• Help me sort out the streaming music services. What's what?

    Answers Given

    Answers Favorited

  • A whole spectrum of music streaming services baffle me. I don't even know what I want anymore. Why would I use Spotify over Pandora over Rhapsody over.....? There are problem more I am not even aware of. Is there an up-to-date place that sorts these out? Or does someone here want to give a try?

    10 0
    Question by kevin kelly

Hi I can recommend my favorite music streaming service, Torch Music. I like it because I can basically find any song or artist I like, I can make my own playlists and share them with my friends and most importantly - it's free!

Answer by brianc

Life hacker had a couple pretty good articles on this a while back:

here is one that I could quickly find: http://lifehacker.com/the-best-streaming-music-services-you-arent-using-but-476372723

Answer by hyperiodic

I was never one to roam about in a music shop, so I enjoy Radio Paradise. It's a streaming player with the music curated by the folks at the site. They choose a great selection, that includes classic rock, r&b, world, classic, and more. I can listen all day and not get bored, and not feel like I need to escape from obnoxious sound.

Answer by drcreative

Just to cover the main ones that I use...


Tries to figure out what sounds similar to a song (or artist, or group of songs) and plays that. Limited skippability, and not always the biggest labels, but generally good at creating a mix of similar stuff. Free for most stuff, paid subscription for more listening hours. Android, iOS, Web


Rooms have a theme and DJs. Jump from room to room or take your turn DJing for a while. Free. Android, iOS, Web.

Google Music

Currently only plays songs you've uploaded, but it will fingerprint your music and give you higher quality versions if possible (if you have a 96kbps track, it'll play a 192 kbps version with identical content). Smart playlists will try to build a playlist around content you have. Things can be pinned to your device to not need a connection. Rumored to be coming out with a paid subscription model to play anything, but free for 30,000 uploaded songs. Android, Web (I don't think there's an iOS version)


Yeah, I count this. Tons of artists release content there, and the gaps are filled by bootleggers. You can upload your own tracks too. You can create a playlist but not all content will play on mobile devices. You also have to leave your screen on. Free. Android, iOS, Web.


Tons of stations, various content, can be really hit or miss. Bring your own player. Free.

Answer by shaftway


Pandora acts entirely like a radio station, based off of the music genome database. It claims to find other music similar to music that you like. The more you interact with it (giving specific tracks thumbs-up or thumbs-down), the smarter it gets.

On the upside, Pandora is great if you just want to listen to music. On the downside, if you want to listen to anything specific you're out of luck.


Grooveshark allows you to build a library of music you like. You can upload your own music, or search for music and add it to your own collection. You can then build playlists from music in your collection. It also has a radio functionality, though it doesn't do a great job of finding songs that match my tastes.

It's great if you want to listen to something specific (and even has a lot of lesser-known stuff), and also allows you to create genre-based playlists ("play me a list of songs in the Hard Rock genre"). It's not so great if you want something for your mobile, since the mobile app requires a subscription fee.


Spotify is similar to Grooveshark in most ways. It's an ad-supported streaming service with a paid subscription model for access to the mobile app. The difference between Spotify and Grooveshark is that Grooveshark is a web service that runs in your browser, and Spotify requires you to download a program (sort of like iTunes) and run it on your computer. Since I run Linux and Spotify doesn't support Linux (you can run it under wine or try the beta if you really want to) then I don't use Spotify. You can also pay $10/month and use the app on your devices.

Amazon Cloud Player, Google Music, etc.

These streaming services all require you to bring your own music. Amazon Cloud Player lets you store and listen to anything you've bought from Amazon for free, and upload your own music too. Google Music is similar.


Subsonic Allows you to install software on your computer which then streams your existing MP3 collection. This is superior to Amazon Cloud Player, et. al. because you have access to your entire MP3 collection without uploading it somewhere (and paying a monthly fee if your collection is at all large). If you just want access to your own music from anywhere,

Answer by nathan

So, from what I use:

Pandora. You pick one song, or one artist, and it plays things that are kind of like that. You can give a thumbs up or thumbs down to a song, and skip a few, but you can't pick the exact songs. Free, paying for it skips commercials.

Spotify. You pick what you want to listen to, or can search for other people's shared playlists, and listen to their stuff. Free; paying for it makes it work on mobile devices.

Google Music. If you already own a lot of music, this is great; you can upload 20,000 songs (free), and then listen to them from anywhere, computer or phone, for free. They monetize this with the Google Play store, where they'll sell you more music. Amazon's Cloud Player is similar, but has less free space unless you buy music from Amazon. Music bought on Amazon can be moved to Google Music; music bought on Google Play can be moved to Amazon Cloud Player, so you're not locked in in any case.

So, Pandora is the least effort; you just give it a genre or artist, and it goes. Google Music is the biggest variety; it can play any song, but you've paid for every song. Spotify is the streaming middle of the road; it can play almost anything, and you get to choose. And they're all almost entirely free, which is kind of nuts.

Answer by talldean

Pandora. You pick one song, or one artist, and it plays things that are kind of like that. You can give a thumbs up or thumbs down to a song, and skip a few, but you can't pick the exact songs. Free, paying for it skips commercials.

You can add multiple songs/artist to one station. They also have genre stations. My wife loves Pandora's comedy stations. Pandora is my go to service.

Answer by charleswcole

That Lifehacker link listed even more music streaming services I did not know about. I guess there is about 20 of them now. What I'd like to see is a flow chart that distinguishes them. Has anyone seen a better list than Lifehackers?

Answer by kevin kelly

This was not my question --but THANKS! Great explanations of all these services.

Answer by Murray

I almost exclusively use Spotify now. The library is enormous and still growing, although there are some notable missing artists, chiefly The Beatles. The application is easy to use and, at least at the subscription level that I am paying for ($9.99 monthly), allows the user to freely create playlists, drag and drop songs and albums into any of those playlists, and listen on a desktop or through any Android or iOS devices that the application has been downloaded to.

The fantastic thing about Spotify is that the level of control you retain over your listening experience is very high. Unlike Pandora, where you are streamed a station of artists related to another artist you have chosen, Spotify lets you listen to what you want, how you want to. Want to listen to your 80's playlist? No problem. Want to shuffle your starred tracks? Go for it. You still want to listen to a Pandora style stream... Can do.

Another thing that sets Spotify apart is the ability to download apps within the Spotify application. LastFM has a very good recommendation algorithm, but functions similarly to Pandora. Using LastFM by itself is not so attractive, but download the app for Spotify and you suddenly have a great recommendation tool that you can easily jump in and out of. Find some great new music with LastFM, add it to your library and now you can listen to it whenever you want.

Some may balk at the subscription fee but, when compared to buying one or two albums a month on iTunes, I personally find it an exceptional value. For $9.99 a month, you get an unlimited library that will follow wherever your smart phone or tablet can. It's one of the most rewarding services I pay for, by a good margin.

Answer by joshua
« Back to Previous Page
Cool tools really work.

A cool tool can be any book, gadget, software, video, map, hardware, material, or website that is tried and true. All reviews on this site are written by readers who have actually used the tool and others like it. Items can be either old or new as long as they are wonderful. We post things we like and ignore the rest. Suggestions for tools much better than what is recommended here are always wanted.

Tell us what you love.