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Who Needs the Radio When You’ve Got the Internet

For this week’s post I thought I’d do a quick breakdown of some of the internet radio options that I’ve played around with: Spotify, Pandora, and Rdio.

I actually think all of them are great in their own right. Things that set them apart, of course, are their pricing structure, where you can access their services, which service offers the most variety, and which one has the best experience.


Free Version

Ads, limited listening time, unlimited skipping

Paid Version (2 tiers)

$4.99 a month for no ads.

$9.99 a month. Can use all your devices from phone, tablet, desktop, no ads, and unlimited skipping. You can also download music and listen offline. No ads of any sort and there is also no contract or commitment. They offer a very large library of 20 million songs Spotify is a music lovers type of internet radio service.

Spotify has a fun personality as a brand and I enjoy their interface. It’s nice to have my main controls on the left of my screen and keeping the most important image (my album cover) front and center. I think album artwork is an important part of an album and should be appreciated. It’s nice to see that Spotify makes that an important part of their design.

You are able to connect with your friends and discover music through their interface or other users that you can find and add to your “following” list. Then, you can always check out Spotify’s Discover section to see what albums, artists, or songs that are out and recommended by them. etc.


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The Spotify user interface


Free Version

Ads and limited skipping of songs. Apparently, there is also reduced audio quality with the free version.

Paid Version

$36 a year or $3.99 a month for no ads, higher quality audio (192K bits per second), and fewer interruptions.

Pandora offers custom radio stations and a library size of 1 million songs with some social integration. You basically create a steam of music, called a station, from either a song you like, an artist you like, or just a general genre such as Country. You can then customize the station by giving a thumbs up or thumbs down to certain songs and Pandora uses that to tailor the steam of music more to your particular liking.

I have to personally say I’ve used Pandora the most out of all of these services. Mostly because it was one of the first services like it, so I’ve just grown used to it in some respects and I’m a creature of habit. However, it is absolutely the easy one to use. I often use it for background music at work. I use their app on my iPhone at the gym and I use it to have music to fall asleep to at night. I have only used the free version and I have to admit I don’t really mind the occasional ad, but that’s just me.

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The Pandora web interface


Free Version

Ads, limited listening time, unlimited skipping.

Paid Version (There are 3 tiers)


$4.99 per month for unlimited web streaming. Millions of songs on your browser or desktop.


$9.99 per month for unlimited web streaming plus unlimited mobile streaming. Millions of songs on your smartphone, Sonos or Roku device.

United Family

$17.99 per month for two unlimited subscriptions, which saves you 20% on a second unlimited subscription. You can get three unlimited subscriptions for just $22.99. The 4th and 5th subscriptions can be added for half price.

I have yet to use Rdio at an expert level, but so far I dig it. They have over 20 million songs available. Also, Rdio seems to lend itself to being the most social. Friends that are connected with me on Rdio have their favorite albums easy to access, listen and add to my own collections. New music discovery is based on your friends who have similar tastes (well, usually). You can also discover other users that have similar tastes to yours and then follow them and their music. This seems very natural and intuitive.

In the Heavy rotation section, popular albums that Rdio thinks you will like, based on who you follow and what you listen to, will appear for easy access and listening. These are essentially the (radio) “stations” that you listen to. You can also discover music in “Top Charts” and “New Releases”. You can also make your own collection of music, by adding albums to “your collection”, making playlists from individual songs to playback later, and then share them with others!


Rdio on the web

What’s your favorite online music service? Is it the design or a feature that makes it your choice?


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