Explore the best music streaming services for fans on a budget. Student discounts, free trials, internet radio and library streaming help fans listen for less.
If you’re a music fan on a budget, a “premium” streaming subscription isn’t always your top choice for spending your cash. Besides, paying full price for streaming music takes money out of your concert fund.
Luckily, there are a number of free and/or low-cost ways to kick out the jams without maxing out your credit card. For starters, several of the best streaming apps—including Spotify, Apple Music, Deezer and Tidal—offer individual student discounts of up to 50% off, perfect for providing the soundtrack to your next study session.
Speaking of study time, your local library is a valuable source of free streaming music. With your library card, you can log into nonprofit streaming services to check out digital copies of your favorite albums. It’s also a great way to check out your kids’ favorite albums without totally wrecking your recommended playlists.
Sometimes you want somebody else to make the playlist. That’s where internet radio comes in. For the low cost of free, you can tune into one of thousands of radio stations from around the world. Fill your earbuds with the sounds of top 40 hits or go crate digging with underground DJs—there’s a virtually unlimited number of talented DJs spinning online 24/7.
Excited yet? Keep reading to learn more about the best ways to stream music on a budget.
Surf the web of internet radio
Broadcast lovers, rejoice! Radio is here to stay, and the airwaves are online. Watch out TikTok, because discovering new music has never been easier, thanks to the efforts of radio DJs broadcasting live from around the globe.
A simple google search for “radio stations near me” should get you started with local stations in your area, but more adventurous listeners will want to dig deeper. Members of nonprofit public radio stations like KEXP in Seattle and New York’s WFMU tune in daily for an eclectic mix of modern hits and deep cuts that’s hard to find in a streaming algorithm.
Save with student discounts
Your .edu email address is a golden ticket to the best music streaming apps. Spotify, Apple Music and Tidal offer student discounts for around $4.99 a month, with various perks.
Spotify’s Premium Student plan includes an ad-supported Hulu subscription with Showtime, and the three-in-one bundle is easily the greatest value of the bunch, but with a few caveats.
As of this writing, Spotify lacks a hi-fi subscription tier, so audiophiles wanting lossless audio should look elsewhere. Spotify also requires student account holders to re-confirm their enrollment status once a year (up to four years), which is mildly annoying but a small price to pay for unlimited music, podcasts, movies and tv shows.
Tidal offers students 50% off the HiFi and HiFi Plus tiers. For $4.99 a month, students can enjoy Tidal’s HiFi music and video library for the same price as Spotify. Or, for $9.99, students can unlock Tidal’s full potential with HiFi Plus—adding Master Quality Audio streaming plus the immersive Dolby Atmos and Sony 360 Reality Audio spatial audio formats.
Students with Apple Music can receive all the benefits of the Individual plan—lossless audio, Dolby Atmos, and more—for $5.99 a month for up to four years if they remain a student. Deezer also offers a student plan, but enrollment is limited to students aged 18-25 years old.
Borrow a stream
The best new music is streaming at your local library. That’s right, card-carrying members of participating library systems can literally “borrow” a stream of the hottest new tracks for free.
Check with your local librarian because platform access varies by location, but services like Hoopla, Freegal Music and Kanopy provide library patrons with free access to music, movies, audiobooks and more. All you need is a library card. And the best part? No late fees.
Library streaming apps are kid-friendly, too. Hoopla and Kanopy include a separate Kids’ interface to help youngsters locate age-appropriate content. New titles are added weekly, so there’s always something new to hear.
Naturally, the selection on library apps isn’t as complete as what you’d find on Spotify, but they’re great for casual music fans or kids who aren’t ready for a paid subscription just yet.
Share a family plan
Parents (or anybody with roommates) can get the most for their streaming dollar by sharing a family plan. Several streaming services offer discounted family plans, including Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music Unlimited, YouTube Music, Deezer and Tidal.
Each platform’s family plan is competitively priced at $14.99 (except Spotify Family, which costs an extra dollar) for up to six accounts. But before you text your five closest besties, take note that all family plan account holders must live at the same address, regardless of which streaming service you choose.
Curious which streaming service is right for your family? Check out our article to learn the pros and cons of the top streaming platforms.