Discussion about
daninbusiness

January 29th 2014 4:55 pm

Streaming music services comparison

Updates as of 5/29/2014:

I've spent more time with Xbox Music, and it is improving; the multi-platform support is much better. However, there are some nagging issues that annoyed me; namely:
1. The archaic system for managing devices associated with the subscription - can only add and remove one device every 30 days...why do rules like that still exist in 2014, when other services allow instant authorization & deauthorization?

2. Also, not terribly impressed by their Radio functionality. In my experience it was a pretty basic, "Artist X is part of Genre Y, play songs from Genre Y artists" mix, which throws up some questionable suggestions (eg, if I want to listen to Public Enemy & similar artists, I am not expecting to hear a 'Damn, that butt so fine' song in the mix).

Songza continues to impress me, I really like the selection of playlists that they offer and their quality. Great multi-platform support too. Very few ads. The only real concern I have is that it seems totally unsustainable, and after I grow to totally rely on it then it will be acquired or turned into something terrible.
Beats Music - I have only tried this out in the past few days, following the rumors then confirmed news of the acquisition by Apple; I wanted to make a point of trying it out before (if) Apple starts to make changes to the experience.

I like the interface, it's quick and smooth and works well on iOS and Windows Phone (no Android devices on hand at the moment). As far as their curated playlists go, I think they are a bit hit & miss; I think that the "intro to Artist..." playlists are interesting career spanning highlight lists, including big hits and deeper tracks. Not as excited about their "best of X Genre" lists; and the suggestions for new artists based on artists that I like are pretty stale.

Eg, If you like Chemical Brothers, do you like Fatboy Slim, Moby and/or Royksopp? (Sure I like them fine...how about some suggestions from this decade as well?)
Haven't tried much of the "the sentence" feature, which seems like a fun idea, though it's a little too futzy for me to bother configuring every detail based on my mood.

I think Songza's playlists are a little more inspired and their suggestions based on mood are easier to use.

Original Post:
I was an Rdio subscriber for a while, dropped that and used Xbox music for a time via an annual pass that I never bothered to renew.

At present, I'm bouncing between the free versions of Rdio, Xbox Music, Spotify, Songza, iTunes Radio, and Pandora.

Wouldn't mind subscribing again to one service to reduce ads, but on the other hand, these days I rarely have long portions of time just to listen to music (even in the backgroud).

I have used iOS, Windows Phone, and Android devices. Presently back to using an iPhone.

Wondering what your thoughts are about this comparison, which is based on my experience & opinions...

Rdio:

Pros -
  • I like the looks of the interface the best and find it most intuitive
  • Social integration is useful & helpful
  • The iOS and Android apps (when I used them) were clean and fairly reliable
  • Works super well in the browser (convenient if you switch machines a lot)
  • Family plan pricing is nice
  • sign-in DRM gets out of the way
Cons -
  • Occasional catalog gaps, though nothing that bothers me too much
  • Hiccups with offline mode on iOS and Android app from time to time
Other -
I've never tried the Windows Phone app but judging from reviews, the app has been sadly neglected and experience is frustrating.

Spotify

Pros -
  • Huge catalog
  • Momentum - interesting apps provided as part of the service
  • Large user base
  • FREE mobile streaming! Yay!
  • I like the radio stations
Cons -
  • Best experience on desktop app
  • Browser streaming support is a little glitchy
  • iOS app performance can be glitchy
  • Windows phone app performance & features are lacking
  • Social integration can be a little obnoxious
  • A few weird UI choices (what is the point of starring something?)
  • I don't like having a messaging app & an inbox to manage inside my music app
Xbox Music

Pros -
  • Huge catalog
  • Nice integration with Windows OS
  • Cloud Sync your collection + streaming
  • Still works with my Zune HD!
  • It's frequently possible to get a deal on a yearly subscription; even so $99/year is a pretty good deal.
Cons -
  • iOS and Android apps are lacking
  • Desktop client UI evolves way too slowly; I think they prioritized form over function...it's good enough for streaming one album but not optimized for playlists.
  • Quirky UI on windows phone (why are some options only available in one view vs another??)
  • Sign-in rules are annoying; limited to only 4 devices
  • Radio station playlists are pretty limited & repetitive.
Songza
  • The suggested & curated playlists are really good - usually enough for my needs when I'm at work and need something to listen to or work to
  • Windows Phone app seems to only let me log in with facebook, not my user name + ID (I'd really rather NOT log in with facebook credentials if the option is given)
iTunes Radio
  • Pretty decent suggestions based on the artists I like
  • I don't like the ads
  • I do not always have an iDevice convenient to use this
  • Not very useful when I'm driving in the car
Pandora
  • Clean & simple
  • Good if I'm really feeling like one particular artist/style
  • I don't always like/agree with the suggested music mixed in
  • I don't like limited skips and the ads

