You grew up listening to 45s and 33s before eventually migrating from records to perhaps eight-track tapes, then cassettes and compact discs.
More recently you left those formats behind, too, and have embraced Amazon Music, Apple Music, Spotify, YouTube Music or another subscription-based digital streaming service.
The appeal: Paid subscribers can stream any of the millions of tracks in the digital catalogs of their chosen service, pretty much whenever and wherever they decide to listen — on phones, tablets, computers, headphones, smart speakers and in the car. Listeners on free tiers, where available, can tap into a world of music as well, though they must put up with ads and, depending on the service, may be saddled with other restrictions, including somewhat reduced sound quality or access to fewer songs.
The millions of tracks available aren’t substantially different among services, says Tatiana Cirisano, a New York-based music industry analyst and consultant for London-based MIDiA Research consulting firm. Spotify was the top streaming service overall in the second quarter of 2021, with 165 million paid global subscribers and a 31.5 percent share, followed by Apple Music (79.3 million, 15.1 percent) and Amazon Music (69.1 million, 13.2 percent) by MIDiA’s account. Spotify says it has more than 82 million tracks in its catalog and more than 3.6 million podcast titles.
Third-party tools help with a switch
If you want to try another music streaming service, moving your songs and playlists isn’t hard. A handful of third-party migration tools are available to help with the heavy lifting, with names such as FreeYourMusic, Playlisty: The Playlist Tool, SongShift, Soundiiz and Tune My Music.
I enlisted two of the services, FreeYourMusic and SongShift, to ferry playlists from my Spotify account to my account on Apple Music. Both let users transport music across other services as well. Each has paid and free versions.
Older adults are discovering music streaming
Listeners: Nearly 1 in 5 Americans older than 55 listened to an ad-supported music streaming service for free as of the third quarter of 2021, according to consumer survey data from MIDiA Research.
Paid subscribers: Eight percent of folks in the 55-plus category paid to listen without ads.
FreeYourMusic is available for Android, iOS, Linux, Macs and Windows PCs. First you tell FreeYourMusic which music service you use, then you choose a destination for the tunes you want to move. In addition to Spotify and Apple Music, FreeYourMusic is compatible with Amazon Music, Deezer, Napster, Qobuz, Pandora, Tidal and YouTube Music, among others.
After downloading the FreeYourMusic app on my iPhone, I chose Spotify as the source of the playlist I wanted to move. FreeYourMusic took me to a Spotify sign-in page, where I logged in with my usual credentials. Next, I chose Apple Music as my intended destination.
On the phone, I had to click OK to give FreeYourMusic permission to access my Apple Music activity and media library. FreeYourMusic then displayed a list of my Spotify collections, from which I selected a playlist to move over. It was a Best of the Oscars roster featuring 79 scores and soundtracks.
Seventy-six of the tracks landed and played without a hitch inside Apple Music, a process that didn’t take very long. The existing playlist remained in Spotify, too. Eventually, the three missing songs also showed up in Apple Music.
The apps aren’t without hitches
But FreeYourMusic doesn’t work miracles. The app cannot match a song that doesn’t exist in the destination music service. And if you added songs manually to the source music service and those tunes do not come from an official database, they won’t make it onto the destination service either.
FreeYourMusic does let you import songs between accounts on the same platform — for example, from one Spotify account to another Spotify account.
As part of the free version, you can move 100 songs and a single playlist on desktop or mobile. If that’s not enough, you can transfer unlimited songs, playlists and albums for a one-time $14.99 fee.
You can also pay for a $4.17 monthly or $49.99 annual subscription, which, among other benefits, gives you the ability to share playlists across streaming services and keep those playlists and albums automatically synced every 15 minutes. Premium members can back up playlists to the cloud. A lifetime subscription costs $249.99.
Another option works with Apple only
Similar in many ways to FreeYourMusic, SongShift allows you to pick a source and destination for your music, broken out by album, song or playlist, which the company refers to as “shifts.” It’s compatible with all the popular streaming services but works only on the iPhone, iPod touch, iPads and recent Macs that use Apple’s M1 chip.
When I connected Apple Music and Spotify through the app, I had to click to agree that SongShift could view my Spotify account data and activity.
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I initially chose a “starred” playlist on Spotify to duplicate on Apple Music, and SongShift went about its business to match songs with Apple counterparts. The app reported 168 successful shifts in the starred playlist but also 23 songs where a suitable match was not found. You can ignore these or attempt to rematch them by running a custom search through the app. If you identify potential matches, they will show up on a “pending shift” list.
You can also review the successful shifts list for errors before completing a transfer. And you can tap “scan latest” to shift additional songs from the source playlist to the destination playlist.
Among its benefits, the Pro version of SongShift promises speedier transfers, no ads, the ability to combine multiple playlists or other media into one destination playlist, the ability to connect to more than two services, and a way to share playlists with friends, no matter which streaming service they’re on. It costs $4.99 a month, $19.99 a year or $39.99 lifetime.
Edward C. Baig is a contributing writer who covers technology and other consumer topics. He previously worked for USA Today, BusinessWeek, U.S. News & World Report and Fortune, and is the author of Macs for Dummies and the coauthor of iPhone for Dummies and iPad for Dummies.