Our Favorite Music Streaming Services
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There are lots of music services out there, so the challenge is figuring out which one to use. All of my picks have large free music libraries, mobile apps and the ability to share your music through social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. (I didn’t consider cloud storage services, like iCloud, SkyDrive or SugarSync, which only stream music you own.) But from there the features and pricing vary and will appeal based on how you like to enjoy music.
Here are the four services I like to use and why. For a side-by-side comparison of my picks, check out the feature chart below.
I turn to Spotify when I want to listen to a specific track or find out what my friends are listening to. If you’re a social music listener, this is the service for you. And if you opt into a $9.99 per month subscription, you can take your music with you on a mobile device and listen to it off-line.
This is my favorite paid subscription service. Slacker gives me complete control over what I listen to streamed or off-line, with skip forward and back plus caching of individual tracks or whole stations of music. Like Pandora, Slacker lets me fine tune stations by like or banning songs and adds the ability to ban artists.
Instead of focusing on an artist or genre, Songza lets me pick music to match my mood or activity. There are stations for when I’m brooding, when I’m working out or when I’m just waking up in the morning. I can even check out recommendations by time of day or limit selections to music without lyrics, if I’m working. It would be my favorite it there were a paid option that let me skip more than six tracks per hour and let me listen off-line.
When I want to listen to a specific type of music, I turn to Pandora. The service does the best job of building a station around a track or artist of my choosing and it lets me fine tune the station with like and ban buttons.
|Music curation method||Algorithm based on station creator's artist preferences||Human DJs or algorithm based on station creator's preferences. You fine tune what you hear||Human curators. Fine tune what you hear||Algorithm based on station creator's artist preferences. Fine tune what you hear|
|Stations||28 based on genre, user-generated based on artists and tracks||195 based on genre, artist and theme, user-generated based on artists and tracks||Thousands based on genre, artist, theme, mood and activity||Thousands based on artist, track and gemre|
|Music library||18 million +||8 million +||14.5 million +||900,000 +|
|Mobile ad-free||$9.99 per month||Plus: $3.99, Premium: $9.99||None||$36 per year|
|Desktop ad-free||$4.99 per month||None, just as part of mobile package||None||None, just as part of mobile package|
|Track skips per hour||Free: unlimited (Radio not available for mobile apps)||Free: 6 ; paid: unlimited (Premium includes skip back)||Free: 6||Free: 6; paid: 6|
|Ban/Like tracks||No||Yes, also ban artist||Yes||Yes|
|Social Features||Yes: follow other users, share on Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr||Yes: share station on Facebook and Twitter||Yes: like and share tracks and stations on Facebook and Twitter||Yes: like and share tracks and stations on Facebook and Twitter|
|Mobile Apps||iOS, Android, Windows Phone, BlackBerry||iOS, Android, Windows Phone, BlackBerry||iOS, Android, and Kindle Fire||iOS, Android|
|Lyrics||No, but you can download a plug-in to get them||Yes, complete for Plus and Premium||No||Yes, desktop only|
|Sound quality||160 - 320 Kbps (OGG)||128 Kbps||not listed||192 Kbps|
|Off-line listening||Premium||Plus and Premium: Stations; Premium: albums and tracks||No||No|
|On-demand listening||Yes||Yes, Premium only||No||No|