3/PS4, Xbox One.
On the scene since 2006, Deezer is one of the older music-streaming sites, with around 14 million active monthly users. It's a fully fledged free-streaming service supported by ads, though you only get access to its library on-demand via the web browser version.
As with Spotify, mobile and tablet users can only listen in shuffle mode and can only skip six tracks an hour, unless you're willing to fork out for the privilege.
Much like Spotify, you won't be able to listen offline or without ads if you're on the free version. Upgrading to Deezer Premium will let you listen without ads and in higher quality, offline, and without shuffle plus unlimited skips on a mobile.
The 'Flow' feature mixes your favourite tracks with new recommendations and old favourites based on your listening habits, creating an "infinite stream" of personalised music.
Used Deezer? We'd love to hear your thoughts in the forum.
- Free 30-day trial (15 days if you sign up via its app) available for Premium newbies – you'll be charged £9.99/mth automatically at the end unless you cancel. You can also sign up for a year for £99.90 (equiv £8.33/mth).
- Deezer Family (£14.99/mth) lets up to six people access an account at once.
- Deezer Student provides those enrolled at a college or university Premium access for £4.99/mth.
- Deezer HiFi (£19.99/mth) allows those who listen via the desktop app or selected soundsystems to do so in lossless (ie, very high) audio quality.
- Works on PCs, Macs and Android, iOS and Windows phones/tablets, selected smart TVs, Xbox One, Amazon Echo and Google Home.
There are over 150 million tracks on SoundCloud, and this continues to grow because of the scale of the service and ease of use for uploaders. This is unsurprising given that it initially launched as a platform for sharing music between artists.
However its popularity with consumers quickly led it to develop into a full publishing tool for musicians to distribute their tracks to the public, and it now boasts 175 million listeners a month.
Because of its focus on artists and getting new material published, SoundCloud is ideal for discovering new or smaller artists that you may not find elsewhere, and exploring trending music.
Since it introduced a paid option earlier in 2016, the free version has ads and you must pay to listen offline. SoundCloud Go costs £5.99/month and removes the ads and lets you listen offline, while SoundCloud Go+ (£9.99/month) gives you that plus access to every track and better quality sound.
Tried SoundCloud? Tell us about it in the forum.
- Free seven-day trial available for SoundCloud Go newbies – you'll be charged £5.99/mth automatically at the end unless you cancel.
- Free 30-day trial for SoundCloud Go+ newbies - you'll be charged £9.99/mth automatically at the end unless you cancel.
- Students can get Soundcloud Go+ for £4.99/mth (after a free 30-day trial).
- SoundCloud Pro, more for musicians/uploaders, costs £7/mth or £63/yr and gives you six extra hours of upload time and advanced stats on your tracks.
- Pro Unlimited costs £10/mth or £90/yr and gives you unlimited upload time plus Soundcloud Go+ for £4.99/mth if you want it.
- There are apps for iOS and Android devices, Windows computers and tablets and Xbox One. You can also use it via your web browser.
Jango is an online radio service rather than an on-demand music streaming service. It's funded by ads and while you can't listen to particular artists, songs or albums when you want, you can listen to radio 'stations' by artist or genre.
You don't have to register. Just type in an artist or genre, select your preferred result and your first station will start playing right away. For example, type in 'Adele', select 'Adele Radio' and it will play similar artists to Adele, such as Carly Rae Jepsen and Tove Lo, as well as Adele herself.
If you just want instant access to music, Jango is a good starting point. It enables you to 'like' or 'ban' songs so they are played more often or not all, and to customise stations, even without registering (although you'll have to if you want to save your stations and preferences). You can also skip six songs an hour.
The site also provides emerging artists with the opportunity to showcase their music by playing their songs alongside those of similar popular artists.
Jango is free because it's funded by ads, so if you use the service without creating an account, you'll hear an audio ad every so often, though it says it tries to keep these to a minimum. To hear fewer ads, create a Jango account and connect it with your Facebook account and you'll only get one audio ad per day. At present the mobile apps are ad-free.
Top paid-only music services, with free trials
The following music streaming services don't have free options, but they do offer free trials. Handy for sampling what's on offer before deciding whether you want to stump up the cash.
AMAZON MUSIC UNLIMITED* - 1MTH TRIAL, £9.99/MTH (£6.58/MTH EQUIV VIA TRICK)
Launched in the UK in 2016, Amazon Music Unlimited* is the online retail giant's answer to the likes of Spotify and Apple Music. It hosts "today's most popular artists", is ad-free and lets you listen offline. Yet unlike with Spotify there is no ad-supported free version.
Anyone can get it on a free 30-day trial. After that, the standard price is £9.99/mth, though you can choose between a few different plans...
Trick to get it for £6.58/mth equiv. Amazon Prime subscribers can get it for £79/year. But even if you don't wan to pay for Prime, you can do this. Simply sign up for a free 30-day Prime trial*, then pay for a year's Amazon Music Unlimited upfront – if you then cancel Prime, you get to keep Amazon Music Unlimited for what works out as the equivalent of just £6.58/mth.
Already had a Prime trial? Sign up for just one month to get it cheap. If you've already had a Prime trial and can't get another, you can sign up to a month of Prime for £7.99, then opt for the annual plan of Amazon Music Unlimited for £79 before cancelling. This takes the cost to £86.99 over a year (£7.25/mth equiv), so you still save – plus you get Prime for a month.
