Streaming Audio: How To Choose?

One of the joys of having a smartphone is streaming audio—being able to listen to your favorite music, audiobook, lecture, podcast on demand.

Smart speakers such as the Amazon Echo make it even easier. But adding more streaming services to the bills you’re paying for streaming TV can feel like one bill too many.  The basic price for most streaming music services is $10.00 per month.  There are free alternatives, but in order to save money you have to settle for a smaller playlist, or listen to ads, or put up with other downsides.

Here are the most popular choices for music and podcasts:

  • Amazon Prime Music   Amazon has two tiers, one free one paid.  Amazon Prime Music is included free with Amazon Prime, which many seniors already depend on.   It has a free library of 2 million songs which may be fine for your needs.  If you want more you can upgrade to Amazon Music Unlimited which offers a 30-day free trial, 90 million songs, and an $8.99 introductory offer.   In addition to 90 million songs, Amazon personalizes your experience with curated playlists, podcasts, and favorite radio stations. Just tell your Alexa what mood you’re in and she will come up with a song (often the wrong one, but hey, nobody’s perfect).  Amazon Prime Music is covered in detail here.
  • Apple Music. $10 per month. If you’re in the Apple universe with an iPhone, iPad, Apple TV etc. you may want to go with Apple Music.   You can get started with a 3-month trial, the longest offered of any music service for over 75 million songs.  The more you listen the more it tailors recommendations.   Apple music also has a radio station called Beats 1 which is hosted by an actual DJ so you can enjoy a real radio experience.   Find out more about Apple Music
  • Pandora.  $10 for unlimited but has $5 for limited and free tiers.  Popular with seniors for ease of use and price. Offers streaming radio for free with ads or $5 per month without ads.   You can stream specific songs, but Pandora is best if you don’t want to be bothered searching for music.  It’s like a live radio station with recommendations tailored to you.   Since Sirius XM bought it, you also get some content from Sirius.  For a review of Pandora read this article.
  • Spotify. $9.99.  Or free with ads.   Spotify is the best-known and most popular of music streaming services, with more than 100 million subscribers, probably because you can get it anywhere—on its web player, downloaded on Windows Chrome or Mac, or with the app on Android or Apple phones.  It also lurks on TVs, smartwatches, and home video game players.  Spotify has one of the most diverse music selections of any streaming service. You can download songs and link accounts with the family package.  The search function actually works well, and the interface is senior friendly.  Added benefit:  lots of podcasts. This review of Spotify from PC Magazine calls it outstanding.

For a more complete list of music streamers check out this article by Consumer Reports or this one with detailed reviews.  Choose carefully because if you set up a playlist on one service it won’t be easy to move it elsewhere.   You’ll have to pay for a special app, or do it manually.


Erica Manfred’s articles and humorous essays have appeared in print and online publications including the Washington Post, Atlantic, Salon, Village Voice, and the New York Times.   A self proclaimed Geezer Geek, now in her seventies, she specializes in writing about aging.  She’s the author of four books, including her memoir,  I’m Old So Why Aren’t I Wise; Snarky Senior in the Sunshine State.   You can subscribe to her newsletter at or visit her website at


4 responses to “Streaming Audio: How To Choose?

  1. I am new to Spotify. It seems wonderful, but my question is how secure are the blue tooth networks you have to use to get it? I’d like to listen to it with ear buds through my cell phone, and on the car radio. I know blue tooth is a short distance network, but it is running quite close to my internet connection. Are the 2 mutually exclusive? I’ve had quite a few identity thefts with credit cards and then through PayPal, and email, that I’m leery of any new connectivity.

    1. Hello Susan,
      I am a Spotify user as well. When it comes to the interaction between your Bluetooth connection and Wifi, I can assure you that it is safe, as far as I know. For Wifi itself, it should also be safe if you have private wifi internet. Meaning that it is not public, and for people to connect to it, they have to know its password. I hope you enjoy some good music and podcast using your earbuds. Also be sure to join our Spotify class coming up.

      Thank you

  2. I also use none of the above. I like Mr. Conner’s alternative very much. Meanwhile, though, I use Astiga on my phone and stream my personal CD and .mp3 collection from cloud storage. Some tech savvy is needed, but if you are up for the project of saving the decades of music you have already paid for while eliminating the clutter of its outmoded delivery system, this works beautifully.

  3. None of the above !

    This is a commercial for commercial streaming stations. The world is full of streaming radio stations, available for free, but if you find a regular, send them a donation. Radio Garden is my favorite aggregator, I listen mostly to classical stations, Bru-Zane in Venice, and Classical Svizzerica in Berne, Switzerland.

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