I haven't tried yet (though again, with all of the above, I'm not really hurting for options here):
  • Rhapsody
  • Beats
  • Deezer
  • Google Music

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90 replies
TimSeppala

I currently use Google Music's free service to stream my own tunes (my CD-ripped catalog is deep) and used the free month's trial from December to January. I was pretty happy with it, but there were some issues with not being able to stream music due to server errors (maybe four or five times, while I had full HSPA+ signal) but honestly that was about it.

I'm personally against goods turning into services and paying for access rather than ownership, but if it came down to it, I'd choose Google Music over any of the others. I'm planning on throwing a party next month and instead of being limited to my own catalog (not a lot of party-ready tunes in there) to build a playlist I'm going to sub to Google Music for a month.

Granted, my needs and use habits are a bit different than most people's. My biggest reason for loving Google Music is because I can Chromecast it to my home theater receiver and listen to my tunes that way and control everything from my (Android) phone. Spotify can't do that yet and I'm pretty sure no one else (aside from Pandora, but that's a slightly different story) can. Of course, this is just me.
6 like dislike
perryizgr8

Streaming my own music library seems extremely stupid to me. Maybe that's because my phone has enough storage for all my music.
1 like dislike
frankspin

My entire library is over 64GB so having the flexibility to stream it or access it via Spotify/Rdio is nice.
1 like dislike
Juliofromny77

You can upload 20k songs to google music and up to 25k to iTunes with iTunes Match ($25/yr) and stream your music from there as well.
1 like dislike
frankspin

That's not an issue for me. I have a HTPC that is on 24/7 so I have my music via Subsonic. I tried Google Music but couldn't get over the terrible website and impossible way to manage music via web. Subsonic relies on ID3 Tag info and folder structure which is way easier to manage.
1 like dislike
apudapus

I must give Subsonic a try. I tried uploading my collection to Google Music but found their interface horrible, too. I tried a free trial of Google Music last week and dropped it after a day. I would setup an album to play for a bike ride or a drive in my car and it would play maybe 1 song and then stop. I don't think it's an internet connectivity issue because I've used Mog, Pandora, and Spotify along the same places. I've also tried the different audio quality settings with no change.
0 like dislike
AdamWillis

I have stopped buying albums in favor of Spotify. I still buy the super favorite albums on vinyl but I love not needing to spend money on a ton of albums that only have a couple good songs. I know I can buy just the 1 or 2 songs that I want via Amazon or whatever but Spotify lets me hear all the songs wherever and whenever I want.

The streaming music you own part... well I like having all that space free on my phone and desktop. I use a laptop and I don't like the idea of dragging a USB drive with me in order to have all my photos, music, files, or programs with me. Having Spotify lets me drop all the songs off my computer.

Now I know your question has now gotta be something about, "what happens if I ever stop using Spotify and I want my music back?" Well most of the music I've purchased has come from amazon anyhow and they automatically add the purchased music to the cloud service and I can stream or download all that. Likely, my music tastes will be a little different and I wont need to download them all anyway.
1 like dislike
apudapus

I've come to accept that I'll be paying for streaming music for the rest of my life, much like water, electricity, gas, and internet. I used to go to Best Buy (Tower Records, The Wherehouse, etc.) on Tuesdays to checkout the latest releases and always said to myself "I wonder if this is any good" but only paid $25 for a couple of albums. Now I pay only $10 a month and I get to listen to EVERY obscure new release on Tuesdays. Now I don't ever have to wonder! Most of the music is "meh" but I'm so glad that I only lose $10 a month, rather than $140 a week. I've discovered a lot of interesting bands/artists this way.
2 like dislike
DRyanOsborne

It really does. But occasionally catching some of the songs you have on your own playlist while listening to a streaming service will inspire you to listen to that album you haven't played in a long time.. or is just irritating and you skip to the next song.
0 like dislike
Juliofromny77

Why do people always forget Mog and Slacker?
6 like dislike
zapleahy

Love MOG. Unfortunately, it's days are numbered. MOG was acquired by Beats and will be killed this April so that its engineers may breathe life into Beats Music. I've started transferring my collections over to Spotify...

