What's the best music streaming service?

Let's crowd-source an answer to this important question, with a special eye toward families with multiple users.

Rick Broida Senior Editor
Rick Broida is the author of numerous books and thousands of reviews, features and blog posts. He writes CNET's popular Cheapskate blog and co-hosts Protocol 1: A Travelers Podcast (about the TV show Travelers). He lives in Michigan, where he previously owned two escape rooms (chronicled in the ebook "I Was a Middle-Aged Zombie").
Rick Broida
3 min read

Whew! The deals are flying fast and furious this week as the month-long ramp-up to Black Friday nears the home stretch. Want a sneak peak at what next week will bring? Look no further than CNET's Black Friday tech-deal roundup.

Today, however, let's talk. Let's put away the wallets and discuss a subject that's been on my mind a lot lately: music streaming services.

Because I'm of a certain age, I'm accustomed to buying music. First it was records (yeah, I'm that old), then cassettes, then CDs, and finally digital downloads. Of course, this has resulted in a fairly sizable collection, one that's becoming increasingly burdensome to manage.

For example, if I buy a song from, say, Amazon, then I have to download and sync it to iTunes so it can get to my iPhone. If the wife wants to listen, I have to copy the song to her computer and sync it to her phone. Meanwhile, I have to keep all my downloads organized and backed up, and let's not forget syncing them with a cloud service like Google Music?

Sure, I could restrict myself to a single ecosystem, maybe leverage a match service to consolidate things a bit, but at this point I just want to make life simple. And that means subscribing to a streaming service.

I have resisted this option for as long as I can remember, because it amounts to renting music -- and doing so for pretty much the rest of my life.

But you know what? I pay for Internet, I pay for phone service, I pay for cable. And I'll be doing so for pretty much the rest of my life. Is another $10-15 per month going to break me? Especially considering what I'll get in return?

What I'll get in return is a massive library of unlimited on-demand music. No storage to deal with, no backups to worry about, no syncing or copying or ripping. My phone? Bam, all the music of the world. My tablet? Same. Laptop? Same. I'm in it as much for the convenience as for the catalog.

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    All this raises the question: which streaming service is best, especially for families? I've been poking around the likes of Beats Music, Rhapsody, Spotify and the like, and with some of them you really have to dig deep to figure out how many users and/or devices are supported for any given subscription -- particularly how many devices can play simultaneously.

    For example, I've been all through Rhapsody's site, and nowhere can I find any mention of how many mobile devices I'm allowed to use as part of a Premier subscription. (Turns out it's one at the $9.99 per month rate, or three if you bump up to $14.99 -- but, again, this isn't documented anywhere I can find.)

    Thankfully, all the major services offer free trials, and I already have some thoughts on which way I'm going to go -- but I'd like hear from you, cheeps. If you're using a music subscription service, which one, and how do you like it? And if you've found one that's an especially good deal for families, let's hear about that, too.

    Of course, if you think no self-respecting cheapskate would go this way, hey, I can take it. Tell me why my newfound logic is flawed.

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