Armed with the right login credentials from generous friends and family, you could happily enjoy Netflix, Spotify, and a tonne of other streaming services without spending a penny—but is all this password-sharing smart? In some cases, sharing your login info could result in you losing the service altogether. We’ve looked into the biggest names in streaming to find out the official account limits and policies, so you can avoid any unwelcome interruptions.
Netflix CEO Reed Hastings doesn’t mind you sharing your account with the family—last year he said it was a “positive thing” and of course Netflix lets you set up profiles inside your account so everyone can have their own history and recommendations.
The company seems fairly relaxed about sharing between friends, too—it’s hard to tell the difference between your kids logging on at college and your buddies logging on from the next city—with the theory being that the limit on simultaneous streams eventually encourages everyone to get their own account anyway.
Those limits are one simultaneous stream on the basic (£5.99/month) plan, two simultaneous streams on the standard (£7.99/month) plan, and four simultaneous streams on the premium (£8.99/month) plan. There’s no official “family” plan but it’s effectively the premium one with four concurrent HD streams allowed.
Amazon Video and Music
Amazon sharing is a bit of a mess. If you’re a fully paid-up member of the Amazon Prime ecosystem then you’ve got access to something called Amazon Household, which lets up to two adults and up to four children share many of the benefits for the same £79 a year.
Those benefits include quick shipping and the like, and also Prime Video—but not the limited Prime Music, or the full-fat Amazon Music, which is treated completely separately. As far as Prime Video in Amazon Household goes, you get three simultaneous streams to three different devices, as long as those streams are all different content, though as with the music services mentioned above, purchases get referred back to a shared pool of registered cards.
Surprise, surprise, Amazon Music has its own Family Plan for up to six users for £9.99 a month, or £7.99 if you're a Prime member. Playlists, recommendations, and so on are all kept separate but as with Apple, Google, and Spotify, you have to put up with a shared payment method that everyone has access to. With the six users, you get six separate streams, and the option to add up to 10 authorised devices for each.
All of the music streaming services tend to follow similar rules. Pay £9.99 a month for a premium account and you can listen to Spotify on just about any device you like, and share those credentials with just about anyone you like too, but you’re limited to one active stream at a time.
Spotify does let you sync music to mobile devices and computers for offline listening, but again there’s a limit in place—you can only sync songs to three devices at any one time. Allowing even a couple of people to use the same Spotify account means you’re going to run into problems pretty regularly. One solution is Spotify Family, but you need to pay £14.99 a month for it.
That five extra quid gets you up to six separate premium accounts for you, your kids, and even your friends, though Spotify specifies that everyone must live at the same address. If and how this rule is enforced isn’t spelled out by Spotify—of course each of the six premium members is free to log in wherever they like—but based on postings in the Spotify forums, users do occasionally get kicked out of plans.
For £9.99 a month you can register and stream to six devices, though only one device can have a live stream at any one time—to listen simultaneously on the others you need to cache music locally.
Apple Music’s £14.99-per-month Family Plan is for six users, like Spotify, though there’s no mention of living at the same address. There is a restriction in terms of payments: any extra iTunes purchases have to go through the same debit or credit card, so if your friends are buying tracks or movies or anything else beyond the £14.99 subscription fee, then it’s going to come back to the person who is organizing the family.
That would probably mean messing around with multiple Apple IDs to share out accounts, so it may not be worth the hassle of trying to get something designed to work for families to work with friends instead. Plus, you’d technically be in breach of the terms and conditions, so you’d have no excuses if you got booted off.
Google Play Music
Finally in the list of major music streaming services we’ve got Google Play Music. You pay your £9.99 a month for premium access, which in this case gets you access from 10 devices in total, five of which can be smartphones. As with Spotify and Apple Music, you can only have one live stream at a time, but offline playlists are available.
As elsewhere, there’s a £14.99-per-month Family Plan that covers six users, each with their own stream and 10 devices. Google says invited members must be 13 or over and live in the same country as the person managing the family, and as with Apple Music all of the future Google service purchases from anyone in the group get billed to the same debit or credit card held by the family manager.
It’s not technically impossible to share Google Play Music’s Family Plan with friends, but you do have the problem of all your purchases (for apps and movies and so on) getting routed through the same card, as well as violating the terms of the plan in the first place. Creating new Google accounts is an option, though you might feel it’s easier to just get everyone to pay up for their own subscription.