What is the number one free music app?

Streaming music has become increasingly popular in recent years as more people adopt mobile devices and move away from purchasing and downloading individual songs or albums. Free music streaming apps provide users with access to millions of songs without any costs. According to a recent report, over 523 million people worldwide use music streaming services, demonstrating the huge demand for this technology (Source 1). The top free music apps attract millions of users by offering ad-supported versions of their premium services.

The industry is rapidly shifting towards streaming, with over 75% of the total music revenue in the U.S. coming from streaming services in 2021 (Source 2). Free streaming apps are incredibly popular because they provide users with free access to millions of songs. They generate revenue through advertisements and upsell premium subscriptions. This allows consumers to enjoy music without paying anything. The availability of free music apps is transforming the way people discover and listen to music.


Spotify is the world’s most popular audio streaming subscription service, launched in Sweden in 2008. Founded by Daniel Ek and Martin Lorentzon, Spotify allows users to search and play millions of songs and podcasts for free or by paid subscription without downloading files to a device. As of September 2023, Spotify had 226 million premium subscribers worldwide according to Statista.

Spotify’s key features include:

  • Access to over 82 million songs and 4.7 million podcasts
  • Personalized recommendations based on listening history and preferences
  • Playlists and stations curated by Spotify’s editors and algorithms
  • Ability to download songs and playlists for offline listening
  • Social features like sharing playlists with friends

In addition to the free ad-supported tier, Spotify offers premium subscriptions including Spotify Premium, Family, Student, and Duo plans. According to the company, Spotify has 574 million total monthly active users, with 273 million coming from its ad-supported free tier as of January 2023. Spotify is available in 183 markets globally and across a wide range of devices from mobile to desktop to gaming consoles.

YouTube Music

YouTube Music launched in 2015 as a music streaming service developed by YouTube. It was designed to integrate closely with YouTube’s massive video library while also providing the typical features of a music streaming app like playlists, recommendations and offline listening (https://www.reddit.com/r/YoutubeMusic/comments/10oxe8y/spotify_vs_youtube_music/).

One of the main advantages of YouTube Music is its deep integration with YouTube. Users can easily switch between music tracks and music videos, create playlists combining both, and get recommendations based on their YouTube watch history and likes. This gives YouTube Music access to an extensive catalog of official music videos, live performances, covers by YouTube creators, and other music-related video content that isn’t available on most competing services (https://www.digitaltrends.com/home-theater/spotify-vs-youtube-music/).

YouTube Music also stands out with features like Smart Downloads which automatically downloads up to 500 songs a user has previously liked on YouTube, making them available for ad-free offline playback. The Offline Mixtape feature uses this song cache to generate custom offline playlists based on the user’s listening history and likes.


SoundCloud was founded in 2007 by Alexander Ljung and Eric Wahlforss in Berlin, Germany with the aim of allowing emerging musicians to share their music and gain exposure (Wikipedia). It initially began as an invite-only service but opened up to all users in 2010. By 2011, SoundCloud had over 10 million registered users and was seeing rapid growth driven by its popularity with EDM artists and DJs who appreciated the platform’s focus on sharing mixes and unreleased music.

Over the next few years, SoundCloud continued growing at a fast pace. By 2014, it had over 250 million listeners (Business of Apps). However, as the service became more mainstream, SoundCloud was plagued by issues around copyright infringement as major record labels began cracking down on unlicensed music uploads. This resulted in controversial “takedowns” of mixes and bootleg remixes that had helped fuel SoundCloud’s initial viral growth.

Despite these challenges, SoundCloud remains a go-to platform for emerging artists and has over 76 million registered users as of November 2021 (Finances Online). While not as big as Spotify, SoundCloud retains an important niche in the music streaming space by catering to unsigned artists and communities like electronic dance music fans.

Amazon Music

Amazon Music is one of the top free music apps, with over 55 million users as of 2023 according to https://zipdo.co/statistics/amazon-music/. It is part of Amazon’s Prime offerings, allowing Prime members to stream over 2 million songs ad-free at no additional cost. Amazon has been aggressively trying to compete with streaming giants like Spotify and Apple Music. Amazon Music’s paid subscriber base grew by 104% in 2019 according to https://gitnux.org/amazon-music-statistics/, showing its momentum in the streaming music space. By the end of 2022, Amazon Music is estimated to have 52.6 million U.S. users, making it a major challenger to Spotify and Apple Music in that market according to https://musically.com/2023/02/17/report-amazon-music-is-rivalling-spotify-for-us-listeners/. With its large existing customer base through Amazon Prime and its continued growth, Amazon Music has established itself as a top free music app option.


