The Best Online Music Streaming Services

Do you find yourself going through your iTunes library again and again looking for something interesting to listen to? You’re not alone. Most of us have been using iTunes for years and, over that time period, most of our musical tastes have changed. Even if you go through your library every few months and delete music you’re not listening to, it’s still easy for your library to become stagnant.

Enter the online music streaming service. By utilizing sites like Pandora, Slacker, Rdio and Spotify, you can rejuvenate that music library and find new and interesting music. Continue reading after the jump to learn more about these services, what they have to offer, what they’re lacking and how they can help freshen up your DJ set.

Pandora

If you’re a music fan and haven’t heard of Pandora, you must be living under a rock. Started in 2000, Pandora has changed the way people listen to music on their computer (and on their mobile devices for that matter). Pandora has done one thing very, very well, and that’s simplifying the music discovery process.

Go to their site, type in an artist, and away you go. No wading through your bloated iTunes library, no switching between radio stations, no real work at all. If you like a song, give it a thumbs-up. If not, give it a thumbs-down. It really is that easy. Bookmark tracks or artists you dig to look up later, or skip a song if you’re tired of it. The simplicity of Pandora is what really drives it home.

The Good:

  • Create up to 100 stations.
  • Paid membership ($36/year) removes ads, plays higher quality files (192kbps), allows use of Pandora One desktop app, custom skins, more skips.
  • Supported on most mobile devices, including iPhone, iPod Touch, certain Blackberrys, Android, Palm Pre/Pixi and iPad.
  • Integrated with some home music systems.

The Bad:

  • Limited to 6 skips per hour, 12 per day for free users.
  • Time out period, Pandora will stop playing music if you don’t interact with it for a certain amount of time.

 

Slacker

Slacker is another music streaming service that has been around for a few years. When Slacker first started, they offered their own music player (which I owned and enjoyed), but after mobile devices, such as the iPhone and iPod Touch, began to dominate the market they scratched the player and focused on their music streaming service.

Slacker offers over 100 pre-made radio stations managed by real life DJs, which ensures the music sticks to a certain genre (this can be an issue with Pandora). They also allow you to fine tune the stations to fit your tastes by setting things like popularity of the tracks played, year the track was released, and whether the track is one of your favorites. They also give you the option of turning off the DJ, which means you won’t have anyone interrupting your music with news, etc.

By far, my favorite feature of the Slacker service is the addition of mobile caching. This allows you to save the stations to your device for listening while disconnected from an internet source. This is great when travelling, camping, or any time when you have spotty service. One caveat is that this feature is only available to paying subscribers.

The Good:

  • Over 100 pre-made stations spanning numerous genres.
  • Supported on iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Android, BlackBerry, Windows Phone 7, Nokia and Palm devices.
  • Paid subscription ($3.99/month) includes viewing the “up next” artist, unlimited song skips, no ads and complete song lyrics.
  • Integrated with some Sony, AR and Logitech home music systems.
  • Mobile app allows you to cache a station for listening while disconnected from an internet source.

The Bad:

  • Having to pay to see the next song is very annoying, especially if you’re in charge of music at a party/cookout and are using the service as a DJ substitute.
  • Limited to 6 skips per hour.
  • More expensive than Pandora (Slacker’s closest rival).

 

Rdio

Rdio is a relative newcomer in the music streaming scene, but they are taking it by storm. Before I go any further, I’d like that say that, in my opinion, Rdio is the best music streaming service out there at the moment. I have been a full paying member ($9.99/month for web and mobile access, $4.99/month for web-only access) for almost a year now and use Rdio every day on my computer and on my iPhone.

What sets Rdio apart from the other popular music streaming sites like Pandora and Slacker? First of all, on demand streaming; this means that you can pick any track available on Rdio and play it at any time, as many times as you want. Second, caching; you can cache any track, album or playlist available on Rdio to listen to even when disconnected from the Internet. This essentially eliminates the need to buy music (except for DJing, of course).

If I like an album, I cache it to my phone. That way, it is available at any time, whether I’m connected to the Internet or not. This is great for discovering new music. I typically browse the New Releases page on Rdio a few times a week, pick a few albums that look interesting (based on reviews, recommendations, album art, etc.) and sync it to my phone.

During my commute or when I’m hanging out at home, I’ll throw on the new albums to see if I like them. I’ve discovered countless new artists this way over the last year, and Rdio has really helped rejuvenate my music library.