Source: support.beatsmusic.com­/hc­/en­-us­/articles­/200790370...
4 like dislike
jonathan7877

MOG was the best service all around, hands down. Beats Music looks terrible.
4 like dislike
Juliofromny77

Yeah I heard about. Isn't the same thing also happening to Rdio? Anyway, haven't heard that about Slacker and I find it to be a great radio service especially with the offline streaming.
1 like dislike
Freetrademan

Transferring collections? What does that mean? (I've used MOG for the past year, and I'm using Spotify now, too.)
0 like dislike
Builderomatic

MOG is dead. But i do like Slacker. that was my primary radio back in 2008 when I had a Palm Prē and webOS
1 like dislike

This post has been removed.

Buckscoumtymike

OK Mog is going away. Hope Beatsmusic supports 320 KBps
0 like dislike
patdodd

It does if you choose "High Quality" in the settings. From their FAQ:

"On the web, we stream in 320kbps MP3 quality audio - industry standard high quality audio for streaming services. A small minority of tracks may not be available for 320, in which case we'll stream in 256kbps.

On mobile, you have some options. You can choose to stream in standard quality audio - which is HE-AAC 64kbps. Or you can choose high quality audio, which is 320kbps MP3."
0 like dislike
frankspin

MOG is shutting down. I think people forget about Slacker because it's more of a radio station service than anything. Plus they haven't had the advertising power of some ofthe others.

I really like the service for quick station grabs but I just never turn to it for general music listening.
0 like dislike
Freetrademan

MOG is/was great, but it's going away. Now it's Beats Music.
0 like dislike
frankspin

Thank you for posting this. I have been contemplating switching to Spotify because of the social features but I just can't get past it being playlist heavy. I really like Rdio's collection feature, I just wish their desktop player was better.
5 like dislike
apudapus

I tried Spotify a long time ago but I didn't like that it was difficult finding new releases on Tuesdays. I shortly discovered Mog and really liked the ease of finding new releases compared to Spotify. I switched over to Mog when I discovered that their entire music catalog was in 320kbps (this went well to complement my Sennheiser HD598). I've since come to appreciate Mog's ability to start a radio station based on the last played song. This was perfect on my long bike rides when I would start an album but not set anything afterwards. Spotify and Beats Music do NOT do this. Now that Mog is going away, I'm not sure who I should go to replace them. Beats Music currently does not have a "new releases" section.
5 like dislike
frankspin

> I've since come to appreciate Mog's ability to start a radio station based on the last played song

I believe Rdio now does something similar to this.
4 like dislike
marusich

Slacker also will do this
2 like dislike
Juliofromny77

If that's true I would definitely reconsider Rdio. I always wavered between them and Mog and because of the 320kbps Mog would win out for me. For some reason I don't find Spotify that appealing. At the time it always forced you to listen to music via playlist. I think that changed but that initial impression stayed with me.
1 like dislike
Freetrademan

Spotify also streams in 320kbps, but not by default. You have to select it in settings.
0 like dislike
apudapus

I believe it's been identified that earlier on, Spotify would up-sample 160kbps to 320kbps (don't quote me on this).
0 like dislike
apudapus

That was my experience with Spotify, too.
0 like dislike
Freetrademan

I love the HD598.
1 like dislike
mikek112

Spotify recently added a "New Releases" section to their Browse menu to make it really easy to check out new releases on Tuesdays!
0 like dislike
marusich

I keep trying different services, but always come back to Slacker. It's simple, you can choose stations, create playlists, listen to specific albums or songs and download for offline listening. Paid price is reasonable too. Can't beat it.
4 like dislike
Riotten22

Slacker is definitely good for the price i pay. I pay $4 a month for unlimited skips through my cell phone plan
1 like dislike
teamlouish

I've been using Pandora for over a year and I love it, but just tried swithcing to itunes for the cost difference and I can't stand it. Ill create a station and it starts playing stuff completely un-related. I can't stand it.
3 like dislike
Juliofromny77

Have you tried Slacker? The free version is cool with more variety and with paid you get offline streaming.
2 like dislike
xhozt

offline streaming is contradictory ....
1 like dislike
Juliofromny77

Not really. You cache a radio station and you'll have hours of music to listen to. Maybe streaming is the wrong word but you get the fist of what I'm saying.
1 like dislike
timchoi89

I use Google Music because I can combine my own catalog along with Google's catalog. The best part for me is that you can edit the information for the songs whether it's yours or Google's. Another big thing on why I use Google Music is because I can actually add genres to the songs. When I was on Spotify or Rdio they didn't have genres which made it difficult for me to use on the fly because I often just listen to a specific genre on random. Lastly, being able to just upload my music once and never having to worry about syncing them with my various devices is a godsend.

