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Find The Best Music Streaming Service For You

 

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Posted May 8, 2014 by

How Do You Listen?

While I do love my phone, its storage space is tiny. Two GBs is not enough for all of my photos, podcasts, and most importantly—music. Since my phone doesn’t have a slot for an SD card memory expansion and my Zune HD (haters gonna hate) has gone the way of the dinosaurs, I’m forced to use music streaming services for my needs. With so many out there, it’s hard enough to find the one that’s perfect for your needs, let alone finding one worth spending your hard earned money on.

If music is a big part of your life and you like to have music playing while you work, exercise, or to sing along with in the shower, then check out our handy guide to find that sweet audio nirvana you’re seeking.

 

Google Music

Why Use Google Music?

You want to take your music collection with you on the go.

 Platforms: Android/iOS/Browser

Connectivity: Streaming/Offline

Format: Music Library/Playlists

Google Music gives you space to store up to 20,000 songs in their cloud servers for free. Music purchased from the Google Play store or added from All Access doesn’t count towards the limit. You can then stream it from any browser or Android/iOS device (although an iPad optimized app isn’t available).  Any playlists you create are instantly synced between all your devices, so you can work on that road trip playlist at home or wherever inspiration strikes.

Artists, albums, and playlists can all be downloaded to your phone for offline play, although you can’t select specific songs to save, which can be frustrating. Also, as you stream songs, it temporarily caches them so you can continue listening for a while if your data connection is lost. The ‘I’m Feeling Lucky’ feature is pretty useful and generates a random playlist of your music and Play store tracks based off of your recent listening history. Social sharing features are limited to Google Plus… so really there aren’t any.

 

 Desktop

There actually isn’t a standalone desktop app, which can be frustrating if you don’t want to have a separate browser window open for your music. It does integrate well with Chrome though. (If you aren’t using Chrome yet, you should be.)

Music streaming

 Mobile

Clean and easy to use design, but lacking some key features like being able to manage your media library, including deleting music, which loses it some points.

Music streaming

 

What do you get for your money?

For $9.99 a month, Google Music All Access gives you complete access to Google’s formidable library of songs, which rivals even Spotify, as well as any songs that are available on Google Play. Given that you can supplement any missing tracks with your own library, for the music fan who has to have everything available all the time, but doesn’t need the radio and social features of Spotify, this may be your best option.

Songza

Why Use Songza?

You want new music to fit your mood.

 Platforms: Android/iOS/Browser

Connectivity: Streaming Only

Format: Playlists

Music streaming

Your Musical Concierge

Songza is my personal favorite streaming service. Their concierge service offers a unique experience that offers you a playlist selection based on the time of day and what mood you’re in. The variety it offers is unparalleled and my recent listening history includes everything from the perfect background music electronica of Blissed Out Beats to the straightforward Beer in Your Water Bottle: Alt Rock Workout and The Pursuit of Vikings: Epic Battle Metal.

They also never have audio ads to interrupt the music, just a visual banner ad, which isn’t distracting at all, and the occasional sponsored playlist. You can listen to playlists based around artists/songs also if that’s your style, but it’s the playlists that surprise you with what you didn’t even know you wanted that make this such a strong contender.

 

Desktop

Clean and easy to use interface. Concierge service is front and center, but it’s easy to search and browse your saved playlists. Lots of negative space on the home page does hurt the design though.

Music streaming

Mobile

Honestly easier to use than the desktop version. On both Android and iPad, the interface is sleek, simple, and responsive.

Music streaming

 

 

 

Worth the Money?

For .99 a week, Club Songza won’t have any ads cluttering up the interface. Each week, Club members also get some exclusive playlists. There are better ways to spend a dollar.

iTunes Radio

Why Use iTunes Radio?

You want first access to new albums and a variety of playlists with the latest, hottest songs.

  Platforms: iOS/iTunes

Connectivity: Streaming Only

Format: Playlists

 iTunes Radio, built into the Music app on your iOS device, is the newest contender to the streaming music throne. Where Apple succeeds is with their immense song library, which allows you to listen to anything in their catalog. This means The Beatles. Although when I told it to play a Beatles radio station, the first song it picked was “Band on the Run” by Wings—which seems like cheating to me. In addition to the traditional arists/genre/song playlists they have a few surprises.

