By Scott Baughman

As the calendar page, and thermometer, flip on over for the beginning of summer season there’s more than just sunlight and the smell of sizzling meat on the grill wafting through the air – there’s also some righteous tunes!

But long gone are the days of fiddling with cassettes or CDs when you want to bust out some jams at the cookout or on your epic summer road trip. No, these days you can either play songs from your online library of MP3 or other music files, or you can stream music directly from the internet with your smartphone, tablet or other device.

The question is, which service do you want to use to stream those sounds? Fear not, your friendly-neighborhood technical writer is here to help out.

Of the various streaming services out there these days, three pretty much dominate the market and are constantly jockeying for the top position. They are Google Play Music, Spotify and Apple Music. Here’s a little breakdown of each along with some discussion of their monthly fees:

Google Play Music All Access – later rebranded just Google Play Music – was first launched in 2013 and currently boasts 35 million songs. On top of that, users can upload 50,000 of their own songs to Google Play Music which will then be added to their library for streaming, which is a great way to carry around your personal collection without taking up space on your device. Any music you purchase on Google Play Music will also be added to your collection. A single account costs $9.99 while a family account can contain up to six members and costs $14.99. You can use Google Play Music for free, but you’ll be limited to using radio stations with ads and listening to music that you have personally uploaded to the service – without ads.

Spotify was first launched back in 2008 and currently advertises more than 30 million songs in their catalog. A single account costs $9.99. Spotify is in the works for revamping their family plans, but for now a family plan is $9.99 for the first person and then $4.99 for each additional person. You can use the service for free and you’ll get most of the features as long as you don’t mind some advertisements.

Apple Music began life as Beats Music but was officially launched in its current form in 2015 and their catalog includes over 30 million songs. On top of that, users can upload up to 100,000 songs to iCloud to be streamed back to them, which is very similar to Google Play Music. Each song can be up to 200MB in size. Any music you have purchased in iTunes is also available for immediate streaming. On top of that, Apple also has a 24/7 live radio station that plays all kinds of content including live music, interviews, and more. A single account costs $9.99 and family plans cost $14.99 which support up to six people. At this time, Apple Music is the only one of the big three that does not offer a free version.

If you’re like me and you already use a lot of Apple products and services on your iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch – including Apple Music is almost a no-brainer. But you may want to diversify just a bit, or prefer the services of Google or Spotify to be added to your Apple eco-system. If that’s the case, you’ll be pleased to note that both Spotify and Google Play Music work seamlessly with the Apple iPhone family of products thanks to dedicated apps. Also, if you’re using an Android phone like the Samsung Galaxy or the like, then both Apple Music and Spotify have apps in the Android store you can use for your tunes.

So, which of these services is best? That’s nominally a matter of personal taste but when it comes to the best value, Google Play Music is the winner. I know, hearing an avowed Apple fan such as myself extol the virtues of an Android-based product is a bit shocking, but there’s a little wrinkle here I haven’t mentioned yet. Included in your Google Play Music subscription each month is also access to a subscription to YouTube Red – the pay service version of the ubiquitous internet-video service YouTube. When you add in all the available music and music videos for popular songs from current pop music and pop music from the past six decades that are on YouTube Red – Google wins hands down. So, when it’s time to get your sounds of summer flowing, punch up Google Play Music and rock on!

Until next time…download complete.