Another thing I love about Rdio vs. Spotify (who is Rdio’s real competitor at this point) is the fact that you can stream from their website, whereas with Spotify you have to download their desktop app. This is great if you want to listen to music when you’re away from your main computer (at work, a friend’s house, a library, etc).

The Good:

  • Awesome iPhone app and web interface.
  • Caching of entire albums and/or artist catalogs.
  • Nicely formatted New Releases page.
  • Play any song at any time.

The Bad:

  • Price. $9.99/month for web & mobile access, $4.99/month for web-only access.
  • Must pay to access the service, there is no free option (they do offer a 7-day free trial).

 

Spotify

Spotify has been generating a ton of buzz lately, and for good reason. The music service has been operating in Europe for months now, leaving those of us in the U.S. chomping at the bit. Spotify has finally opened their doors to US customers (the free service still requires an invitation), and it appears as if they are gaining a significant following very quickly.

Spotify’s service highly resembles the Rdio service I detailed previously, so I won’t go into as much detail here. Spotify allows you to play any song at any time, and allows you to have a “Library” that includes music housed on your computer and music from Spotify’s online collection. Their pricing structure is the same as Rdio, $9.99/month for web and mobile access and $4.99/month for web-only access.

One caveat, however, is the fact that Spotify has a free option. This allows you to play any of the tracks from their library for free, but Spotify interjects ads occasionally. This is huge for those people who don’t mind listening to ads but do mind paying for a streaming service. One thing to note is that you are still limited to using your computer with the free service, and you won’t be able to play your collection on your phone.

The Good:

  • Very nice desktop app.
  • Huge music collection.
  • Great social/Facebook integration.
  • Free listening option.

The Bad:

  • No web-based streaming version, must download desktop app.
  • Free version is still invite-only.

 

Why These Services Are Important For DJs

Keeping your set fresh is one of the most important aspects of your DJ career, particularly if you have a weekly DJ gig at a local bar or club. The last thing people want to hear is the exact same set as last week, and that’s really where the services mentioned above come in handy.

Did a particular artist’s song set the crowd in motion during your previous week’s set? If so, check out similar artists in Rdio or Spotify, or even setup up a station in Pandora or Slacker based on that artist. You are almost guaranteed to find something new to add to your repertoire.

Another reason to use these services is because people tend to get tired of songs they hear too often. If you are listening to the radio for inspiration, chances are a lot of the people in your audience are listening to the same station, especially if you live in the same city. If you add too many songs from Top 40 radio, people are sure to get bored, so make sure to include some deeper or more obscure cuts to spice up your set. Slacker has a setting for this in each of their radio stations, and you can actually choose to only hear less popular tracks.

The Bottom Line

If you find yourself listening to (or playing, in the case of the DJs among us) the same music over and over again, try some of these sites. Most of these services offer a free version or trial, so there is no reason not to give a few of them a shot.

Do you have a favorite streaming service among this list? How about a service we didn’t mention (I’m looking at you, Grooveshark users)? Tell us in the comments.

Want to dig a bit deeper? Check out this article on Music Discovery tools. 

About the Writer: Johnny Brooke owns and operates Dubstep 101, a site dedicated to posting fresh dubstep tracks, news, interviews and more.

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  • Stevehalper

    what about mog?

  • erkron

    Yeah definite you should add “no support out of the US” on the bad lists of Pandora for example, this was the most awesome service and now it just got well, lame.  Spotify all the way in EU and lastFM is not bad I believe should be mentioned 😉

  • erkron

    Yeah definite you should add “no support out of the US” on the bad lists of Pandora for example, this was the most awesome service and now it just got well, lame.  Spotify all the way in EU and lastFM is not bad I believe should be mentioned 😉

  • Dylan0906

    anyone know any sites in Australia that are simlar to these ones?? 🙂

  • David De Garie-Lamanque

    yeah, you should have mentioned Groveshark!
    it is quite awesome. you can listen to any song at any time, you can save playlists, etc. like Rdio and Spotify.
    the best part is that the free service is really flexible! you can load up to 1000 songs at a time or save up to 1000 songs in a playlist! and the ads are only in a sidebar.

    one problem with it is sometimes finding actual official versions of the songs.

    i also subscribed to it as an artist and they pay royalties… 🙂

  • David De Garie-Lamanque

    yeah, you should have mentioned Groveshark!
    it is quite awesome. you can listen to any song at any time, you can save playlists, etc. like Rdio and Spotify.
    the best part is that the free service is really flexible! you can load up to 1000 songs at a time or save up to 1000 songs in a playlist! and the ads are only in a sidebar.

