5 of the Best Music Streaming Services

by Aeyne Schriber on July 7, 2014 in Music Streaming

Music streaming is one of the most popular uses for cloud storage. The fact you can access your music from anywhere using any type of device using a music streaming service is the ideal way to enjoy your favorite tracks wherever you go.

When you perform a search for music streaming services online, you will find that the number has multiplied in recent years. This is due in part to the increasing popularity of cloud storage coupled with an increasingly mobile consumer base. Basically the days of walking around with your CD player or purchasing physical albums are becoming numbered or non-existent altogether. Now it is all about digital albums and music that can be accessed from anywhere.

So what are some of the best music streaming services you can find online during 2014?

Here is an overview of 5 of the best music streaming services.

1. Spotify

Spotify was first established in 2006 in Sweden. The initial version of Spotify was made available by invitation only in select countries throughout Europe. The service was eventually launched in the United States three years ago and is a legal music sharing platform that offers a wide genre of music to Spotify users via licenses and other agreements from record companies.

Spotify is currently one of the leading music streaming services offering more than 12 million music tracks to choose from across a wide variety of genres. The catalog of music selections has become very diverse through the efforts of Spotify to secure agreements with a large number of record companies, labels, and publishers.

Spotify Features

Spotify’s popularity has grown due to its feature packed platform that offers a great variety of capabilities along with extras. The features include:

  • Integrated Music Collection: In addition to choosing music selections from Spotify, you can also import your own music collection from MP3 recordings and other music files you have collected on your devices.
  • Playlist Capability: Spotify allows you to easily create playlists of your favorite selections using the drag and drop functionality. You can also change the order of music selections in the playlist which is capable of managing more than 10,000 different tracks.
  • Selection Suggestions: When you are listening to a selection by a specific artist, there is a feature that automatically creates a list of similar artists. This enables you to continue listening to the same style of music except by different artists.
  • Artist Biography: Spotify provides a way for you to learn more about an artist’s background using the Biography feature. This allows you to learn more about the history of a particular music selection, recording artist, or group.
  • Mobile Capability: If you choose to pay for the premium version of Spotify, you can stream music to your smartphone to listen to while you are on the go. This feature is available for devices that are compatible with Spotify. There is a list of compatible devices on the Spotify website when you sign up for a Premium account. The Premium account also allows you to setup your playlists for listening offline when you do not have an Internet connection.
  • Social Networking: Spotify offers a comprehensive set of features for sharing music with your friends on Twitter and Facebook and viewing the selections they are listening to. Sharing a music track is as simple as copying and pasting a link to the track. When someone sends you a track, it automatically appears in your Inbox.

Pricing

Spotify is offered in a free plan which has streaming limits and a Premium plan which costs $9.99 per month. You can choose to sign up with your Facebook account or via your email account. Both accounts have access to tech support via a Frequently Asked Questions section, online forum, and online support form that you can submit to Spotify.

Regardless of the plan you choose, the interface is extremely easy to setup and use. Spotify also just introduced a new interface for 2014 which is demonstrated in the video below.

2. Rdio

Rdio is a music streaming service that came out of beta during the summer of 2010. Rdio was created by the founders of Skype and has managed to secure agreements and contracts with major labels such as Warner, Sony, Universal, and EMI. Similar to Spotify, Rdio provides music streaming instantaneously and allows you to import track lists from Last.fm and Spotify. The Rdio music streaming service is available for just about every PC and mobile platform and first opened in the United States prior to expanding to the UK.

Rdio is more than just managing playlists and offers a respectable amount of features that make streaming music fun and easy. The music streaming service provides you with access to more than 25 million tracks with a variety of features that include:

  • Music Collections: Like other music streaming services, Rdio allows you to easily manage your music collections by automatically sorting them according to Album, Song, Artist, Recently Added, and Play Count. Any additional content you select on Rdio is automatically added to the corresponding category. You can also integrate music tracks from other locations including iTunes and Windows Media Player.
  • Access to Unavailable Recordings: Although Rdio has more than 25 million tracks, some of the tracks are currently unavailable. You can still add these tracks to your collection as they will be added in the future when a licensing deal is finally reached. The problem is that Rdio does not notify you of this when the deal is finalized.
  • Offline Listening: Rdio provides you with the option of streaming or downloading music for offline enjoyment when you do not have access to the Internet. The interface provides you with a way to browse charts, discover new releases, and view your most recent activity and downloads.
  • Mobile Capability: Rdio offers a host of mobile apps to accommodate a wide variety of platforms including Android, iPad, iPhone, BlackBerry, Windows Phone, Sonos, and Roku with syncing capability across all devices. When compared to other music streaming services online, the mobile versatility is what makes the service stand out from the others.
  • Social Networking: Rdio is not as social network focused as some of the other streaming music services online. However, there is a way to connect to Facebook to interact with other Rdio users and see what they are listing to on Rdio. There is also a place in your Rdio account to set up a profile and allow others to follow your listening habits similar to following people on Twitter.

Pricing

Rdio offers two different plans on the Rdio website. The free plan provides you with access to radio stations on both your PC and mobile device. Access to albums and playlists is limited to your PC. If you want the free plan, you must be able to tolerate the advertisements.

The Unlimited plan offers a 14-day free trial and then costs $9.99 per month after the trial has expired. This provides you with access to radio stations, albums, and playlists on both your PC and mobile device. The Unlimited plan is also ad-free.

3. Rhapsody

Rhapsody is another established music streaming service that has a well-known name online. The service offers access to more than 32 million tracks, regardless if you want to listen to tracks on your smartphone, in the car, at home, or at work.

Rhapsody offers flexible options for paying per song or by subscription and is one of the few music streaming services that offers an MP3 Store with albums that are free of Digital rights Management. The recording are available for use on an iPod or other portable music device. Although the library selection is smaller in this area, you can still find a decent selection of tracks to listen to.

Rhapsody offers a wide selection of genres that allow you to find virtually any artist or music track and provides a variety of features for accessing content including:

  • Integrated Music Player: Rhapsody provides its own music player that allows you to import and listen to music faster, including music on your hard drive or your own CDs. It kind of works like Windows Media Player except it is a little easier and faster.
  • MP3 Capability: If you are interested in the MP3 store, Rhapsody provides an MP3 download manager that assists with managing the content you download from the MP3 store. Once the tracks are downloaded, you can add them to your portable music device.
  • Power Search: Rhapsody offers intuitive search capabilities that are equal to a top rate music streaming service. There is also a search engine that will make suggestions for albums and artists as you type in your search words. If you are not sure of the artist or the name of a song, you can search by genre and subgenre.
  • Music Collections: Rhapsody allows you to build playlists for your favorite albums and artists for use across a wide variety of devices. You can also choose to listen to Rhapsody Radio which also offers a wide genre of different types of music.
  • Offline Listening: Rhapsody provides a way to stream music when you have an Internet connection. The offline listening capability allows you to listen to music when you are not connected to the Internet.
  • Mobile Capability: The capabilities are quite broad when it comes to the different ways you can listen to music on Rhapsody. There is a wide variety of apps for the Android, iPhone, iPad, Windows Phone, and BlackBerry, in addition to the Ford Sync app and MP3 player capability. At home, you can listen to Rhapsody on your Smart TV, Xbox 360, Sonos, and other home entertainment devices.
  • Social Networking: Rhapsody is not as focused on social networking as other music streaming sites. The company prefers to focus on versatility, album selection, and variety. However, it is possible to create a profile, connect with your friends on Facebook, and follow other Rhapsody members.

Pricing

Like other music streaming sites, Rhapsody is rather reasonable priced. The unRadio plan is $4.99 per month with no advertisements and infinite skips, the ability to save your favorite songs, and access to live radio worldwide. The unRadio plan is very recent with its release just announced last month by Rhapsody International as an innovative and different type of radio service.

The Rhapsody Premier package provides you with all of the features in the unRadio package plus, complete control over your music, access to over 30 million songs, and the ability to download any song, album, or playlist.

Both plans are offered with a 14-day free trial period with no credit card required. Access to tech support includes a knowledgebase, Frequently Asked Questions, and a community message board.

4. Deezer

Deezer is a French music streaming service that was officially launched in 2007 with a limited catalog of albums and tracks. As more deals and agreements were reached with record labels, the company released a larger catalog during 2009. This marked the beginning of the company expansion to more than 180 countries across the globe.

