Most people don’t buy individual songs or albums anymore. And why would you, when a monthly subscription lets you stream unlimited music from Apple Music, Spotify or Amazon Prime Music? And what’s even better than unlimited music? Free music!
Whether you want to listen to a specific song or get a mix from your favorite genre or something to match your mood, these free music apps for the iPhone are essential downloads
The Music app comes pre-loaded on every iPhone, but you can really unlock its power by using the Apple Music streaming music service.
Apple Music delivers virtually the entire iTunes Store to your computer and iPhone for just $10/month (or $15 for families of up to 6). A 30-day free trial lets you try before you sign up. Save songs for offline listening, create and share playlists, follow artists, and much more.
The service also includes a Radio service, featuring the Beats 1 station. Beats 1 is an always-on, worldwide streaming radio station programmed by top DJs, musicians, and tastemakers. Besides Beats 1, Radio includes a Pandora-style music service that builds its playlists based on the songs or artists a user likes.
8tracks Radio delivers millions of user-created playlists, as well as “handcrafted” playlists by experts and sponsors for every taste, activity, and mood. Provide the app some basic info about the kind of music you want to listen to or what you’re doing, and it serves up a set of matching playlists.
The free version of the app delivers all the core features, including creating and sharing playlists and listening to those made by others, but it also has ads.
Google Play Music
Google Play Music is a music service built around three major features: hosting your own music in the cloud, streaming new music, and internet radio.
First, you can upload music that you already own to your Google account and then listen to it in this app over the Internet without having to download the songs or subscribe. This makes a library of up to 50,000 songs available to you anywhere you have an internet connection, regardless of whether you have your phone handy.
Second, it has radio-style playlists based on genre, mood, activity, and more. (These are the same features that used to be part of the Songza app. A few years ago, Google bought Songza and later discontinued it.)
Pandora Radio is one of the most downloaded free music apps on the App Store because it’s simple and works really well.
It uses a radio-style approach, where you enter a song or artist and it creates a “station” of music you’ll like based on that choice. Refine the stations by giving thumbs up or down to each song, or adding new musicians or songs to a station. With a gigantic database of music tastes and relationships powering it, Pandora is a terrific tool for discovering new music.
The free version of Pandora lets you create stations, but you also have to listen to ads and it limits the number of times you can skip a song in an hour
Slacker Radio is another free music app that provides access to hundreds of radio stations from nearly every genre.
You can also create personalized stations based on specific artists or songs and then fine-tune them to match your tastes. In the free version, you need to listen to ads and are limited to skipping six songs per hour.
The paid tiers of the service give you more features. The $3.99 per month Plus version removes ads and skip limits, lets you listen to stations offline, customize ESPN Radio, and enjoy high-quality 320 Kbps streaming.
Get the well-known and widely used SoundCloud experience on your iPhone with this app. The other apps on this list simply provide you music; SoundCloud does that, but it’s also a platform for musicians, DJs, and other creative people to upload and share their own creations with the world.
While the app doesn’t allow for uploads on its own — the SoundCloud Pulse app covers that) — it offers access to all that music and the site’s other features, including discovery of new artists and social networking.
Streaming the official major-label releases from record companies on services like Apple Music or Spotify is great, but it’s far from the only place where new music debuts. In fact, if you’re really into hip-hop, you know that there are tons of great mixtapes coming out of the underground and hitting the streets long before official albums are released.
Spinrilla is your way to access those mixtapes without searching for them at local record shops or on street corners. This free app delivers new releases and trending songs, lets you comment on music, share it, and even supports downloading songs for offline playback.
Lots of people use Amazon’s Prime Video service, but the existence of its Music service is probably less well known. Still, if you already subscribe to Prime, there’s a lot in the Amazon Music app to check out.
Amazon Prime Music lets you stream a catalog of over 2 million songs, playlists, and radio stations. Even better, this is ad-free and is included in your Prime subscription. Plus, you can sign up for a family plan with six different users.
In addition to that, all music you’ve bought from Amazon – both as MP3 downloads and, in some cases, as physical media that has Amazon’s AutoRip feature – is available in your account for streaming and download.
Pretty much the biggest name in music streaming, Spotify has more users around the world than any other service. And with good reason. It’s got a huge music catalog, cool sharing and social features, and Pandora-style radio stations. It’s recently started adding podcasts to its collection, making it a go-to destination for all kinds of audio, not just music.
While iPhone owners used to have to pay $10/month to use Spotify on iOS devices, there’s now a free tier that lets you shuffle music and playlists without a subscription (you’ll still need an account). You will have to listen to ads with this version, though.
While most people think of it as a video site, YouTube is one of the most popular places for listening to music online. Think of all the music videos and full albums you find on the site. (Playing some of those songs and videos is actually counted towards the Billboard sales charts.)
YouTube Music lets you start out with a song or video you choose and then creates stations and playlists based on that. Like other apps on this list, stations learn your taste over time to serve up more music you’ll like.
Upgrade by subscribing to YouTube Premium for $12.99 per month to remove ads from the app, download songs and videos for offline playback, and play music even when your phone’s screen is locked