The big buzz in online music the past few weeks has been about storing your own music collection on the cloud with companies such as Amazon, Google, and Apple. They all give you the ability to access your music from anywhere you are via a mobile internet connection, and are great if you actually want to bother to upload all your music to their sites.
But I think music streaming services are better. That’s because they give you access to bigger music collections than you could ever possibly compile on your own; they’re affordable even if you’re on a tight budget; and they make it easy for you to discover great new music.
1. Rhapsody.com: Hands down, Rhapsody wins because their site is so well organized, researched, and indexed, you can actually find what you want when you want it. They have tons of both new and old material, and you can search for it by genre, and sub-genre–not just by artist, album, or keyword.
For example, let’s say like me, you’re into Jazz. You can click on “Jazz” and then a whole list of sub-genres will appear, like Cool/West Coast, Bop, Latin & World, Pop, etc. This is really useful when you are searching for a particular type of sound, but don’t have a particular artist in mind. It not only helps you find what you want, but it also helps you discover new music along the way.
Cost per month: $9.99 (basic) $14.99 (premium). They also have a free subscription plan that allows you to listen to 25 tracks per month.
2. Pandora.com. Ah, the wonder and splendor of Pandora! This service is quite simply the next best thing to sliced bread. Seriously, this service rocks, and it’s free. Yes, you have to listen to a few ads every now and then, but well, so what?
When you enter the name of a song or artist you like, Pandora will build you a personalized radio station that plays that music along with other stuff you will probably like based on similar characteristics.
What makes it different and better than other streaming services, is that Pandora’s wonderfully intuitive software actually has the ability to learn what you like, and improves your listening experience over time.
But even better than that; Pandora also takes what it knows about the listening preferences of millions of other listeners into consideration, and it adds that information into the mix to improve your listening experience even more. Cost: Free.
3. Last.fm: Like Pandora, Last.fm allows you to build your own personalized radio station based on songs or artists you like. Although its software doesn’t have the ability to learn your musical preferences like Pandora, what it does have is a better website. It offers artist and album info, and has an interactive music blog where you can share your comments with other listeners. Cost: Free
4. Mog.com: This new music streaming service is pretty cool for the price. At only $4.99 per month, it has a lot of selection (they claim to have over 10 million songs), and it is somewhat well organized. You can search by artist and keyword, and a few music genres.
The reason they probably have so many songs though, is that they’re mostly from unknown artists. While some people don’t mind sifting through hundreds of unfamiliar songs; for me it’s like an endless root canal. Also, because the music isn’t categorized in much depth; it’s hard to tell what it might sound like without listening to it first.
Another thing I don’t like about this service is that they make it difficult to find out how much a subscription costs, and they insist that you give them your credit card number before they even let you try it out for free. For that reason; I’d recommend against them.
5. Rdio.com: This service also has millions of songs, but unless you’re just into current pop/rock mainstream type stuff; you’re never going to be able to find what you want.
The site is very poorly organized, and search options are even more limited than on Mog.com. It’s the same price; $4.99 per month, but at least they don’t insist on you giving them your credit card info before you even decide whether you want to sign up.