    one problem with it is sometimes finding actual official versions of the songs.

    i also subscribed to it as an artist and they pay royalties… 🙂

  • Anthony Woodruffe

    I can’t believe this is mentioned in a DJ website/ blog “Having to pay to see the next song is very annoying, especially if you’re in charge of music at a party/cookout and are using the service as a DJ substitute.” Are you seriously telling me that you are open to the idea of playing streamed low bit quality music at an event. No wonder DJ’s are struggling to make a living when hobbyists jump on the band wagon and screw the market up.  

  • koobs

    ETHICS anyone!?? Not even mentioning the fact that music services such as Spotify or Rdio are deprieving artists of royalties… someone should run some numbers because my quick mental math is not making sense as to how these ‘premium’ service fees are getting to the artist.

  • koobs

    ETHICS anyone!?? Not even mentioning the fact that music services such as Spotify or Rdio are deprieving artists of royalties… someone should run some numbers because my quick mental math is not making sense as to how these ‘premium’ service fees are getting to the artist.

    • Melvin Antoine Whitehead

      Have you read up on the relevant case law about streaming content versus downloading? They are treated differently…

    • Melvin Antoine Whitehead

      Have you read up on the relevant case law about streaming content versus downloading? They are treated differently…

    • Melvin Antoine Whitehead

      Have you read up on the relevant case law about streaming content versus downloading? They are treated differently…

    • Melvin Antoine Whitehead

      Have you read up on the relevant case law regarding streaming content versus downloads? They are treated differently…

    • CJF

       People like u really piss me off. Music industry is run mafia style by the 4 main record labels. Music industry needs to move with the times & technology not keep trying so hard to hold it back.U telling me artists don’t make most of their money through touring, services such as these help artist self promote themselves & hopefully give us all better music rather than the manufactured crap we get fed at the moment. Take Lupe Fiasco last album, ruined by record company & there are many more examples. Don’t get me started on the complete raping of the hip hop culture by these big corporate music companies. Sorry don’t feel sorry for all these millionaire artists producing absolute shit music but still moaning they not getting paid enough. Industry a joke & needs shaking up.

  • guest

    what about grooveshark?

  • Glen

    Last fm? Its better than all of those combined in my oppinion

  • Djsamseedri

    With soooooo many Live internet radio stations out there I find it a waste to subscribe to these services .  Unless your using them to buy new tracks.   I think  DJTT should do a short article on internet radio and the current issues facing internet radio DJ’s  …. or as I like t call them “The Watchmen of Electronica”  … but back to this article …. Pandora is tops here in the states and I have been using it since it was  a Beta project.  the others might have their own niche in other countries and EU. but as far as I can tell Pandora is #1 … soooo  how about them internet radio DJ’s any love ???????????

  • DJHH

    Still nothing about Soundcloud? Shame on you guys, shame on you!

  • DJHH

    Still nothing about Soundcloud? Shame on you guys, shame on you!

    • Dibby

      Exactly! Soundcloud rocks, in so so many ways!!!

    • Dibby

      Exactly! Soundcloud rocks, in so so many ways!!!

  • satchel

    There was alot missed in this article. Could of been much more thorough

  • FreshPrintz

    Big Ups.

  • Batman

    where tha GROOVESHARK! 

  • Batman

    where tha GROOVESHARK! 

  • Fabio

    mixlr is also cool

  • minimalmintek

    Spotify is great, I’ve been using it since almost 3 years now & really like it.
    But you didn’t mentioned the limitations of a free account. It may change depending on where you live.
    For example, in France, you’ve got 20 hours of music by week, & every week, you account is charged 5 more hours. But you can have only 20h max.
    In Spain, it’s like in France for the fist 6 months, BUT, after this period, eveything is divided by 2!!! 10h in total per week, and 2,5h recharged every week. PLUS, you can listen the same track only five time.
    For the US version, looks like there is nothing of this for the moment… It’s like at the beginning here in Spain & France (no real limitation apart from the advices for free accounts) but after one year or two, they changed everything to push people to get premium accounts.
    I can’t tell how it works in others countries, so anybody can tell us 😉

  • radikarl

    epic photo

  • Dimitris

    +1 @ Subconcussion

  • alpha_5_

    SPOTIFY!!!!

