Music lovers should be happy these days. There are so many ways to listen to and discover music through technology that even the pickiest fans should be able to find the right combination of tunes and music streaming for their tastes.
They can pick from Spotify, Twitter Music, Rdio, Last.fm, Pandora, Rhapsody and Slacker Radio, to name just a few, and Apple's iRadio is set to premiere this fall.
While I've written about some of these services before, I recently had the chance to try out Slacker Radio, thanks to the company's offer to explore the Slacker Premium service.
Slacker, found at slacker.com, has more than 200 “expert-curated” radio stations and lets users listen in all kinds of ways, a news release from Slacker states. Boasting “10 times the music catalog of Pandora,” Slacker has mobile applications available for Apple, Android, Amazon, Windows, BlackBerry and Nokia devices.
It also offers hourly news, weather and sports updates (via ABC, ESPN, NPR and The Weather Channel) should you want to turn on those features.
So far, I've liked every music service I've tried out. I've liked Spotify for the ability to create playlists of songs that I choose in any order — basically I design the radio station from millions of songs available on the service. I've liked Pandora for trying to understand my own musical tastes based on initial songs or artists that I select for personalized stations and then learning from songs. That way, I've discovered even more artists, and it does a good job with the recommendations. Twitter Music lets me discover music from my own Twitter followers; it's free, but I keep forgetting about it, so the downside is that it's not sticking in my music routine so far.
And I found myself turning to Slacker stations the last few weeks for the wide variety of preset genre-oriented radio stations. I didn't have to do any work at all to start listening to Slacker's stations, which I really enjoyed. It was easy to figure out and completely customizable, but the ability to pick a genre and hit “play” was very appealing.
I played the “Today's Hits” radio station with my children and got caught up on what they and their friends were enjoying. I have listened to the “Alternative” and “Adult Alternative” preset stations in order to discover more new-to-me artists that I like. There's a “Pop Pool Party” station and a “Song Stuck in My Head” station. There are even stations for listeners who like contemporary Christian music, the classics, country, dance or music from certain decades, among others.
Slacker Premium is $9.99 a month and it includes the ability to play albums on demand or single artist stations, as well as creating your own playlists. Slacker Radio Plus is $3.99 monthly; it offers the preset station but lacks the ability to customize your own.
If you're looking for your own music service, consider some of the following issues:
Which service is compatible with your device? Anymore, most streaming services offer mobile applications across most platforms (like iTunes, Android, Windows, etc.). However, purchased songs bought from one store don't always play on a competitor's device. Check compatibility before you invest.
What do you want out of your service? Do you want to stream preset radio stations or design your own with songs and artists you choose? Are you looking to buy music or just listen? Do you want it to stream through your mobile device or your computer?
How much do you want to spend each month? There will be more ads and limitations with free services. Check the services' websites for more details and price points.
Are your favorite artists available on the services you're considering? Do a search. Explore the genre. Make sure the ones you like are on that service. Be wary of your mobile data with these streaming services. I think I would use them much more if I had unlimited data with my wireless carrier, which I don't.
While it's hard to distinguish one choice from the next among streaming and discovery services, music lovers now have good ways to discover their next favorite artists.