Choosing the best streaming music sites

I’m one of those people who is guilty of being constantly plugged in.  I can’t venture out into the world without being attached to my mp3 player.  When I’m at work, I frequently have my headphones on and (slightly-embarrassing-but-true-fact) can be seen rocking out while coding.  Since I spend most of my day at the desk, I’ve started looking into streaming music over the internet rather than carrying around an mp3 player that I need to load and charge.

Photo Credit: Opendemocracy via Flickr

Photo Credit: Opendemocracy via Flickr

When I’m comparing streaming music services, I’m looking for a few key features:

  • Music Selection: I like a lot of lesser known acts – think darkwave, EBM and industrial.  Any music service that I use HAS to have an extensive selection of music.  Top 40 is not going to cut it!  From what I understand, music selection can vary between services depending on the deals that each service signs with each record label.
  • Low Price: Free is best, but I’m willing to pay a small monthly fee if the service is worth it.  I only add new bands to my playlist sporadically, so any fee would have to be less than the cost of me purchasing the albums outright.
  • Ease of Use: It’s not a make or break aspect for me, but I’d like to enjoy using the service.  It’s 2013 – web apps should be beautiful and user-friendly.  I don’t want to have to struggle to find songs, make playlists or listen to music.  It should be easy and intuitive to use!

Out of the options available, I focused on these online streaming music services:

Rdio

The first think you notice about Rdio is that it is a gorgeous web app – soft corners, clean lines, attractive colours, and best of all, NO ADS.  It features an easy to navigate playlist editor which also doubles as a launching pad for music purchases, should you wish to buy your music outright.  You can create an account or use their handy Facebook log-in service.

Features:

  • Limited free trial
  • 18 million song catalog and counting
  • Users can share playlists and follow other users
  • Gorgeous user experience

Price:

  • $4.99 per month for unlimited web only streaming
  • $9.99 per month for unlimited web and mobile streaming

Verdict: Beautiful application, easy to use and ad-free.  It’s unfortunate that they don’t have a more extensive free-usage option, but considering the quality of the interface, I’m inclined to be understanding.

Brian’s note: About a month after my Rdio trial ran out, they emailed me to say they had added free music to my account. I’ve been listening to music for free on Rdio for about 3 weeks now and it hasn’t run out.

Grooveshark

Unlike Rdio, Grooveshark is free to use on the web without any accounts or subscriptions.  You simply go to their site and begin adding songs to your playlist.  The downside is that these playlists are not saved unless you register with an account.  The playlist editor is a bit clumsy and difficult to browse – it is not always immediately clear that you share and create playlists via the little icons on the song name.  Grooveshark is ad-supported.

Features:

  • Free to use via the web application
  • Options to share playlists to Twitter and Facebook
  • Ability to login via Twitter or Google
  • Ability to upload your iTunes tracks to the cloud and listen to them via Grooveshark

Price:

  • Free for ad-supported web music streaming
  • $6 per month for ad-free service using their web app
  • $9 per month for ad-free service and access to web and mobile apps

Verdict: I’m not keen on the UI and the ads are on the face-palm side of terrible.  Think lots of shoes and lots of condoms.  However, the cloud services are quite innovative and free… is free.

Spotify and Pandora

I didn’t try Spotify or Pandora myself because neither service is available in Canada.  However, both services offer free music streaming options – so give them a try if you’re in the United States!  Pandora is interesting in that it will intelligently suggest songs based on user selections and preferences.  Users are then able to rate these selections, and with that data, Pandora is able to hone their matching algorithm and suggest better songs.

What to choose?

I’ve decided to go with Rdio.  It has a good selection of songs and I love the user experience that it creates.  For $5 a month, I’m willing to support their services.  :)

Do you use an online music streaming service? 

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19 Comments

  1. I’m a huge fan of Spotify, its the first streaming service that’s really grabbed a hold of me. The fact that I could listen to complete albums and specific songs instead of a generic “radio station” is what got me using spotify. Now I listen to 99% of my music through it.

    I never thought I’d abandon buying/downloading music to my own personal library, but once I gave streaming music a shot I was completely sold.

    • CF says:

      I’ve heard a lot of good things about Spotify – I wish it were available in Canada!

      • eemusings says:

        It’s not available in Canada? WTF?

        We use Spotify and it’s been a great investment (since travelling we pay for the offline/online subscription). Definitely worth it for the huge selection of music, esp now we’re on the road trip part of our journey.

        • CF says:

          Nope, not available! If i try to get it, I get the “Sorry, Spotify is not available in your country”

          :(

          I’m using rdio and I love it though :)

  2. GrooveShark is great, and will check out others. Great post!

  3. I’ve only heard of Spotify so thanks for the tips on the other two! I’ll check them out.

  4. Jose says:

    I like radio sure, there’s an (almost infinite selection of stations and as an added bonus it will record anything you want to an mp3.

  5. Mackenzie says:

    I only discovered Pandora about a month ago, and I love it! I use it all the time :)

  6. I am a fan of Pandora. I have been using it for about 3 years now. I plug in each and every day. I have found some good bands with its suggestions.

  7. Wow thanks for this! I only knew about spotify and pandora (and also I heard from someone who uses iheartradio) but I don’t know too much about that. I listen for free on most of these sites. I don’t mind the ads too much. I love how much is available online now. I just got rid of cable (and the dvr that came with it) and got an antenna, but so much is available online now, so it makes it A LOT easier to deal with.

    • CF says:

      I agree, the internet makes entertainment so much easier. Even for watching TV shows, I can often find them online later on if I missed an episode.

  8. That sucks you don’t have Spotify in Canada! Honestly there is no comparison. Spotify has almost any song you could imagine and is only $10/month for unlimited streaming on your phone or computer. You can get unlimited streaming on your computer alone for just $5/month. I don’t know if I will ever buy another cd or purchase music on itunes.

  9. I listen to 8tracks.com. It lets me listen to all sorts of really random stuff I would never get around to otherwise. Like Icelandic new music. Yup. French jazz, tonnes of indie, 90s galore… yah.

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