    I love this service, I don’t have a single complaint.

    However, I did notice in the article you state “you are still limited to using your computer with the free service, and you won’t be able to play your collection on your phone.”

    This is incorrect, as if you pay for a premium subscription then you enabled “offline mode” which works in hand with a mobile app, available for iOS and android. Basically your playlists are downloaded to your device over a wireless connection and you’ll be able to listen to them through the app for as long as you keep your subscription. This works fantastically by the way.

  • alpha_5_

    SPOTIFY!!!!

    I love this service, I don’t have a single complaint.

    However, I did notice in the article you state “you are still limited to using your computer with the free service, and you won’t be able to play your collection on your phone.”

    This is incorrect, as if you pay for a premium subscription then you enabled “offline mode” which works in hand with a mobile app, available for iOS and android. Basically your playlists are downloaded to your device over a wireless connection and you’ll be able to listen to them through the app for as long as you keep your subscription. This works fantastically by the way.

    • Marcus Avila

      “you are still limited to using your computer with the FREE SERVICE, and you won’t be able to play your collection on your phone.”
      What they meant is that you can’t listen to the music on your phone unless you’re a subscriber. And that’s a minus.

      • alpha_5_

        “One thing to note is that you are STILL limited to using your computer
        with the free service, and you won’t be able to play your collection on
        your phone.”

        “Still’ implies that whether a user has registered for a premium or free account, then there is no availability of the mobile service.

        The article goes on to state “you must download the desktop App.”
        Again seeming as if there is no mobile support, with the app and mobile internet you can use spotify regardless of having used the desktop app.

    • Marcus Avila

      “you are still limited to using your computer with the FREE SERVICE, and you won’t be able to play your collection on your phone.”
      What they meant is that you can’t listen to the music on your phone unless you’re a subscriber. And that’s a minus.

    • G00FiE

      How is that not correct?  You yourself say that “if you pay for a premium” while the article clearly states(in the quote you posted even) “you are still limited to using your computer with the FREE service”.  Notice the ‘free’ bit there.  So uhhh, yeah, I don’t know what you’re using to read with, but its clearly not your head.

    • G00FiE

      How is that not correct?  You yourself say that “if you pay for a premium” while the article clearly states(in the quote you posted even) “you are still limited to using your computer with the FREE service”.  Notice the ‘free’ bit there.  So uhhh, yeah, I don’t know what you’re using to read with, but its clearly not your head.

    • G00FiE

      How is that not correct?  You yourself say that “if you pay for a premium” while the article clearly states(in the quote you posted even) “you are still limited to using your computer with the FREE service”.  Notice the ‘free’ bit there.  So uhhh, yeah, I don’t know what you’re using to read with, but its clearly not your head.

    • G00FiE

      How is that not correct?  You yourself say that “if you pay for a premium” while the article clearly states(in the quote you posted even) “you are still limited to using your computer with the FREE service”.  Notice the ‘free’ bit there.  So uhhh, yeah, I don’t know what you’re using to read with, but its clearly not your head.

  • Paskwall

    no last fm?? last fm is the shit.

  • Paskwall

    no last fm?? last fm is the shit.

  • Paskwall

    no last fm?? last fm is the shit.

  • Morten Agnor

    As a european DJ I have subscribed to the Spotify Premium service for over two years now.

    It’s an excellent tool, and it even have a lot of remixes/edits of new tracks, which I’ve not found on the other sites/services, who often just gives you the radio edit.

    I also use it to send songs to other friends (some of who are DJs…) and to make my own Dancefloor charts publicly available to my audience.

    One fact that didn’t come through in the article: You can also bulk buy downloads of most songs in 320kbps MP3, better quality and cheaper than iTunes.

    And all tracks can be downloaded to an Android app and played offline. When you are offline you can mark tracks (star them), I use this to mark tracks when I’m taking the train or bus and then get them to my playlist when I get home. Handy to be able to work while travelling without having to take out my laptop. 🙂

  • Morten Agnor

    As a european DJ I have subscribed to the Spotify Premium service for over two years now.

    It’s an excellent tool, and it even have a lot of remixes/edits of new tracks, which I’ve not found on the other sites/services, who often just gives you the radio edit.

    I also use it to send songs to other friends (some of who are DJs…) and to make my own Dancefloor charts publicly available to my audience.

    One fact that didn’t come through in the article: You can also bulk buy downloads of most songs in 320kbps MP3, better quality and cheaper than iTunes.

