While digital music downloads are on the decline, music streaming services are soaring in popularity, enabling you to pay a small fee each month, or even get the music for free if you can put up with advertising, and get access to huge music libraries to listen to whenever and wherever you fancy.
Spotify seems to be leading the pack when it comes to music streaming in the UK, but there are several worthy alternatives, including Deezer, which is growing in popularity. Here, we put the two head-to-head to determine which is best.
Worldwide, Spotify has 40 million users, with 10 million of those paying for the ad-free version, while Deezer has 16 million users, with five million of those coughing up cash.
The most important element of a music streaming service is the music, right? So we'll start by comparing the music libraries of Deezer and Spotify. Both have millions of songs available to listen to. Spotify has 20 million songs in its library, which reaches 55 countries, while Deezer has 30 million songs that reach a 182 countries.
The amount of songs available to each country varies, so it's likely that the reason for the higher song-count in Deezer's library is local music not available for the UK market.
We did find, though, that Deezer presented some extras for some of the artists we searched for, particularly offering live albums that Spotify seemed to lack. However, both Deezer and Spotify delivered perfectly satisfactory results for every musician we searched for, so we don't think you'll be disappointed by either.
Plus, more songs are being added to both every day, so if there's something missing from the library that you were hoping to listen to, chances are it'll appear at some point in the near future.
You'll be able to add the songs you find and like to your own playlists and favourites if you choose to in both Deezer and Spotify.
One of the big differences between Deezer and Spotify is the design and user interface, and we think we prefer Deezer. We like Deezer's light, clear and simple design across both the web/desktop versions of the service and the mobile/tablet versions, and think it's easier to navigate than the dark, quite complex interface of Spotify.
We found that we were able to get stuck in immediately with Deezer, but Spotify took us a bit longer to figure out. Once, we had sussed it, however, the two services became equally enjoyable to use.
Another big appeal of music streaming services is the discovery features. Music lovers are always looking for something new to listen to, and both Deezer and Spotify offer up recommendations for subscribers.
Deezer has a cool feature called Hear This (shown above), a music feed that's personalised for you. It shows you new albums and tracks from artists you listen to or add to your favourites, as well as Deezer picks based on your listening habits and playlists created by users with similar music tastes to you, so you'll never run out of tracks to listen to.We prefer Here This to Spotify's 'Discover' feature (shown below), which we found to be a bit hit and miss. Plus, Spotify doesn't recommend playlists in the Discover section, just artists, albums and individual tracks.
Deezer offers up 'Similar Artists' for each artist you search for, too, much like Spotify does with its 'Related Artists' tabs. Both services recommended largely the same artists during our tests.
Where we found Spotify to be better for music discovery, though, is in the Browse section. It has a much easier-to-use interface than the rest of the app, too. You'll be offered an overview, top lists, genres and moods, new releases and news in the 'Browse' section of Spotify. The genres and moods feature is particularly good, offering playlists that fall under categories like "Focus" for revision sessions or "Chill" when you're having a relaxing evening in.
Deezer's 'Explore' offering is similar to Spotify's Browse, but doesn't have quite as many options to help you find what you might be looking for. However, new 'Labels' and 'Eras' sections are coming soon so improvements can be expected.
Deezer and Spotify both offer Radio services in addition to the music streaming features. You'll find themed radio channels, partner radio channels and artist radio channels in Deezer, and lots of different genres available to choose from. The artist channels, for example, intelligently picks songs from the artist you've selected and similar or related artists. You'll get a limited amount of skips in the Radio feature on Deezer if you're using the free version, though.
Spotify's Radio feature is very similar to Deezer's offering up Artist Radio for the artists you like in the same way. There are also lots of genre stations to choose from. Spotify doesn't set a limit on the amount of skips you're allowed on each channel, though, so if you don't like a song that's playing you'll be able to skip right ahead to the next one, or the next one, and so on.
Deezer and Spotify also offer some extra features that we've not yet covered, and these features differ between the two services.
We love Spotify's 'On Tour' feature (above) which means you'll know if an artist you've searched for is playing a concert in your country any time soon. There's also a merchandise feature in Spotify, meaning you can find T-Shirts, badges, mugs and more from your favourite bands and musicians.
Social integration with Facebook is present across both Spotify and Deezer, allowing you to see what your friends are listening to. In this instance, Spotify has a one up on Deezer thanks to the bigger listener base, which makes it more likely that more of your friends will be subscribers.
Both Spotify and Deezer have Apps available to bring extra functionality to the service. Deezer's App Studio has more than 100 apps for anything from lyrics to chord extraction, while Spotify also has apps available in its App Finder feature on the desktop app. The apps available are very similar here, too.
Spotify and Deezer both offer free, ad-supported versions in addition to paid versions.
With the free version of Spotify, you'll get access to the entire library on mobile, tablet and computer, but you'll hear ads regularly between tracks. Plus, you'll only be able to listen to audio at a quality of 96kbit/s, which is quite poor compared with the 320kbit/s available at the top end for Premium subscribers.
Upgrading to the £9.99 per month Premium Spotify subscription will let you download music to listen to offline, and you won't hear any ads between tracks for uninterrupted listening either.
Spotify is currently offers a one month free trial of the Premium version, so you can see whether you think it's worth the £9.99 before you begin coughing up cash.
Meanwhile, Deezer's free version is not quite as good as the free version of Spotify, though a recent update means you'll now get access to the service (though it is limited) on mobile or tablet, in addition to the web. It'll come complete with ads, and is low quality audio like the free version of Spotify.
Deezer then offers two options for subscribers willing to part with their money. The first is £4.99 per month, and removes those pesky ads. It's still web access only, though, but does offer enhanced sound quality up to 320kbit/s.
Deezer's Premium+ option, which is currently being offered half price at £4.99 per month instead of the usual £9.99 per month for six months. With Premium+, you'll get the benefits of a Premium account in addition to mobile and tablet support and offline listening.
Spotify and Deezer are both available on a huge range of devices including Android, iOS, Windows, Windows Phone and OS X.
Overall, Spotify and Deezer are both excellent music streaming services, and if you've never tried a similar service before you should definitely give one a go to see whether you like this new way of listening to, sharing and discovering music.
We prefer the design and interface of Deezer, but once you're used to it, Spotify's interface is good, too. We also prefer Deezer's 'Hear This' feature to Spotify's Discover feature.
But Spotify's Radio feature is better than Deezer's, and the free version of Spotify will serve you better than the free version of Deezer will. Plus, the number of subscribers to Spotify is much higher, so if you're planning on sharing the experience with friends, Spotify might be the better option.