Share with the family and it works out even less per person. The family plan* gives access to up to six household members, each with their own account. One person pays – it's £14.99/mth, or £149/yr if you've Prime or a Prime trial (see above...). Obviously the more of you there are, the better the value – based on £149/yr it would come to £6.21/mth equiv each if there are two of you or £2.07/mth with six. But be warned – you'll have to set up a 'shared payment method', which can be used by any user of the family plan to make purchases on Amazon.
Remember, unless you cancel before your Amazon Music Unlimited annual subscription or trial is up, you'll be automatically charged to renew. As for Amazon Prime, it's an automatic £79/yr fee if you don't cancel your trial. For full help if you forget to cancel, see Reclaim Unwanted Amazon Prime.
Amazon Unlimited Music is entirely separate to the pre-existing Prime Music service. Prime subscribers can still use Prime Music* – with a more limited library of two million songs – free of charge. Songs not covered by your Prime membership have to be purchased.
One nice extra feature of Amazon Music Unlimited is its integration with the Echo home speaker. By speaking to it you can request songs by lyrics, year of release or mood. As with other premium music-streaming services, the more you use it, the more personalised your recommendations will be.
Here's a summary of the pricing:
Track library 2 million 50 million 50 million 50 million Offline playback Yes Yes Yes No Supported devices All (1) All (1) All (2) Amazon Echo or Fire TV devices only (1) Standard price N/A £9.99/mth £14.99/mth £3.99/mth Price for Prime customers Included £7.99/mth or £79/yr £14.99/mth or £149/yr £3.99/mth
Tried Amazon Music Unlimited? Tell us how you got on with it in the forum.
- You'll automatically be charged at the end of the free trial unless you cancel your subscription.
- The family plan lets up to six listen simultaneously for £14.99/mth (£149/yr with Prime).
- No student discount – though those with Student Prime can use the trick above.
- There's a £3.99/mth plan for use via an Amazon Echo/Fire TV devices only – not any other devices. To bag an Alexa device cheaply, see Amazon Echo Hacks.
- Prime membership gives one-day delivery on many items, film and TV streaming via Prime Video and a few other perks.
- There's an Amazon Music app for iOS, Android and Amazon's own 'Fire' devices, and for Macs and PCs.
APPLE MUSIC* - 3MTH TRIAL, THEN £9.99/MTH
Apple launched its much-publicised music streaming service in June 2015. As with Amazon and Google, there's no free, ad-supported version, but those new to Apple Music* can get a free three-month trial.
The free trial can be activated through the pre-installed Music app on your iPhone/iPad, iTunes on your Mac/PC or the Apple Music app for Android devices. You'll get all the features of paid membership for the duration of the trial, including access to its library of 50 million songs.
The paid version is £9.99/month if you don't cancel before the trial ends, though there is a family subscription that lets you and up to five others use the service, for £14.99/month. Students can get it for £4.99/month.
The most-touted feature of Apple Music is its live and on-demand radio station Beats 1, with shows regularly hosted by DJ Zane Lowe, "world-renowned DJs" and artists such as The Weeknd and Pharrell Williams.
As you'd expect from a paid-for service, you can listen ad-free online and offline and use the service across your compatible devices. Also, any music you've bought in the iTunes store will be synced to Apple Music so it's available to stream on all your devices.
If you don't take the trial and/or pay to subscribe, you can still listen to Beats 1 for free, but this is a very limited option – you can't listen to song on demand or skip tracks - which is why it didn't make it into our top free music services.
Used Apple Music? Tell us what you think of it in the forum.
- Paid subscription automatically begins when the free trial ends, so cancel before the trial period is up if you don't want to pay. .
- The Family plan lets up to six listen for £14.99/mth.
- The Student plan costs £4.99/mth.
- You can pay for Apple Music using iTunes and App Store vouchers, which can often be found discounted (check these are UK vouchers - overseas vouchers can't be redeemed in the UK).
- Works on Apple devices running iOS 8.4 or later, Macs and PCs with iTunes, and Android devices.
GOOGLE PLAY MUSIC -12MTH TRIAL, THEN £9.99/MTH
Google Play Music has been around since 2011. There's no fully free, ad-supported version, but much like its rivals it lets newbies try it for free (you need to have or create a free Google account) – currently you get a 30-day trial before you have to pay.
Those on the trial will get the same as paying members – on-demand access to its library of music ad-free, unlimited skipping, offline listening and 'radio' based around moods or activities.
Although there's no student discount available, you can get a family plan for up to six users/10 devices, for £14.99/month, which could be split among the member of a student household.
The feature that most sets Google Play Music apart for its competitors is the ability to store up to 50,000 tracks you already own in the cloud, for listening to (or downloading) anywhere you've got an internet connection. This makes it ideal for those who already have a significant collection of songs.
Interestingly, this feature is available to non-paying users, so by all means use it for this function alone if you want to back up your songs and listen to them online without paying a penny.
Have you tried Google Play Music? Tell us about it in the forum.
How to complain about a provider
If you're not happy about the service you receive from an online music service, you should contact the company first. However, if you're still not satisfied...
Free tool if you're having a problem
This tool helps you draft your complaint and manage it too. It's totally free, and offered by a firm called Resolver which we like so much we work with to help people get complaints justice.
If the complaint isn't resolved, Resolver will escalate it for free to the relevant ombudsman or trade body.