Music Streaming Services
Apple’s murder of Lala.com has left many former Lala users searching for a new service, or wishing they never used a service in the first place. Although there is nothing quite like the now deceased Lala, there are alternatives that are not iTunes.
In no particular order, here is a general list of some Internet radio and music streaming services with a brief description of their features. We have not included every service, so feel free to add additional suggestions (including links) in the comment section.
The Slacker.com website is formatted like a music player, and it encourages you to start searching for songs and playing right away. Searching is kind of a hit and miss affair, if the artists or songs you want are not very popular. The radio stations play random songs based on the artists, genre, or similar bands you select. The site also has an online store that features a portable Slacker G2 radio device. Subscription services allow users to create custom stations and add only the songs they want. The basic subscription fee is $4.99 per month.
One of the first sites to utilize the random “similar artists” features, Pandora is all about exploring your music interests and finding songs and artists similar to ones you already like. Users can seamlessly create stations based on their approval or disapproval of songs. Each song has a “buy” link in the corner, and Pandora also has a subscription service for $36 per year ($4 per month) which removes advertisements, increases bitrate, and provides a dedicated music player.
The old kid on the block, Lastfm has both free and paid services. On the website, users can search for their favorite artists and play specific songs from their albums. They can also use the Audioscrobbler to recommend songs based on their tastes, creating a personal playlist of similar artists and genres. Last.fm incorporates many social media elements, allowing users to add others as friends, view YouTube videos, rate, comment, and more. For $3 per month, subscribers get more radio options, no advertising, and other features.
Grooveshark.com has one of the most impressive player interfaces, which is unfortunately completely Flash-based (sorry iPad users). The UI provides the user with the look and feel of a desktop music player, even down to double-clicking search results to add them to the playlist. Users can directly search for specific songs and play them, which is something Lala users will like. The VIP service costs $3 per month or $30 per year and provides users with ad-free access, Last.fm scrobbling, an Adobe Air desktop app (Windows, Mac, and Linux), and a mobile app for Blackberry, Android, Palm, and jailbroken iPhones.
While most streaming sites specialize in offering commercial artists with big industry record deals, Jamendo takes a different approach. Even if you have your own local band, you can go global by giving away your music on Jamendo.com. The site offers its users a way to stream or download complete albums under Creative Commons licenses. The artists, who are often independent, get needed exposure, and the listeners get some quality music they probably would not hear anywhere else. Jamendo Pro allows businesses to license the music on Jamendo for background music, multimedia projects, and performance rights. Prices start at $144 per year.
This is a service that wants to give you exactly what you want when you want it. You search for the exact song you want and play it. Features include playlists, mobile access, sharing, purchase links, and “offline mode“. Their desktop application works on Mac OS X and Windows (but not Linux), and here is the biggest catch of all: Spotify is not available in certain countries, including the US. This has to do with licensing issues and is probably best left to another article. Listeners in the UK, France, and other European countries can download and use Spotify for free.
Free is always better, right? Libre.fm believes that and offers users the ability to legally listen to, download, recommend, and share tracks from independent artists. They also promise complete privacy (not even logging IP addresses). Libre.fm is powered by GNU FM, the free and open source answer to Last.fm.
Jango takes a more radio station approach to music, similar to Last.fm, offering users the ability to search for artists and songs, create radio stations of similar artists, read information, view pictures, share interests, read lyrics and generally be very social with other users who like the same content. Users can also tune in to specific songs by going to an artist page. Each song also has a buy button that gives you the choice of iTunes and Amazon.com. Like Last.fm, the site also links to YouTube videos. Unlike the other services, Jango does not offer a paid subscription service.
Your choice of music streaming really depends on what you want. If you are looking to explore new music, services like Pandora might be exactly what you have always wanted. If you are picky and only want the artists and songs you like, Grooveshark might fit you perfectly. Finally, if you want to explore the boundaries of the music industry and be the first to discover the latest independent music sensation, Jamendo or Libre.fm may be your choice. Of course, you can always visit any or all of these sites any time you want, which makes the Web as a whole an excellent way to get the music you want.