Online Choons (Last.FM, Grooveshark, Pandora, etc.)

What’s the dealy with all these online music streaming services?

I used to use Pandora before the closed it and only serve US locations. I remember it being pretty good at coming up with a fairly strong identity with the songs, so it generally served up a good collection of similar type stuff (and fuckloads of Rush.) It always came across as a more pretentious thing though, with their music experts rating and ranking songs.

I now use Last.FM (€3 a month) and I’m pretty happy with it. I usually use the “Recommended Radio” where it analyses all of what you’ve listened to and serves songs up. And then I have stations for Cream, for bluesy, crunchy late sixties/early seventies stuff. And I have a “Psychedelic Rock” station for stuff that spans the decades within that genre. I also have a Squarepusher radio for when I want chilled dance stuff, but I haven’t listened to that in a while. My biggest complaint about it is that every so often you have to correct it’s choices as it seems to reinforce its own selections after each song. So I leave it on for a few hours, and if I had selected cream it could end up on a big Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce, Derek and the Dominos, The Yardbirds kick. Or it could go more bluesy and start giving me a load of Muddy Waters and that, or it could go more seventies’ hard rock. And I’d have to quit and start again to get it to go back to a more mixed playlist. Also, for some fucking reason Kenny Logan turned up singing about crying eagles and flags and patriotism, so that’s a fucking black mark against it.

What’s the story with the other stations? Has Pandora gotten better or worse? (I might think about getting a proxy for it.) What about Grooveshark and Spotify? Are there any other of these services out there?

Pandora is pretty decent for what is basically a streaming radio station. I only use for scrobbling stuff I listen to…the streaming selection has always seemed pretty limited.

Grooveshark is, at best, questionably legal, and likely won’t exist by the end of the year. They’re being sued by all the major labels.

Spotify is my favorite. The selection is vast and free, though $5 a month gets you unlimited streaming and no ads (though really, the free version is still unlimited as well, just with intrusive ads). For $10 a month you get smartphone streaming support, as well.

I never thought I’d be a streaming music service guy, but I’m loving my premium Spotify subscription along with my Sonos system and iPhone/iPod/iPad/Boxee Box. I can play it (and play with making new playlists) on any device. They don’t have every album I want but they have more than enough to keep me happy paying my $10 a month. They also have some nice social features integrated into the system. Probably the biggest downside is the browsing for new music experience which is horrid, but much improved on the new iPad app.

If that’s the case I think I should probably stick with Finding new music is the biggest reason for me using a streaming service. With I just plug in one specific band or genre I like and every so often a band pops up that I “heart” and they pop up more often, and eventually I might decide to buy some of there stuff. The difficulty in finding new music is probably why I stopped listening to music for quite a while. Spending a night trawling through youtube, or picking albums based on reviews is not my idea of fun at all. I much prefer just pressing a button, passively listening to something for a few hours, and hitting a like button when something that stands out comes up. is pretty much how I’ve found any new music for the past while. And I’ve found I’m listening to bands I would never have given the chance before, or even have heard of before.

While I don’t really use Spotify to find music recommendations (triggercut, charmtrap, madkevin, rightbug, kirian, etc etc have got that covered) they do have a section for recommendations based on what you listen to and it’s turned up a few gems for me lately. There are also numerous Spotify apps which you can play around with for recommendations, curated playlists, new album releases, critic picks, social listening, etc. Here’s a screen grab showing the latest offerings, including at #4

Our household uses rDio.

We love it and use it on the iPad, her iPhone, and my Windows Phone. Apps are great across all three. At work, I use my laptop (there are some great Chrome extensions as well).

Overall, the music selection is pretty darn good and I rarely find a band I can’t access on there, but it may very well depend on your music preferences.

It has the “Play Station” option where you find a band and it’ll scrobble together a list of similar bands to play. Speaking of which, you can link it to your account for even better scrobbling.

Spotify actually has radio stations at the top of each artist page, though I’ve never really used them so I have no idea if they’re any good.

That’s a good point. That Artist Radio feature works just like Pandora.

All these services are incestuously interconnected now so you really can’t go wrong.

When I criticized the Spotify new release page, I really just meant the What’s New section which was pretty limited and unhelpful but they’ve made improvements. And as I said, there are myriad other ways to find good stuff.

Spotify still isn’t available in Canada, for some unknown reason. Neither is Pandora. I did try out the free 14 day trial of the newly launched Deezer and found it solid in terms of obscure music (e.g. Grimes, Mike Doughty). I couldn’t bring myself to subscribe though. Part of me wants to give Spotify a shot to launch in Canada first.

Every good Canadian should be running something like this -

I have a secondary wireless router that runs it. When I want US stuff, I connect my computer to it.

I use Spotify and If you want discovery, then is still the best application around. I believe it’s now got a radio plugin for the Songbird jukebox and I would be surprised if there wasn’t one for Spotify. I forgot that certain countries have to pay for now, too- I think the UK, Germany and the US were exempted to the point I couldn’t, at first glance, find a “Subscribe to!” option.

Your problem with isn’t avoidable, I don’t think, due to the audience driven nature of it so hopefully it’s not a deal-breaker.