The only thing I wish that Google Music had was a way to manage all the offline playlists/songs on specific devices from the desktop web client instead of doing it on each specific device.
3 like dislike
WareWolf801

yeah, and its expensive..
0 like dislike
jcoriddi

As a person who owns primarily Microsoft devices, I'm a big fan of Xbox Music and often feel it's underappreciated. By far not perfect, I have tried Pandora (like being able to select the music I want to listen to), Spotify (don't care for playlist management), and Google Music, but I think Xbox Music has offered me the most options. And, like mentioned in the article, you can normally get a deal on the annual subscription if you look. In addition, Slacker Radio is great and often have some awesome curated playlists.
2 like dislike
Pimponsote

I've tried:
Spotify (good but ugly)
Rdio (great design but the catalog is not that good yet)
iTunes Radio (bad user experience 'cause its tied to idevices)
Google Music (my favorite, the "i'm feeling lucky" button is love)
2 like dislike
Bgstewar

I've tried them all, and Rhapsody is the best. Has the most music (Google All Access is missing a ton!) and is the most reliable.
2 like dislike
Juliofromny77

For some reason I never liked Rhapsody. I always enjoyed MOG. When on a budget I would alternate between Slacker and Pandora. I may be stuck with Spotify now if I want to upgrade from Slacker.
0 like dislike
volgin

Nokia Music recently introduced Play Me feature - a custom station based on your likes. It is surprisingly good. I also like that you can create 4 offline mixes for the time when you travel or commute, and refresh them at any time when you have a connection. And, of course, I like that it's free with no ads.
2 like dislike
Riotten22

I will do a shout out for SLACKER
2 like dislike
johncolucci

I've gone back and forth on this one. I use Pandora and iTunes Radio occasionally, but really just to listen to "chill" stations while working. I haven't been able to switch off iTunes much because I feel like my OCD would go into spin if I'm having to manage all these different accounts and have different songs on different services (and yes, I know you can play iTunes tracks on Spotify). I'm considering giving Beats a try shortly.
1 like dislike
phillennium

My favourite one is Yandex Music, but's only available in several countries like Russia.
1 like dislike
Krjal

I've never got into the new wave of streaming but you might've just convinced me to try it out.

I use Winamp for all my music atm which includes net radio streaming and it's been enough for me so far.

A little left field but from a graphics perspective I loved the Zune logo and it's a pity Microsoft didn't repurpose it somehow. From this lot the Beats logo is my fav but the service is not up to scratch from the looks of things ;p
1 like dislike
Turnerstevie

Every one forgot that you can upload 20'000 song's to Google Play Music. (250mb each).. First of all you don't have to pay for that! And what song is 250mb. Secondly once you upload it syncs instantly across the Web, Android, iOS, and there is amobile Html version for WP devices. Still not paying anything. I can make a playlist from the first 3 apps. Or make a radio which is endless. From the Web I can change album art and meta data. Still not paying anything. If I see a song I can pay for it. Or for the price of one album a.month I can have a all you can eat package. The if I'm bored I can select the I'm feeling lucky button. There's so much more but my fingers hurt now so bye
.
1 like dislike
patdodd

Exactly what killed Google Music for me. 20,000 songs. For that reason I prefer Amazon, 250,000 song limit and 50Gb of cloud storage for $25 a year.
2 like dislike
faugusztin

A viewpoint of someone from not-so-lucky part of Europe & EU (Slovakia) :
Rdio - geolocked.

Xbox Music - geolocked.

Songza - geolocked.

Pandora - geolocked

Rhapsody - geolocked
Beats - geolocked.
Google Music - geolocked

So in my case it comes down to only 2 available services - Spotify vs Deezer. 20 million vs 30 million tracks. 5.99 vs 5.99 euros (soon 4.99 thanks to a Deezer being sold by local T-Mobile branch). Desktop vs web player.

For now, i am using free Spotify and leaning towards Deezer once T-Mobile will start selling Deezer - for one simple reason - i can start radio based on music type, not only based on a artist.
1 like dislike
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