Review of the Best Music Streaming Services 2020

Review of Music Streaming Services 2020

Review of the Best Music Streaming Services 2020

“You turn into what you tune in to.”

I first saw this quote on a church sign of all places. As someone who grew up in the church, I usually find these pithy sayings to be less than helpful. But this one gave me pause.

When we consider all the voices that are vying for our attention, music can be a powerful influence.

While we should have written about streaming music apps a while ago, here it goes. 

Quick Observation: Explicit Content is Everywhere

Marilyn Manson said, “Music is the strongest from of magic” (you don’t have to like him – it’s just a powerful quote).

We were shocked how many of the most popular songs have explicit content. On YouTube Music, 73 of the Top 100 Songs in the United States had the little “E” for explicit next to their titles.

As you’ll see in our streaming music app review below, even with the explicit filter on, most users can still see album covers and song titles. For example, in Spotify, with the “Allow explicit content” toggled off, a search for “sex” showed the podcasts below (yes, there are podcasts on Spotify!). And erasing recent searches is too easy (read on).

Best Streaming Music Services for Teens

So, this leads us to a statement – it’s impossible for a parent to prevent their child from finding explicit music online if they really want to find it.

Other quick observations:

  • All streaming music apps below are available for both Android and iOS.
  • Family Plans all cost around the same: $14.99.

The Brain is Impacted by Music

Here’s a favorite PYE phrase:

“What I Feed My Brain is What it Learns to Love.”

In other words, for all its complexity, the adolescent brain pays close attention to the neural pathways that are used most frequently. This includes the music we feed it. Research from Mayo Clinic that suggests that listening to or singing songs can provide emotional and behavioral benefits for people with Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia. “Musical memories are often preserved in Alzheimer’s disease because key brain areas linked to musical memory are relatively undamaged by the disease.”

How Do Streaming Music Services Compare?

There are more streaming music apps than what we cover in this article, but we have hand-selected apps that seem to have the greatest use with our audience.

Amazon Music App Review

12+ Apple App Store Rating, T (Teen) Google Play Store Rating

Amazon’s pricing:

  • Prime Music: (2 million songs) FREE with Prime membership.
  • Amazon Music Unlimited: (60 million songs) $7.99 USD/month or $79 USD/year to play anything on-demand (if you’re a Prime member, $9.99/month without Prime).
  • Amazon Family Plan is $14.99 USD monthly for 6 separate accounts.
  • Single Device (Echo) Account: $3.99/month.

If you have Amazon Prime, you have access to Prime Music with 2 million songs and more than a thousand playlists and stations programmed by Amazon’s music experts.

To get access to more songs, you can subscribe to Amazon Music Unlimited to get access to 60 million songs per the pricing above.

Amazon Music Parental Controls:

  • Here’s Amazon’s article showing how to block explicit content in Amazon Music on all devices.
  • Most families will consume Amazon’s streaming music through an Echo, Dot or Dot Kid’s Edition – read our detailed Echo review for how to control explicit content. Chris’ family (CEO), uses multiple Echo’s + Amazon Music Unlimited with his family. For tweens, using an Echo with parental controls enabled is a great testing ground to see how they handle an internet-ready device in their bedroom that can double as an alarm clock.

Apple Music App Review

4+ Apple App Store Rating, T (Teen) Google Play Store Rating

Apple’s pricing (60 million songs):

  • College Student: $4.99/mo.
  • Individual: $9.99/mo.
  • Family: $14.99/mo.

Apple Music Parental Controls:

  • Whether it’s an iPhone or Mac (running Catalina), controlling explicit content is quite easy using Screen Time parental controls.
  • For a MacBook (running Catalina): System Preferences > Screen Time > Content & Privacy Restrictions. From there, control whatever content you want (including explicit lyrics).
  • For an iOS device (iPhone, iPad): Settings [on your child’s device] > Screen Time > Content & Privacy Restrictions [set a 4-digit passcode] > Content Restrictions > Music, Podcasts & News > Clean

This is a true parental control because it sits behind a passcode wall. Other than still showing extremely suggestive album covers for some explicit content, it does a decent job.

But here’s the problem – explicit content still shows up in search results with titles and descriptions. The only difference is that you just can’t click anything. This is true for music, stations, and podcasts.

Related post: iOS Parental Controls

For instructions regarding Apple Music on Android, read Apple’s support article.

Google Play Music App Review

12+ Apple App Store Rating, T (Teen) Google Play Store Rating

For Android and Chromebook users, Google Play Music is your default music streaming player for now. Reports suggest that Google Play Music will merge with YouTube Music. If you are a Google Play Music subscriber, this article gives instructions on how to transfer to YouTube Music.

The only way to control explicit lyrics is through Family Link. Without it, there’s very little control through the normal Google Play Music app. If you use Google Play Music, then please follow our Family Link set-up guide.

Pandora App Review

12+ Apple App Store Rating, T (Teen) Google Play Store Rating

Pandora’s pricing:

  • Pandora Plus is $4.99/mo. or $54.89 USD/year to play anything on-demand.
  • Pandora Premium  is $9.99/mo. or $109.89 USD/year, unless you qualify for a Student or Military discount. Biggest difference from Plus is that you can listen to music offline.
  • Pandora Premium Family is $14.99/mo. or $164.89 annually.

Pandora Parental Controls:

Pandora is popular. But, like Google Play Music, it only filters explicit language on radio stations (excluding videos and podcasts). Even then, according to users, there are a lot of holes. Additionally, it’s not a parental control – kids can easily change the explicit music toggle.

