By Anna James
Photo: David Steiner holding ipod by Anna James
Whether it be Shania Twain, Slayer, or Swizz Beatz, we all love listening to music, especially online. With so many online music listening facilities sprouting up all over the Internet, it can be easy to get swindled into a bunch of different accounts without knowing what you’re really getting. But before diving into every program with bright eyes and open ears waiting to hear the next best song, know what venue fits you best.
Let’s talk about three of the most popular programs today: Grooveshark, Pandora, and Spotify.
PLANS: Free, Grooveshark Plus ($6/month or $60/year) and Grooveshark Anywhere ($9/month or $90/year)
THE GIST: Grooveshark, founded in 2006, is a music database that prides itself on uploading and constructing your own playlists. The home screen provides a search bar where you can search for an artist and add individual tracks to a song queue that continuously plays, even while browsing other artists. Grooveshark provides a great platform for portable listening — it’s your ideal “anywhere” music player. Playlists can be saved on the online database and looked up later on different computers and devices, making this an ideal form of online music listening for those without a computer or device of their own. The trick with Grooveshark, though, is that most of the music is supplied through users, which equals a plethora of mislabeled, crappy-quality tracks. Grooveshark Plus isn’t much different, but it gives a desktop client so the user doesn’t have to log onto the website, and Grooveshark Anywhere provides access for mobile devices. The greatest advantage of Grooveshark is that there are no audio ads. Yes, that’s right. No listening to a mix of peaceful cello music interrupted by a special offer of 25,000 free custom business cards — just music and nothing but.
PROS: “Anywhere” music player, playlists can be saved and shared with friends and no audio ads.
CONS: User-uploaded tracks mean twenty poor-quality versions of one track.
PLANS: Free, Pandora One ($36/year)
THE GIST: Pandora was one of the first Internet music databases to gain popularity, and it provides much more than what a basic playlist does. The site takes the customized radio station approach, where users can create stations based on their music preferences, dictating specific songs that you can rate with a “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” to further customize your station. A nifty addition is the lyrics and artist information section for the current artist playing. The list of disadvantages, though, can be a little disheartening — you can’t pick a specific song, you can only play four songs from a specific artist in three hours, 40 hours a month maximum, no replaying of songs, there is a limited number of songs that can be skipped, and pesky audio ads that are consistently three times more deafening than necessary. The Pandora One upgrade can trump the 12-skip-per-day limit and get rid of the ads. The best feature of Pandora, hands down, is how easy it is to discover new tunes and ones that you’ll probably like as well.
PROS: “Anywhere” radio player, constant streaming and tons of new music.
CONS: Limited control over what plays and what you can skip.
PLANS: Spotify Free, Spotify Unlimited ($4.99/month) and Spotify Premium ($9.99/month)
THE GIST: One of the newest online music programs to come about, Spotify, has been steadily increasing in popularity since its launch in 2008. The interface is set up similarly to iTunes and is pretty user-friendly, and while Mark Zuckerberg hails Spotify as “so good,” it doesn’t come without strings. Spotify boasts of “millions” of songs that would take “80 years of nonstop listening” to get through, but it only gives you a whopping 10 hours a month of listening with audio ads. It’s true, there are far more tracks available from Spotify than most other venues, but 10 hours will surely truncate your listening powers. Spotify Unlimited takes away the ads and listening limits and Premium gives you access to the mobile app. Spotify’s most intriguing and impressive element is the social aspect. Sharing playlists is convenient and your friends will always know what you’re playing. A tricky aspect is that the program has to be downloaded to your computer, so those sans-computer must either pay the premium option or go without.
PROS: Tons of music with a great social sharing element and everyone can see what you’re listening to.
CONS: The program has to be downloaded on a computer and everyone can see what you’re listening to.
Now that we’ve compared the three top programs in the market today, it’s up to you to take your pick. Choose wisely and happy listening!