Audio streaming providers typically share some common characteristics:
- Audio can be delivered via your favorite web browser or by installing an app.
- You can search for artists, songs, genres, create playlists, or listen to playlists created by the service or shared by others.
- There is a free option, but you have to put up with ads and a limited number of skips (a skip means you have the option to immediately stop the song you are listening to and skip to the next one).
- The service library consists of millions of songs.
There are many choices of audio streaming providers available to you. In this blog, I will review the leaders.
Pandora was arguably the first real success in music streaming. You select an artist or song and that choice is used to create a “station” of similar music. Listeners can give a thumbs-up or thumbs-down to any song, and that information is used to further refine your station. Pandora can be used for free from either web browsers or mobile apps or one can subscribe. With the free version, there are ads, limited skips, and the need to periodically indicate you are still listening. The paid version currently costs $4.99 a month, eliminates the free limitations, and delivers higher quality sound. Pandora’s library consists of about 1.5 million songs. With Pandora, one does not have the ability to listen to an entire album.
Spotify has a library of 30 million songs plus celebrity-curated playlists. Spotify offers Pandora-like audio choices, but also the ability to listen to entire albums and the ability to download music for offline listening. They can also manage your own personal music library, thereby providing an alternative to iTunes. Spotify does require installation of an app on your computer (it does not work through a browser). There is a free mobile app available, but without the $9.99 a month subscription, it is very limited. A subscription also eliminates ads and provides for unlimited skipping. Spotify offers an attractive 50% discount to students as well as a family membership plan where family members can join the primary subscriber at a 50% discount.
Apple Music also contains a 30 million-song library and often provides access to early releases, exclusives, and bonus material. A subscription is $9.99 a month (90 day free trial) and like Spotify, provides ad free listening, unlimited skips, and offline access. With a subscription is also included iTunes Match (an Apple service that will migrate all of your iTunes music library to the cloud so that it can be shared with all of your Apple devices) and Beats Radio. If you already use Apple products, then you will find a big advantage with Apple Music because it is integrated with existing Apple products. It is accessed through iTunes and Music apps that come with every Mac, iPhone, iPad, and Apple TV, is paid for using your Apple ID, and it integrates all the music you already have in your collection on your Apple products. And, via Siri, you can now verbally select what you want to hear, what you want to hear next, ask her for the top songs from a specific year, indicate that you want to hear “more like this”, and more.
Amazon Prime If you already subscribe to Amazon Prime ($99.00 per year), then one of the services you get access to is their music service. This service does not always have the latest music, and its library is only about 1.5 million songs, but it does offer a pretty cool feature in that it can display lyrics synchronized with the currently playing song. Amazon Prime also includes apps such as Spotify.
If you haven’t tried an audio streaming service, you are definitely missing out (especially if you enjoy music). Check one out and let me know what you think!