Their featured playlists, which are updated weekly, offer some interesting choices with Guest DJ playlists curated by celebrities or famous artist, music trending on Twitter, and iTunes Top 50 for different categories. Their First Listen option offers two brand new albums a week you can listen to in their entirety. I never would have given Beck’s new album a chance if I hadn’t found it on here, and I’m so glad I did. Seriously, go listen to “Waking Light.”

 

Desktop

The only problem with the interface is that you have to use iTunes to get to it. Once you get its bloated software up and running, the UI works wonderfully. True Apple design philosophy. Minimalist, clean, and squares as far as the eye can see.

Music streaming

Mobile

Also true Apple design—if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. Exactly the same.

Music streaming

 

 

Worth the Money?

iTunes Radio doesn’t offer a premium service. They don’t need it. That’s called having Apple money.

Spotify

Why Use Spotify?

You don’t want to wade through a genre of music, you want to dive deep into an artist.

  Platforms: Android/iOS/Desktop App

Connectivity: Streaming/Offline

Format: Music Library/Playlists

Spotify has the largest library of any of the services, letting you listen to almost any song you can think of immediately. Their collection contains even rare b-sides and live albums that would have been difficult to acquire in the pre-Internet days. When viewing an artist, you can see their top 10 most popular songs if you would like a taste of their style, or you could listen to the hundreds of hours of Bruce Springsteen recordings.

The social aspect is really nice, letting you see what your friends are listening to and send songs and playlists to people on the Spotify service or through Facebook or Twitter. Their biography tab is also the most in-depth next to Pandora. If you want playlists, you can choose from Spotify curated ones or ones that your friends have created. You can also create your own playlists from their library with a simple drag and drop interface.

They also offer a radio feature which can be launched from any song you are listening to. Additionally, you can browse curated playlists a la iTunes Radio or pick a genre. A myriad of extensions or ‘apps’ are available to add to the experience in some useful and really interesting ways. One of my favorites is called Soundrop, which is essentially Turntable.FM but without the cool avatars. Users can create public playlists or “rooms” where anyone can submit a track, vote on what to hear next, and chat about music. If you love music, then it doesn’t get better than being able to share, discuss, and recommend songs.  Spotify’s social dominance is one of its biggest strengths, and its novel apps like this that make it the choice for the power user.

 

Desktop

Easily the best looking of the bunch. Social is integrated into an unobtrusive scrolling menu on the right, and the search functionality is incredible considering the sheer amount of data.

 Music streaming

 

Mobile

 Fairly clean and easy to use interface. Some of the more advanced features are hidden in sub menus, and can cause the screen to sometimes become cluttered. For the power and features, this is a small trade off.

Music streaming

 

Worth the Money?

With Spotify premium you get no ads and can download and listen to music offline through the app. For $9.99 a month, this is the one of the most expensive, but most powerful options out there.

Pandora

Why use Pandora?

You want music similar to your favorite band/song.

  Platforms: Android/iOS/Browser

Connectivity: Streaming Only

Format: Playlists

Pandora isn’t the best for discovering hot new music, although there is some of that. Its playlist algorithm, called The Music Genome Project, does make great playlists featuring songs from all the bands you probably already love. Genre stations such as cardio rap, strength training hard rock, or, my personal favorite, Summer Hits of the 90s allow you to mix things up some. Multiple purchase options such as iTunes, Amazon MP3, or the actual CD is nice. Standard features such as liking/disliking songs to tweak playlists and favoriting songs for later are here as well.

 

Desktop

Ad placement can be a little… egregious. Music features are never lost at the top though, leaving room for the lyrics and biographical info to be displayed.

Music streaming

Mobile

Similar to, but an improvement on, the desktop version. Once again bad ad placement loses them some marks, but overall a better design.

Music streaming

 

Worth the Money?

The Pandora One premium service gives you ad-free listening, longer delay before auto-stopping your music, and more skips per day for $3.99 a month. It’s the stingiest on the features, but the price is right. If you’re a diehard Pandora-ite then this might be worth it.

 

 

Notable Runner-Ups in music streaming include Slacker Radio, Turntable.FM, 8Tracks, YouTube, and Grooveshark. Reddit also has some interesting subreddits like /r/ListenToThis and /r/LetsTalkMusic to discover and chat with fellow music lovers. We have the fortunate problem of having too many great options and too little time to cover them all so we want your help.

Tell us, how do you listen to music on the Internet?



Jeremy Dawson

 
Writer from Lexington, KY


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