Everyone loves free music, but if you want legitimate access to a huge catalog of music you're going to be buying a lot of stuff. Or, you're going to subscribe to one of the all you care to eat monthly streaming plans.
I can't settle on just one, so I subscribe to a couple of the pay services, but here's how I rank them. This is a totally subjective look at the services that I have used. Your list might vary.
1. Rdio – $9.99/month – > 13 million songs
Rdio won me over when the Spotify Android app was a total dud. Back in the day (like, last fall) the Spotify app was a useless, total mess. I downloaded Rdio at the recommendation of one of my friends on Untapped, and I've been happy since.
The Spotify modern rock library may have improved in the three months since I've left them behind, but Rdio rarely lets me down when I'm looking for stuff that most people will never listen to. And Rdio has classical music, which my baby daughter loves and Spotify couldn't deliver.
Rdio also offers family subscription plans, which no other service has. I get 3 full Rdio Unlimited subscriptions for $22 a month. That's a full $7 less than Spotify cost me.
As an added bonus, I can stream Rdio in my home to one of home theater systems using my Roku boxes. It sounds really good too.
Google Play Link: Rdio
2. Spotify – $9.99/month – > 15 millions songs.
More people subscribe to Spotify than do my number one choice, but that doesn't make it better. Spotify started to lose me right after I found out that they use P2P networking to stream music to their listeners. How does that work? Well, if there is a song that a Spotify subscriber wants to hear and it is cached on your computer, Spotify will use your resources to stream that song.
I wasn't crazy about that. Add in the fact that when I quit them back in January, the Spotify Android app was barely this side of totally useless. They have one of, if not the largest music catalog and their Android app received a major update last month, but I'm happier elsewhere.
The one thing that I do miss about Spotify is their playlist sharing.
There is no Spotify streaming to the Roku as they stream in OGG Vorbis, which Roku doesn't support.
Google Play Link: Spotify
3. Pandora – $36/year- < 1 millions songs
I subscribe to Rdio for deep music discovery, but I keep Pandora around for the quick set it and forget it FM radio style playlists. I love being able to search for a song or artist and create a channel based on that search.
The sound quality is better than OK, and you can fine tune a channel quickly and easily with likes and dislikes. The Pandora music catalog is really small, but the service is worth every bit of $36 a year. Pandora played a huge part in my willingness to cancel my XM subscription, and I won't be letting this one go any time soon.
Pandora One on the Roku sounds very good to me.
Google Play Link: Pandora
4. MOG – $9.99/month – > 12 million songs
I really liked MOG, and they might have the best Android app, even considering the latest Spotify update. They are just a little thin on the music that I like to listen to. MOG is rumored to be acquired by Beats Electronics, but the MOG app is available for all devices. Including the iThingy.
There really isn't a whole lot in the features category to set MOG apart from Spotify and Rdio. Well, there is the streaming sound quality bit. At a whopping 320 kbps MOG is truly the sound quality winner, beating Spotify at 256 kbps and the assumed Rdio 192 kbps.
Very nicely done Roku channel for MOG as well.
Google Play Link: MOG
5. Daytrotter – $2/month
If you are at all into modern or indie genres of music, Daytrotter is for you. Bands from all over stop in Rock Island Illinois on their way to club shows all over the country to record four or more absolutely incredible (in most cases) songs.
For your two bucks a month you can stream past sessions to your Android device, as well as download MP3's on your desktop computer. There are 25 sessions posted per week, and there are also a number of live streams a week that you can listen to on your Android device as sessions are recorded.
If you are a fan of "sessions", like the Sirius XMU sessions on XM Radio the Daytrotter versions are unbeatable. Instead of getting 5 or 6 sessions per year with XM, you get that many a day with Daytrotter.
BONUS – I look at the Wolfgang's Vault app as a little bonus for subscribing to Daytrotter. Wolfgang's Vault provides streams of live concert recordings spanning every genre of music for free, you don't have to pay for Daytrotter to access their streams in their Android app. Downloads are available on the Vault website, but the MP3's will cost you a few bucks.
I stream four or five concerts a month, and most sound really, really good. You'll also find a few that are just painful to listen to, but those are few and far between.
If you give it a whirl, I think that the Rush concert from Maple Leaf Gardens in 1984 is the first concert that you should stream. Just sayin.
6. Slacker – $9.99/month – > 8 million songs
I actually hate slacker. It isn't that it sucks, that's not it at all really. It's the fact that it has come as crapware on every damn phone that I have bought for myself or my wife. Constantly running in the background, uninstallable crapware. Well, I got rid of it, but that's another Top 10 list altogether.
Slacker has all of the usual stuff. Big library, playlists, artists channels and the like. They're all there. But Slacker also has ABC News and ESPN Radio streaming as well, which isn't something that comes with these other services. Slacker also offered live streaming of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament this year, and though their implementation was dreadful, the streams worked really well.
If Slacker is bloatware on your phone and you really don't want to install an additional music streaming app, give it a twist. You'll probably like it.
Google Play Link: Slacker
7. Rhapsody – $9.99/month – > 14 millions songs
I couldn't get past the utilitarian design of the UI in Rhapsody to give it a shake past my one month test of the service, and not much has changed with the look and feel of the app in the year since I tried it.
I subscribed to Rhapsody in the early days (2003?) when your only option was to listen on your computer. I believe it was the first all-you-can-eat music service, and I tried really hard to like it, I just couldn't do it.
I'll give Rhapsody this much, they have a pretty nice looking tablet app. I don't know if it's worth a quick squirt, but it does look good.
Google Play Link: Rhapsody
8. Raditaz – Free (for now) – > 15 million songs
Raditaz wants to be the solution to the Pandora problem, they just aren't. Proving that a huge music library doesn't fix all problems, Raditaz music matching is certainly no Music Genome Project. But, aside from mismatching songs, Raditaz really isn't all that bad.
It has the advantage of being free, but that won't last forever. With a 12 million track library Raditaz will have to go to subscriptions, ads or both. All of the record labels expect to get a check from all of these streams, and Raditaz will have to pay for that somehow.
You won't find Raditaz on your Roku yet, and you certainly won't find it integrated into your in-dash head unit, but those things could all come over time.
Google Play Link: Raditaz
9. Jango – Free (ad supported?) – No info on music library size
I'm very new to Jango, having only used their service for about six hours of listening, but so far so good. Jango has been around since 2007 (who knew) and their service has been free for the entire time. Again, I'm new to the service, but I haven't seen or heard any ads yet.
Jango is better at music selection than Raditaz, but still falls a bit short compared to the finely tuned Pandora system.
Google Play Link: Jango
10. iHeartRadio – Free (paid options coming soon)
If your area is dominated by Clear Channel stations, this might just be the app for you. Not only does iHeartRadio stream most (if not all) Clear Channel music stations, you also get the benefit of listening to most (again, if not all) talk stations as well.
iHeartRadio has come in very handy for the sports talk programming that I love to listen to and cannot get access to anywhere else legally. There are also streams for many college football and basketball that Clear Channel has the broadcast rights to, but there are a few colleges that control their own streaming rights outside of the iHeartRadio app.
Clear Channel introduced a Pandora like playlist option in iHeartRadio several months ago, offering customised radio channels inside of the app. While the customised channels are free for an introductory period, I've never tried them out.
Google Play Link: iHeartRadio
My current subscription list:
- Spotify (ad free desktop only)
- Daytrotter/Wolfgang's Vault
Just out of the Top 10
- Sony Music Unlimited – Never tried it
- Deezer – Never tried it
- Google Play Music – Not the same type of service
- Amazon MP3 – Not the same type of service