Technology Tool – Music Streaming

This week I thought I would take a look at some music services I like to use. There are 2 categories of service – those that stream music you own and services you subscribe to that stream music.

Streaming Music You Own
There are some rumors that Apple is planning an iTunes streaming service after they bought the streaming service LaLa, this might be interesting as a future option too.

In the meantime I have been playing with a couple of services, mSpot and mp3tunes. At first I liked the idea of being able to access my iTunes library anywhere, but now I find that most of the time I am not so interested in listening to that music. If you have a very large library of music the initial sync of either service is going to take a long, long time!

mSpot: This service requires a sync tool to install on the PC with iTunes and syncs this up to your online mSpot account. First sync will be long if you have many songs. Free account gives you 2gig storage, about 1800 songs. Then you can purchase more storage with monthly plans: 10gig more for $2.99 a month, etc.

MP3tunes: On the computer where you have iTunes installed, you install a sync program. This goes to the different folders and iTunes storage areas to hunt out music you own. Create an account online and the sync program will upload all your music to your locker. The sync program also monitors your drive for more music that you add and will prompt an new sync to be run. The other nice option offered by this service is a channel on your Roku box that let’s you play all your tunes through your TV and home theatre system.

There are desktop, android, Apple and webpage options (and Roku) for accessing the service. You get 2 gig storage with a free account or 50 gig for $5 a month. I am not going premium on this service though, there are some negative comments on the Apple app because this was the same company that had another service that ran into legal issues and was shut down. People seem to be of the opinion this might happen again.

Subscription Streaming Music Services
This is now my preferred option for obtaining music. I don’t own the song, but I have access to a massive library. And both services also have then option to find similar music you might enjoy. This music discovery is becoming the feature people want so that you can discover and appreciate new artists or just new to you artists.

Pandora: This free service is a must have for anyone these days who likes on the go music. You create stations like a radio using artists or songs and Pandora streams music of a similar nature. They do this via a special project they undertook called the Music Genome Project. A group of music-analysts listened to thousands of songs picking out all the different components that they have – harmony, lyrics, tempo, etc and applied these characteristics to all the songs. So when you create a Pandora station based on a song, they are accessing this library of characteristics to stream more songs like it.

So you are listening to a station you created and a song comes on you don’t like – what do you do? Well, you can give the sing a thumbs down or skips it. However, free Pandora accounts only get 6 skips a day. Free accounts also have a limit of 40hrs of music a month, but if you exceed this you have 2 options: pay 99c to have unlimited hours until the end of the calendar month, or sign up for a premium account. A yearly subscription, which includes unlimited hours ad free music and unlimited skips, costs a whopping $36!

Pandora is available on your desktop, smartphone, Apple iTunes stores and on it’s webpage. I am quite happy with the free version and usually stream it to my car stereo, via Bluetooth, from my Android phone to keep me entertained on the hourly ride home at night!

GrooveShark: This is by far my favorite streaming service – so much so, that I just went premium on it! Never heard of GrooveShark? It is similar to Pandora except it let’s you search it’s massive user uploaded library for any song or artist to play. As you find those lost 80’s hits you can create playlists and save these for future sad parties!

GrooveShark even has widgets that you can use to embed your playlist in a website so that anyone can listen to your cool DJing experiment! Up until recently, Apple had denied the app from iTunes and you had to have a jail broken iPad/iPhone/Touch to use the app. Hah, the gods shone a light down and the app is now in the app store!!! Android has an app too, so you can keep your tunes with you all the time.

The GrooveShark website gives you free listening anytime, but the apps only give you a free trial and then you need to spring for the premium (VIP) account. At $3 a month or $30 a year I figured this was well worth it – cheaper than buying the occasional iTunes song. I have been very impressed with the sheer number of songs and artists in the library – rarely not finding what I am looking for. From Shirley Basset to Frank Sinatra to Lady Gaga and Michael Buble, oh and throw in some Pavarotti for good measure! The content is user uploaded so there is a vast array of disparate taste available.

There is now an option called ‘radio’ which plays on the Pandora idea of finding similar songs/artists to the last track played – for when the searching for those songs has just overwhelmed you!  The service seems to always be improving and adding new features – now if they would just get a Roku station I would be almost too happy!

As you might have gathered GrooveShark is my preferred option now.

  • Have you come across other services you like?
  • Do you prefer to purchase and stream or subscribe and stream?

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