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Published on October 9th, 2011 | by thevyne

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The Lowdown on Online Music Services

By Kailei R.

Almost every person I know has an iTunes account and many people I know have been fans of Pandora for quite some time as well. But with new players like Spotify and Rdio, how do they all compare? I’m giving you a quick and dirty low-down of these music streaming programs – the good, the bad, and the money.

Spotify

In a nutshell: Spotify is a desktop music catalog service – a lot like iTunes except that you don’t have to own all of the music. With Spotify, you can easily discover new music through other users (they have user profiles), especially your Facebook friends. You can stream specific songs, create playlists, subscribe to others’ playlists. A big hit in Europe for quite some time, Spotify has been long anticipated in the US and now that it’s here in full effect, many people can’t get enough of it (If you have Spotify, here’s one of my playlists: Getting in the Work Zone: Jazzy Tunes).

What’s good about it: Their catalog has millions of songs, it’s easy to make playlists (it can even pull in music from your computer/iTunes account), and easy to discover new music and playlists from other Spotify users. With its integration with Facebook, you’ve likely seen what some of your friends are listening to (you can even listen to those songs within Facebook).

What’s not so good about it: As announced in Facebook’s f8 developers conference, Spotify users have to have a Facebook account. Since Facebook is over 800 million strong, it’s hard to find someone who does not have a Facebook account these days. When they initially integrated with Facebook they automatically posted every song you listen to on your Facebook profile page, causing people’s love for Justin Bieber, Michael Buble’ and 90s boy bands to be put on blast. Luckily they have now included a private listening mode, but some people are still a little worried about what else could be up their sleeves.

Costs: Three tiers: Free: desktop version with ads, $4.99/month: desktop version without ads, $9.99/month, you can access all of Spotify’s music, listen to songs offline, and stream tracks on Spotify’s iPhone and Android apps.

 

Pandora

In a nutshell: Pandora describes itself as a “personalized internet radio service that helps you find new music based on your old and current favorites.” With Pandora, you can give them one or a few of your favorite songs, artists or genres. Based on 400 attributes of the music you enter including melody, harmony, rhythm, and composition, Pandora will and they can create a personalized “station” for you. You can give a “thumbs up” for music you want to hear more of and “thumbs down” for music you never want to hear again.

What’s good about it: It’s easy to discover new music – artists that you have never heard of or songs you’ve never heard before based on what you like.

What’s not so good about it: You can’t really listen to a specific song. You can make a station and hope that song is played, but you can’t select any specific song, playlist or order of songs. Also, the ads can get annoying at times.

Costs: Free: stream through the internet from your computer or through their mobile app. Paid: For $36/year you can download the desktop version and have an ad-free experience with higher quality music with fewer interruptions. You can also create custom skins, but we’ll put that one in the “who cares” category.

 

Rdio

In a nutshell: Rdio (pronounced “ar-dee-oh) is a subscription-based online music service. It’s a lot like Spotify (and beat Spotify to the US), but it does not require a desktop download. It gives you the ability to stream, make playlists, and see what your friends are listening to.

What’s good about it: Easy to use and also easy to find other users with similar music interests, which makes it cool for music discovery too. You can also stream from your mobile device with the free version (for limited use) which you can’t with Spotify.

What’s not so good about it: Though it’s been around in the US longer, Spotify already has more users than Rdio with tighter Facebook integration. So, even though you can follow your friends’ music there, you may find it hard to find any of your friends there.

Costs: Free: Though it used to only be free for seven days, they followed the lead of other music services to offer a longer free version. It’s hard to find how long you can stream online, and you can stream on mobile (though I heard it’s very limited). Paid: For $4.99/month: you can stream music. For $9.99/month you get web and mobile.

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