Looking for an alternative to Xbox Music? Try Beats Music or Spotify

Not happy with the Xbox Music platform? Take Beats Music or Spotify for as spin.

Xbox Music. It's more than just the app you love to hate right now on Windows Phone 8.1. It's also a music streaming and subscription service that spans nearly every device you own. It's available on Windows Phone, Windows, Xbox One, Xbox 360, Android, iOS, and the web. Xbox Music is the successor to the beloved Zune platform.

Right now I'm still happy with the overall Xbox Music service, even though I think there are a handful of ways Microsoft could greatly improve the service. That said, I acknowledge that the Windows Phone 8.1 app is still pretty bad. Though the Windows 8 app was terrible at one point, but now I'm very happy with it on Windows 8.1. So there's hope.

I've been getting a lot of questions about what are some other solid music streaming and subscription services available as an alternative to Xbox Music. I'm going to look at some of those alternatives to Xbox Music that make the most sense to those with a Windows Phone.

Alright, let me make sure this is crystal clear. We're not looking at alternatives to the Xbox Music app on Windows Phone 8.1, though that's a great idea for another post. Today I'm looking at alternatives to the overall Xbox Music platform. Just in case you were thinking of switching.

If I had to drop Xbox Music today where would I go? Beats Music in a heart… beat, followed by Spotify. I'll break down why I prefer Beats Music and Spotify over other services, but first we'll quickly glance at those other music platforms.

Potential music alternatives to Xbox Music

  • Pandora? Nope. You just stream with them and can't select a specific album or get access to offline music.
  • iTunes Radio? Lol, no.
  • Milk Music? No. Only available for Samsung devices with Android and it's technically powered by Slacker.
  • Slacker? A nice option actually, decent Windows Phone app.
  • Rhapsody? Another good option.
  • iHeartRadio? It's got a section like Pandora, but differentiates by offering 1,500 live radio stations from all over. Nice, but not quite the same as Xbox Music.

Beats Music

Why Beats Music? I've really liked the Beats Music service since it launched earlier this year. I of course have mixed feelings now that Apple owns the company. Nonetheless, it does everything from a music platform perspective that Xbox Music does, but it also does more.

I particularly like the curated playlists and social network aspect of Beats Music. Like Songza, Beats Music has playlists that aren't generated by some music algorithm, instead they're "handmade" by music experts in dozens and dozens of genres. It's hard to describe, but you can really tell the difference in song selection for a playlist made by a human.

Beats Music also has some social aspects that you might remember from Zune, but no longer get in Xbox Music. You can follow people, follow artists and other tastemakers. Social makes Beats Music feel more like a community than a just a music platform and it's really nice. When your friends make a playlist you get to check it out. That's a great feature that works to improve the music listening experience. Bands and artists can also create playlists for fans to check out.

The Windows Phone app works and actually has decent support. Beats Music has also been working on acquiring more Windows developers. The developer behind Weave News Reader recently went to work on the Windows Phone app for Beats Music. I wouldn't be surprised to see a Windows 8.1 app for Beats Music either.

Beats Music also has similar pricing for the subscription service. It's $9.99 per month or $99.99 per year for one person and three devices. AT&T customers can get a family subscription for $14.99 per month that gives access to five people and ten devices.

Where Beats Music falls short is song selection and the lack of a real music marketplace. I don't buy albums or singles anymore. So it's not a loss to me, but would certainly be to those who prefer to buy and outright own music. The catalog is also at a little over 20 million tracks. Which is shorter than Xbox Music's 38 million globally. Beats Music is also limited to the United States and that's why I'm also recommending Spotify.

Take the Beats Music trial and see what it's all about.

QR: Beats Music


Spotify is also a great alternative to Xbox Music, especially for those not located in the United States. You have a stellar desktop application for Windows and a decent app on Windows Phone. You need to be a paying subscriber to Spotify in order to use the app on Windows Phone.

Spotify does a few things that would make Xbox Music so much better. You can follow popular playlists, see what your friends are listening to and more. The catalog is also impressive and Spotify is available in a big number of locations.

Like Beats Music and Xbox Music, a premium subscription to Spotify will set you back $9.99 per month. You can have a free account for Spotify and listen to music with ads, but (as noted above) that won't fly on the current Windows Phone app.

QR: Spotify

Should I drop Xbox Music for something else?

Because of the Windows Phone 8.1 app? No.

Joe Belfiore took to Twitter yesterday to reassure Xbox Music faithful that they had no plans to drop support for Xbox Music or Xbox Video. His team is responsible for building the apps on tablets, PCs and phone. He also teased features would be coming to the app in a near future update.

I also think the overall service is still great. Especially if you're on Windows Phone. Using Windows Phone means you probably have a Windows 8.1 device and an Xbox One (or Xbox 360). I still think Xbox Music is the best music streaming service for someone invested into the Microsoft ecosystem. The phone app will get better and the team will hopefully flesh out the Xbox Music service with curated playlists, social features and more.

Spotify, Beats Music or something else?

If I had to stop being a paying subscriber to Xbox Music I'd go to Beats Music or Spotify, with a slight edge to Beats Music right now. But what about you? Where would you (or have you already) taken your music subscription business to? Sound off below in the comments. I want to hear what Xbox Music alternatives you like.

Sam Sabri