    And all tracks can be downloaded to an Android app and played offline. When you are offline you can mark tracks (star them), I use this to mark tracks when I’m taking the train or bus and then get them to my playlist when I get home. Handy to be able to work while travelling without having to take out my laptop. 🙂

  • Holotropik

    DI FM. Just let it roll and pull out tracks or artists as they come up.

  • Holotropik

    DI FM. Just let it roll and pull out tracks or artists as they come up.

  • Holotropik

    DI FM. Just let it roll and pull out tracks or artists as they come up.

  • Holotropik

    DI FM. Just let it roll and pull out tracks or artists as they come up.

  • Holotropik

    DI FM. Just let it roll and pull out tracks or artists as they come up.

  • Holotropik

    DI FM. Just let it roll and pull out tracks or artists as they come up.

  • Anonymous

    Nice article.

    scamo

    • Micha

      LAST.FM?

    • Micha

      LAST.FM?

    • Micha

      LAST.FM?

    • Micha

      LAST.FM?

    • Micha

      LAST.FM?

    • Micha

      LAST.FM?

  • Subconcussion

    You seem to be concentrated on American Services only. Remind yourself that you have readers outside the U.S. like those of us who had Spotify before you, yes some few countries in the E.U. 
    However while they are all good music services, all the services you mentioned, WITH the exception of Spotify is available only in the U.S. (and Canada). 
    To me living in Japan this leaves only Spotify which is only available here if you subscribe. 

    So please make a bit of research and implement those restrictions next time you post. It’s nice to be told of music services like Rdio and Slacker but when I visit their website only to find out that you didn’t mention their largest flaw (not available outside the U.S.) it kind of tickles my mood. 

    • Ean Golden

      Yeah I agree- it is really irritating when I travel to have all these amazing sites blocked. Don’t get angry at Dj TT though- get angry at the major labels that block access because they want more $$$! 

      We will be updating the site later today with a list of streaming services that are compatible world-wide. Usually these services start with the US because that is seen as a large easily targeted market and then they expand with deals in other countries. This certainly sucks for at least 50% of our readers, who are outside our borders. 

      In general, my editorial decisions are always made with our international readers in mind. You were my first supporters! This article certainly could have done a better job of considering or at least stating where things are available. 

    • Ean Golden

      Yeah I agree- it is really irritating when I travel to have all these amazing sites blocked. Don’t get angry at Dj TT though- get angry at the major labels that block access because they want more $$$! 

      We will be updating the site later today with a list of streaming services that are compatible world-wide. Usually these services start with the US because that is seen as a large easily targeted market and then they expand with deals in other countries. This certainly sucks for at least 50% of our readers, who are outside our borders. 

      In general, my editorial decisions are always made with our international readers in mind. You were my first supporters! This article certainly could have done a better job of considering or at least stating where things are available. 

      • GloBoa

        We know its not American’s fault they aren’t taught at school that there are actually other countries in the world.

        GloBoa; Australia (just another little US)

    • Ean Golden

      Yeah I agree- it is really irritating when I travel to have all these amazing sites blocked. Don’t get angry at Dj TT though- get angry at the major labels that block access because they want more $$$! 

      We will be updating the site later today with a list of streaming services that are compatible world-wide. Usually these services start with the US because that is seen as a large easily targeted market and then they expand with deals in other countries. This certainly sucks for at least 50% of our readers, who are outside our borders. 

      In general, my editorial decisions are always made with our international readers in mind. You were my first supporters! This article certainly could have done a better job of considering or at least stating where things are available. 

    • Ean Golden

      Yeah I agree- it is really irritating when I travel to have all these amazing sites blocked. Don’t get angry at Dj TT though- get angry at the major labels that block access because they want more $$$! 

      We will be updating the site later today with a list of streaming services that are compatible world-wide. Usually these services start with the US because that is seen as a large easily targeted market and then they expand with deals in other countries. This certainly sucks for at least 50% of our readers, who are outside our borders. 

      In general, my editorial decisions are always made with our international readers in mind. You were my first supporters! This article certainly could have done a better job of considering or at least stating where things are available. 

    • French Christy

      hi sub, try this. Free VPN client…
       

    • Christian Williamson

      umm guys.  spotify has been live in the us for over a month now.

    • Christian Williamson

      umm guys.  spotify has been live in the us for over a month now.

    • Christian Williamson

      umm guys.  spotify has been live in the us for over a month now.