How Much Data Does Streaming Music Use?

Learn how much data Spotify, Pandora, Amazon Music and Apple Music Use

Today, people stream music and audio on a variety of devices: smartphones, tablets, and voice-controlled speakers like Amazon's Echo Dot and Google's Home devices. They use services like Pandora, Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music, and more to stream their favorite music. But how much data does streaming music use?

Data Usage Depends on Streaming Quality

The amount of data your music streaming services use depends on the streaming quality settings in the application. The quality settings are measured in bitrates, which is the rate at which data is processed or transferred. The higher the bitrate, the better quality the music is when you listen to it. 

Music on mobile device

For example, Apple Music tops out at 256 Kbps (kilobits per second), while Spotify Premium gets up to 320 Kbps. Most services allow you to change the quality setting, based on your subscription type and how you're listening to the music (e.g., over Wi-Fi or a mobile network). 

In terms of data usage, 320 Kbps translates to approximately 2.40MB per minute of audio or 144MB per hour. So, streaming music for an entire 8-hour workday would chew through over 1GB of data. 

Each Streaming Service Is Different

When it comes to the individual music streaming services, each one has slightly different quality rates. For some, it's because of the music file types they use; for others, it's based on the subscription level for each customer.

How Much Data Does Pandora Use?

  • Pandora Free: Wi-Fi streams music at 128 kpbs and will use approximately 58MB per hour.
  • Pandora Free: Mobile data streams music at 64 kpbs automatically and will use roughly 29MB per hour.
  • Pandora Plus or Premium: Wi-Fi or mobile data uses 192 Kbps automatically and will use approximately 86MB per hour.

Any paid Pandora account has a choice of low (32 kpbs), standard (64 kpbs), and high (192 kpbs) quality streaming no matter how you're listening. It defaults to high quality unless otherwise changed.  

How Much Data Does Spotify Use?

Spotify offers different streaming quality options based on the listener subscription level, rather than the device they're listening to. Both free and premium accounts have automatic, low, normal, and high streaming levels, while premium gets a "very high" option on top of that.

No matter if you're listening through your desktop, smartphone, or tablet, Spotify's streams music at:

  • Automatic (free & premium): Spotify will adjust your streaming quality based on your network connection. 
  • Low (free & premium): Streams music at 24 kbps and will use approximately 11MB per hour.
  • Normal (free & premium): Streams music at 96 kbps and will use approximately 43MB per hour.
  • High (free & premium): Streams music at 160 kbps and will use approximately 72MB per hour
  • Very high (premium only): Streams music at 320 kbps and will use approximately 144MB per hour.

How Much Data Does Amazon Music Use?

Amazon's official page recommends that users have speeds of at least 1.5 Mbps, but that doesn't necessarily reflect the amount of data you'll use; it's just the minimum to provide an uninterrupted experience.

On its FAQ page, Amazon says that its average bitrate for HD (lossless) files is 850kbps, and the average bitrate for Super HD is 3,730kbps. From these numbers, you'll use the following amounts of data:

  • HD: About 383MB per hour.
  • Super HD: About 1.68GB per hour.

Amazon says Music Unlimited will stream at the highest quality available by default, but you can control your data with some options in the settings menu. You can choose the Standard or Data Saver options to use less data when you're on cellular.

How Much Data Does Apple Music Use?  

Unlike the other music streaming services, Apple Music streams at 256 kbps no matter how you listen, meaning you'd use approximately 115MB per hour.

How Much Music Can You Stream on Your Data Plan?

The following table breaks down about how much you can listen based on your data plan and the bitrate of music you're streaming.

  2GB 5GB 10GB Service
24 kbps  185 hours  463 hours  925 hours Spotify
32 kbps 139 hours  347 hours  694 hours Pandora
64 kbps 69.4 hours 174 hours 347 hours Pandora
96 kbps 46.3 hours 116 hours 213 hours Spotify
128 kbps 34.7 hours 86.8 hours 174 hours Pandora
160 kbps 27.8 hours 69.4 hours 139 hours Spotify
192 kbps 23.1 hours 57.9 hours 116 hours Pandora
256 kbps 17.4 hours 43.4 hours 86.8 hours Apple Music
320 kbps 13.9 hours 34.7 hours 69.4 hours Spotify
850 kbps 5.23 hours 13.1 hours 26.1 hours Amazon
3,730 kbps 1.19 hours 2.98 hours 5.96 hours Amazon

Strategies & Tools to Manage Data Usage

Unless you've got unlimited mobile data on your smartphone plan, you'll want to learn how to manage your music streaming data usage. 

  1. Stream Only Over Wi-Fi. The first option is to only stream music when connected to Wi-Fi. Besides the data usage savings you'll enjoy, Wi-Fi signals tend to be more robust, so you won't suffer from signal degradation and low-quality bitrates. Internet service providers may still optimize your bandwidth, but not to the same degree as your wireless company. 

  2. Upgrade Your Music Streaming Account. Some, like Pandora and Spotify, offer higher quality bitrates to paid listeners, but they also offer more listening options. Customize your playlists, download songs or entire albums, and more, with your paid account. 

  3. Set Your Streaming App to Offline Listening. Most music streaming services offer the option to download audio content for offline listening. This is perfect for times when you're unable to connect to Wi-Fi or a mobile internet network to stream in real-time. 

    Depending on the service you're using and the subscription level you have, you'll be able to download different audio content. For example, Pandora makes certain content eligible for downloading, while Spotify lets you download up to 10,000 songs. Most services also require you to maintain your subscription to continue listening to the music you've downloaded. Once your subscription expires, the songs are removed from your account/app. 

  4. Use a Data Management App. For mobile device users, there are data management apps you can install to monitor your data usage. They'll monitor your usage, then notify you before you run out of data. A few data management apps to consider are:

  5. Track Usage on Your Mobile Provider App. The final strategy to monitor your data usage is to use your mobile service provider's app. Most of them offer the ability to track your data usage in real-time through their apps, as well as send you notifications once you reach predetermined usage levels. For example, T-Mobile sends a text message at 80 percent and 100 percent usage of any service (text, voice, or data), while Sprint sends a message for most plans at 75 percent, 90 percent, and 100 percent usage of any service. Check with your mobile provider to download their branded app.

  • Which music service is the best?

    While Amazon Music Unlimited's Super HD is the highest quality music available, you may not need that level of fidelity (especially if it will quickly eat through your data allowance). You should weigh weekly cost against general music quality. The available music won't vary greatly from platform to platform, but Spotify has exclusive podcasts. Apple Music works seamlessly with other Apple devices. Spotify and Pandora have free options, if you don't mind ads. Which one works best for you depends on your specific needs.

  • How much does Apple Music pay per stream?

    Platforms pay different amounts to artists when you stream their music. Apple Music pays $0.01, which is more than most others. Only Tidal pays more, at $0.013, followed by Amazon Music ($0.004), Spotify ($0.0033), YouTube Music ($0.008), Pandora ($0.0013), and Deezer ($0.0064).

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