The State of Streaming Music
I love music…a lot. I could not imagine my life without music in it. I would rather listen to music and read a book than watch TV. There are a number of online streaming music services that are starting to pop up around us and I wanted to talk about the two big ones (that are available in the USA).
Pandora has been around since 2000. I have been using them for at least 5 years now, with the last two years as a PandoraOne subscriber. I really have enjoyed using their service and it has exposed me to a number of new bands that are part of my collection today.
Pandora works as users create different stations of favorite bands. They have engineers that listen to hundreds of thousands of songs and “collect literally hundreds of musical details on every track – melody, harmony, instrumentation, rhythm, vocals, lyrics … and more!” They use the details of each track to better customize the listening experience for the users by pairing them up with the ‘seeds’ of the station. The ‘seeds’ are the artists or songs that you tell Pandora that you like and they try to play music in that station that has been cataloged as similar. You can also dislike songs to try to keep them out of your station. You can add as many artists and songs as you like so that you can customize your listening experience to those seeds.
There are some problems with this system that bother me. The first is that you cannot create a station based solely on the artist seeds. One of my favorite bands is Phish. There are somedays that I just want to listen to Phish for a couple of hours straight. They have enough material that my request could be easily granted. Pandora will not allow me to create a station of just Phish music.
The other thing that I do not like is that if you ‘Thumb Up’ just one song from any given group, their entire catalog of music is now open to your music stream. I, in general, do not like the Grateful Dead. I do, however, like about three songs that they do. Once I ‘Thumbed Up’ those three songs, I got a slew of Grateful Dead, Phil Lesh, Jerry Garcia Band songs into my stream. I did not like that at all. So I had to go remove those three songs from my list to get rid of the all of the other music.
Pandora allows users to listen and create stations for free. They also have a subscription for $36USD/year that removes ads, allows you access to the Adobe AIR player app, and you can select the audio quality of your stream.
rdio is the new kid on the block. It is like a whole music store available to you. You have to have a subscription to use rdio. They have two levels of subscriptions available. The Web Only subscription is $4.99USD/month. The Unlimited subscription is $9.99USD/month and you get the web access, mobile device access as well the ability to sync music to your mobile device for offline access.
You add albums or songs into your Collections, which is you little area of the site to keep the music that you want to listen to. From there, you can listen to the album as the artist wanted you to do, or you can create a mix of any combination that you have in your collection. You can mix up your entire collection, or all of the songs/albums that you have in your collection for just one artist. I looked yesterday that I could have 727 minutes of Phish only music. That is a win in my book!
Another very cool feature is that new releases are automatically availble on release day. I added the new Bela Fleck and the Flecktones album to my collection the other day. I looked this morning after dropping my daughter off at preschool and I saw that the album was available and I listened to it on the way to work this morning. It reminds me of getting new releases on my Kindle. It is automatically delivered to my Kindle on release day.
My friend Drew summed it up pretty well:
“rdio is putting a cd in and pandora is turning the radio dial”
Ask anyone…I have never been a radio guy!