Pandora was an early pioneer in internet radio, launching in 2000 with its Music Genome Project technology that analyzed songs based on musical characteristics to generate personalized radio stations for listeners. While Pandora initially only offered radio streaming, the company eventually shifted to also provide an on-demand streaming service more akin to Spotify or Apple Music.

Over the years, Pandora’s popularity and active user base grew steadily. In 2009 they had around 15 million active users, which grew to around 81 million active users by 2021. However, competition from other streaming services has impacted Pandora’s growth. In 2022 they reported around 50 million active users, a decline from the previous year.

Though no longer experiencing the explosive growth of earlier years, Pandora continues holding a strong position as one of the top free ad-supported music streaming platforms. Their focus on personalized radio provides a distinct offering compared to on-demand services. While the streaming landscape has gotten more crowded, Pandora’s original internet radio approach still attracts many listeners.

Apple Music

Apple Music is a major streaming player with deep integration into Apple’s iOS and ecosystem. As of 2022, Apple Music had 88 million subscribers worldwide, making it the second most popular music streaming service behind Spotify.

Apple Music is preinstalled on all Apple devices like iPhones and benefits from tight integration with iOS, Siri, and the Apple Watch. This gives Apple Music a leg up in onboarding new users within the Apple ecosystem. According to The Business of Apps, 56% of Apple Music subscribers are on iOS.

In the United States, Apple Music trails Spotify with an estimated 32.6 million subscribers as of February 2022, compared to Spotify’s 44.4 million. However, Apple Music still holds a strong second place position in the market and continues gaining new subscribers each year.


YouTube is the largest music streaming platform in the world with over 2 billion monthly active users who listen to music on the platform (https://www.businessofapps.com/data/music-streaming-market/). Users can stream music for free on YouTube by searching for songs, albums, playlists, music videos and more. While it was not originally designed as a music streaming service, YouTube has become the most widely used platform for streaming music globally.

However, YouTube has faced criticism over copyright issues and compensation for music rights holders. When users stream music videos and songs on YouTube, the platform pays royalty fees to music labels, publishers, songwriters etc. However, many have argued that the payout rates are too low compared to dedicated music streaming services like Spotify. The royalties are based on the advertising revenues generated on videos, which works out to a fraction of a penny per stream (https://www.theverge.com/2022/4/22/23036942/youtube-shorts-music-industry-royalties-tiktok). This has been an ongoing issue between YouTube and the music industry.


Tidal is a music streaming service that markets itself as a high-fidelity option for audiophiles. The service offers lossless audio quality and high-definition music videos at a premium price point. Tidal claims to pay artists higher royalty rates compared to other services (https://www.reddit.com/r/TIdaL/comments/rdc87v/how_many_subscribers_do_yall_think_tidal_has/).

In terms of positioning, Tidal aims to differentiate itself by focusing on sound quality rather than just convenience or cost. The service offers CD-quality lossless audio which appeals to listeners who care deeply about hearing music as the artist intended. Tidal also provides exclusive content and early access for fans.

Tidal has gone through several ownership changes since launch. Rapper Jay-Z acquired Tidal in 2015 through a $56 million deal (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tidal_(service)), aiming to boost the service’s brand profile. In 2017, Sprint purchased 33% of Tidal while Jay-Z retained ownership. Most recently in 2021, Square acquired a majority stake in Tidal led by Jack Dorsey. Despite these high-profile backers, Tidal has struggled to grow its subscriber base, estimated to be around 1-2 million globally (https://musicindustryblog.wordpress.com/category/tidal/).


When looking at the top free music apps, a few clear front-runners emerge. Spotify remains the most popular option, offering an unrivaled catalog of songs and playlists. YouTube Music provides official music videos and concerts. SoundCloud shines for undiscovered indie artists. Amazon Music impresses with integration into Alexa and Amazon Prime. Pandora still leads for personalized radio stations. Apple Music excels for those invested in the Apple ecosystem.

While paid subscriptions offer ad-free listening and advanced features, the free tiers of these apps provide a solid music experience. The ability to legally stream vast libraries of songs for free is an amazing modern convenience. The free apps monetize through ads and hoped-for premium conversions, while users get access to abundant music catalogs at no cost.

As music streaming continues to dominate how people listen, we can expect refinement of these apps along with fierce competition. Integration into smart speakers and high-end features like lossless audio will be key battlegrounds. But for now, Spotify remains the undisputed champ of free music.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *