If you are looking for new music, or just want to be able to find your favorite bands to listen to them anywhere and everywhere, then you will need to find a good streaming service. In theory, you could just listen to music on YouTube or use one of the “pirate” radio stations, but this is not the best idea. Those services tend to be poorly curated, and they are also often lower quality. Do you want to listen to a lossy, low bitrate audio file? Do you want to run the risk of putting together lists of songs and albums, only to have some of them deleted or the accounts shut down because of repeated DMCA notices?
Let’s take a look at some of the legitimate, high-quality streaming services?
Spotify is perhaps the most well-known of the social media services. It is an excellent choice for people who are serious about their music. It has a vast library, and you can discover new artists, you can make your playlists, and you can publish other people’s playlists too. You can even share what you are listening to.
Spotify is free, but the free version is ad-supported. If you want to get rid of the ads, you will need to subscribe. There are tiered monthly fees for this.
Last.FM is more of a “track what you are listening to” service, rather than a “streaming” service but there are some songs on there that you can listen to. Last.FM calls music listening ‘scrobbling.’ It logs the content that has listened to, and it helps you to find artists that you might like based on what you have listened to in the past. It’s a great discoverability tool, and it is one of the reasons that a lot of artists still engage with Last.fm even though there are so many other services out there.
Pandora is a radio service that is only available in certain territories. It is a great tool that is useful for people who want to discover new content – if you are in the right place to be able to listen to it. Pandora has some great algorithms for picking music based on whether you liked the most recent song. It also offers pretty good audio quality.
Soundcloud is a less public service. It has a mixture of brand new artists and famous ones. It offers free songs to download or stream, and there are options for people to restrict the way that content is used as well. People can comment on specific parts of a song – and that’s one of the best parts of the service. While you’re listening, you can click and say “that drum solo is excellent”.
Band Camp is good for up and coming artists. It is something that anyone can upload music to. The problem is that the quality on there can be quite variable. Some of the releases on there are incredibly good, but some of them are basically “auto generated noise” from people who just want to build up a large list of uploads. If you can find the good content, though, band camp is incredible.
Don’t forget that there are streaming services that also have the option of buying content. For example, you can stream from Google Music, and also buy content and download it to your device.
Why would you want to download content? Well, when you stream content you are using your bandwidth allowance every time you listen to it. With a download, you only download it once then it is on your machine’s internal storage, so you aren’t eating into your download allowance.
While some mobile phone contracts have limited bandwidth allowances (often just a few hundred MB or a couple of GB), others are quite generous. Make sure you know what your allowance is before you stream on mobile data. Try to be connected to a wifi hotspot as much as possible to save your download allowance. Otherwise, you could end up wasting a lot of your allowance, leaving you unable to use social media or surf the web for the rest of the month.