Deezer is very well designed, with carefully thought out social features, competitive pricing, and support for a wide variety of platforms. Some of the features include:

  • Large Catalog: The catalog for Deezer started out very limited and now offers more than 30 million different music tracks. This exceeds the Spotify catalog by a significant number and is currently the largest catalog available with any music streaming service online.
  • Interface: Deezer is known for its consistent user interface which is basically the same, regardless if you are using the web app or one of the mobile apps. There is a unique feature on the interface called “Hear This” that allows you to listen to album suggestions and playlists. The interface also provides a way to filter genres, work with new releases and chart lists, and listen to radio stations. The Favorites section provides you with access to your favorite tracks on the fly. You can also upload your own MP3s and store them in the My MP3s area.
  • Mobile Apps: Deezer offers a nice variety of mobile apps that support Android devices, iPhone, iPad, Windows Phone, Symbian, and BlackBerry. What’s interesting is you will also find Deezer on many Smart TVs, Xbox devices, and equipment from Sonos, in addition to BMW cars and Parrot in-car systems. There are a number of third party apps that can be used within the Deezer app to extend the capabilities for Deezer. Additionally, you can opt to use the desktop app which is compatible with Windows 8 or opt to listen to music on Deezer via your web browser.
  • Social Networking: Deezer is very social-focused with the capability to locate friends on the server simply by linking your Facebook, Twitter, or Google+ account. There is also a search feature that allows you to perform a manual search for people. Once you have connected with people, you can view their profile and find out what music they are listening to, as well as some of the favorite artists and music tracks. The social bar allows you to see when your friends are online and what they are currently listening to.

Pricing

Deezer offers a free Discovery plan that allows you unlimited playback for up to one year. Once the year is up, the service is scaled back to two hours per month. This plan also is ad-supported.

The web-only subscription is offered at approximately £4.99 per month and limits you to accessing Deezer using your web browser.

The Premium subscription is offered for £9.99 per month for access to non-ad supported music streaming services and offline listening.

Tech support includes Frequently Asked Questions, a knowledgebase, and access to a community support forum.

For visual learners, if you would like to see more features in Deezer and more about how it works, here is a great review of the service.

5. Beats Music

Beats Music streaming service is one of the newest services launched at the start of 2014 by the creators of Beats audio hardware. The service is includes aspects that are similar to MOG for the iPad which is a service that was acquired by Beats Music in 2012. It has similarities to other music streaming services we mentioned in this article and offers more than 20 million music tracks with a few features that set it apart from other music streaming services.

  • Search Capability: Although Beats Music offers the ability to search by album, artist, or song like other music streaming services, some of the search tools are entirely different than those offered on other music streaming sites. For example, a large portion of the interface offers search tools that help you find songs you were not actively searching for. This is the result of the questions they ask you in terms of your musical tastes when you sign up for the service. Then the interface provides a “Just for You” feature that provides music recommendations which are updated several times a day.
  • Track Selection: Instead of using the typical algorithms that other music streaming services use, once you are signed up and have described your music tastes, there are playlists selected by staffers at Beats Music, as well as selected playlists from external music publications such as Thrasher and Rolling Stone magazine. The playlists include artist introductions that are designed for Beats Music users that are not familiar with certain artists.

For example, a playlist that includes a series of hip-hop tracks may include a sample from the Doors. If you listen to a playlist on a specific area of jazz, there may be a sample of music from an early artist you never heard of. This is an effort to expand your tastes in music and get to know other types of tracks.

  • Mobile Capability: Beats Music is available for Android devices, iPhone, iPad, Windows Phone, and via your web browser. The interface is simple and user friendly and allows you to use swiping gestures to find your way around. The app interface includes a notifications section where you can receive updates regarding new lists, a Find It tab that allows you to browse through activities and music genres, and the Just for You feature that allows you to hit play and listen to the type of music you like.

Pricing

Right now you can access Beats Music with a 7-day free trial for access to add-free tracks and the ability to download music for offline listening. Once the trial period expires, you can access the service for around $10 per month.

If you are an AT&T wireless customer with multiple family members that wish to access the service, you can opt to sign up for the family plan for $15 per month for up to 5 family members and a total of up to 10 different devices.

Since Beats Music is very new, it is likely the company will be adding many new features over the coming months. The Verge channel on YouTube recently interviewed the CEO of Beats Music which provides an overview of where the service is going and what they plan to do with it in the near future.

Conclusion

You would think that there are more than enough music streaming services online right now. However, some of the newer ones, as well as the ones that have been in operation for a while, are coming up with new and innovative ways to serve music lovers. Beats Music is the newest one of all the services we discussed here offering fresh ideas and new innovations. It will be interesting to see if this service sets an example for other streaming music services to follow in the near future.

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