Here is an excerpt from Pandora’s own FAQ’s:

Something to keep in mind is that the Explicit Content filter removes explicit language only, and only for radio stations. Your stations may still play songs that encounter adult themes, situations, or suggestive album artwork, and on-demand content like albums, podcasts and playlists will not be filtered automatically.

This is a significant limitation, since on-demand content is the main purpose of buying a subscription to a music streaming service.

Pandora’s help site has this useful launch page for explicit content controls across all devices and platforms.

Spotify App Review

12+ Apple App Store Rating, T (Teen) Google Play Store Rating

Spotify Premium’s pricing:

  • Student: $4.99/mo. (which includes Hulu and Showtime)
  • Individual: $9.99/mo. or $12.99/mo. for 2 accounts.
  • Family (6 accounts): $14.99/mo.

Spotify Parental Controls:

Spotify is arguably the most popular streaming music app.

Blocking explicit content is explained very clearly on Spotify’s website. But, like Google and Pandora, this toggle can be easily changed. The only exception is if you have a Spotify Family Account. As the account owner, you can disable explicit songs for specific family members on the account.

Another problem is that even with the explicit toggle activated, explicit playlists, short videos, and podcasts are still accessible. Remember the screen shot at the beginning? Also, any searched or played title can be individually removed from Spotify’s “recently searched” or “recently played” history, which lets kids cover their tracks.

Spotify does make it easy to report songs that you think should be labeled as explicit by tapping the 3 dots next to the song

One perk to using Spotify is that it can be monitored by Bark on Android, iPhone, Kindle Fire and Mac/PC/Chromebook. Bark monitors your child’s recently played songs and analyzes lyrics for potential issues. While this won’t add any more restrictions to content already limited by the Explicit Content filter, it will, however, alert you of the content consumed on your child’s device.

Bark Parental Controls

Spotify Kids App Review

4+ Apple App Store Rating, E (Everyone) Google Play Store Rating

Spotify Kids pricing: it comes with the Premium Family subscription (6 accounts): $14.99/mo.

Spotify Kids Parental Controls:

FINALLY! A music streaming app designed with young ears in mind! Spotify Kids has more than 8,000 songs and 125+ playlists and has two age-based options (ages 0-6 or 5-12) for curated content.

The app has bedtime stories, top hits, suggested channels, and a searchable library. Account creation includes setting up a 4-digit code to get access to the “Grown Ups” section of the app. Here you will find the Listening History of each child. If you find a song that you don’t think is appropriate for your son or daughter, you just tap the block icon. To unblock the title, just tap that same icon again.

Streaming Music Parental Controls 2020

There are still a few PG-13+ titles and albums in the age 5-12 category, but it’s so much better than the other music streaming services. Back to what we said in the beginning – any really motivated kid will find what they want to find. This requires parents to stay involved.

YouTube Music Review

17+ Apple App Store Rating, T (Teen) Google Play Store Rating

YouTube Music pricing: one month free, then $9.99/mo.

YouTube Music Parental Controls:

If you have Restricted Mode set for YouTube, then YouTube Music will block all music with the explicit label. It’s far from perfect but it’s that simple. Unless you’re using a parental control solution to force Restricted Mode, the Restricted Mode toggle can be easily turned off by any kid.

Related post: 2020 Parental Control Review

Related page: Gryphon Router forces YouTube Restricted Mode

Music Streaming Services Bottom Line

We have “winners” for two age groups:

  • Apple Music is the strongest solution for high school students because of the tie to Screen Time.
  • Spotify Kids is the obvious choices for young kids and tweens.

Parents are the Best Parental Control!

The #1 impact on how well kids use technology actually comes from you. Your example. Your words. Parental controls don’t eliminate the need to parent. There’s no such thing as “set it and forget it” in the digital age.

Admit it. No matter what music streaming solution you implement, given the right motivation, your child will always find a way to beat it. Relationships are the great offset. Your kids need to know that no matter what they do or what someone does to them in the digital realm, they can land softly and safely with you.

Now what?

PYE is creating a pretty special app just for parents and caring adults. Its aim is to create a unique internet safety plan for each family. We hope to show you at the end of this month! Would you like to know when it’s ready? Just follow this link and leave your email address (or tap/click the image below!).

The Protect App

NEW Protect Young Eyes Logo (2020)

5 thoughts on “Review of the Best Music Streaming Services 2020”

  1. My son recently turned 13 & asked to get Spotify, so now we are delving into a new layer. It’s baffling to me that none of these services offer an option to turn off album “art” as a parental control. Wish PYE could apply its expertise to making the apps you know we want! Love what you do!

  2. My big concern is podcasts and unlabeled content. There are lots of podcasts out there that would have been rated X in my youth. I wish there was a way to only allow content approved by the parent first.

  3. Your review covers & focuses on the Explicit labeled music, but what about all of the harmful content that does not use explicit language but talks about guns, school shootings, drugs.

    1. Hello! We are unfortunately “stuck” with 2 postures for labeling music – it’s either explicit or it’s not. There isn’t another rating system that we (PYE) or a music service can use in order to further filter music lyrics.


  4. Related to the topic of feeding the mind w/ audio content, we’ve struggled to find a decent MP3 player that doesn’t have internet or FM radio. Any recommendations or suggestions to allow us to be intentional about our kids’ music and audio “diet”?

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