The way we listen to music has changed more in the last 10 years than it had in the previous 100 in terms variety and access. Not only is the library of music available absolutely massive, it’s also all digital, allowing you to listen on your phone or stream to wireless speakers around your home with the push of a
button icon. The services I will briefly talk about in this article are Pandora, Spotify, Songza, iTunes, and Google Music are the ones that I use personally. These services alone probably contain most of the music available in the entire world. Let me quickly explain what each of these services has to offer in my Streaming Audio Guide.
Pandora Radio: Pandora is one of the most popular music sites available currently. It’s simple and the song selection they choose for you is generally quite good. You make radio stations based on songs, artists or genres you like and Pandora takes that information and picks songs that you’ll most likely enjoy using what they call the “Music Genome Project”, which is a fairly sophisticated system for analyzing and recommending songs. Overall it’s a great service and with a bit of playlist management you can have hours of enjoyment. Personally, I use Pandora radio to discover new artists based on my tastes and at only $36 per year for unlimited playback and no ads, it’s well worth it. To top that off, Pandora is probably the easiest of all services to play on your home stereo or home theater system as it’s integrated in to most networked audio devices like TV’s, AVR’s and game consoles. Additionally, Pandora can be streamed wirelessly via Bluetooth or over Wifi with Airplay. The one down side with Pandora is if you want to listen to a specific song, it’s just not an option due to their licensing restrictions with the record labels.
Spotify: Spotify is another excellent music service and has been growing in popularity daily. Spotify allows you to pick and choose the music or albums from artists you like. Unlike Pandora, Spotify is great if you already know what you want to listen to. Now, if you’re lazy like me, there is also a radio feature that can pick music for you, similarly to how Pandora works. Spotify is a very social site as well where you can make and create playlists to share with others. At $10 per month you get fairly high resolution 320kbps quality and no ads. Like all of these audio sites, you have the ability to use their mobile app and stream wireless tunes via Bluetooth or Airplay. A lower bit resolution and an ad supported “free” version is available as well. Overall, Spotify has most listening options available.
Songza: Songza is relatively new streaming radio based on only offering pre-picked playlists. Playlists are arranged via genre, mood or activity. Personally, I use Songza when I’m entertaining at home and just need some mood music for either dinner or casually listening in the background. The selection is quite good and it really makes things simple with the fewest clicks to listen. Songza was also ad-free in the beginning, but that’s no longer the case. Still, Songza is a wonderful service that I highly recommended.
iTunes and iTunes Radio: You know what iTunes is, but now Apple is following the lead of Spotify and offering a subscription service for storing your music in the cloud. Your music is always available, or you can use their radio service to pick music for you. It’s Apple, so there’s no doubt that the selection will be great and the one click purchase feature of your favorite songs is an added bonus. Another huge advantage to iTunes is compatibility with airplay enabled devices so it’s easy to get music to the best speakers in your house.
Google Music: Google music started out as a cloud music storage service that is free for storing your music (up to 20,000 songs). The coolest part of Google Music is that you can take all the files you have built up over years of downloading and ripping CDs and move them to the cloud and then access them anywhere. Recently, Google has added the ability to make playlists, plus there is always an option to buy more music or use their subscription service for $9.99 per month for access anywhere to millions of tracks. My favorite feature of Google music is how I can rip a CD to my PC at home and within a couple of minutes it automatically is uploaded to the cloud where I can access it on my phone or another PC. I see Google music having a bigger role in the coming months with the introduction of Google’s new Chromecast device.
In the end, I don’t think it’s a question of which service is best, but rather which is best for you. I believe Spotify is the most well rounded, however if you are an iOS user iTunes and iTunes Radio will no doubt be nicely integrated into Apple products. Android fans should look for more from Google Music in the coming year and Pandora still is a great option. The biggest issue now is finding time to listen to those 15million tracks you have access to.