What is streaming music?

Lynn Wright / 19 February 2016

Fancy having 30 million songs in your record collection? Streaming music can give you just that for a monthly subscription fee – and best of all it’s completely legal.



Streaming music, where you can instantly listen to music piped to your PC over the internet, is exploding in popularity. 

Streaming music services provide an ‘always-on’ approach to music, where you pay a monthly fee to listen to as much music you like, when you like.

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What is streaming music?

Streaming music lets you play music over the internet, usually to a computer, without having to download the music track to your computer or other device. 

It’s similar to listening to radio, but with paid-for music streaming services you get to choose the songs you listen to.

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Why use streaming music?

Streaming music offers convenience, choice and an up-to-date music collection. 

Services, such as Apple Music and Google Play Music, provide access to as many as 30 million songs – including recent releases – for a monthly subscription fee of around £10. 

Some streaming music services offer free versions, but these have ads and you can’t select specific tracks – only music genres.

Services offering unlimited listening can save you fortune over buying albums and tracks. For instance, it would cost you over £30 million to buy the same music collection that is available on Apple Music, compared to it’s £9.99 monthly subscription fee that allows you to listen to all of it whenever you want.

The downside is the music you listen to isn’t yours to keep. You can keep listening to tracks as long as you pay the monthly fee. Stop paying, and you won’t get access to the music anymore.

Additionally, you’ll need fast broadband and ideally unlimited downloads if you plan on listening to lots of streamed music.

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How is streaming music different to downloading music?

Downloading music from a service, such as Apple iTunes or Amazon Music, means you pay to download songs. 

You’ll pay around £0.99 per music track, and around £8 per album. The advantage is you get to keep the music forever, and can listen to it across your devices, such as MP3 players.

Streaming music services, such as those from Apple, Amazon and Google, are catching up – and allow you to save streamed music and listen to it on your smartphone or PC using their music apps.

Music saved this way can be listened to even when you don’t have an internet connection, as long as you pay your monthly fee.

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Is streaming music legal?

While there are lots of illegal music sharing sites online, big brand music streaming services from Apple, Google, Amazon, Spotify and Last.fm are completely legal. 

They have the backing of the music industry, and pay artists a royalty whenever you listen to a song.

Should I use streaming music?

It depends. If you listen to lots of music, have a broad music taste and aren’t worried about ‘owning’ a music collection then streaming music is excellent value for money. 

If you prefer to own your music, and have fairly specific music tastes, then you might be better off sticking to downloads, CDs or even vinyl.

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.