Which popular Internet radio app is best for you?

by Elisse Miller

When Apple announced the launch of iTunes Radio last month, many were left wondering if another music streaming service is really what radio lovers wanted.  With the large number of these services already in existence, it can be difficult to navigate each venue and what each offers.  To guide you, here’s a quick rundown of the most popular online radio apps and the costs and benefits of each one.

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To be released in Fall 2013, this service promises to be perfect for those who depend on their iTunes library for all things related to music.  According to the Apple website, personal radio stations will be curated based on items already in the user’s iTunes library and will change with every iTunes purchase.  Information will continue to be gathered when users listen to various iTunes radio stations, all combining to create the most personalized experience possible.  Because iTunes Radio is directly linked to one’s iTunes account, users will be able to easily purchase any song that plays on one of the stations, and instantly download it to their iTunes account.

Pros:  Users with devices containing Siri will be able to use it in conjunction with iTunes Radio.  Siri will play, pause, stop, skip, and play any requested station at the command of one’s voice.

Cons: The selection of songs that will play on the radio stations is limited to the songs that Apple has rights to, meaning no Def Leppard, Garth Brooks or various indie releases.

Pandora

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Pandora creates cohesive stations using its Music Genome Project, a system that uses approximately 450 unique musical characteristics in order to group similar songs together.  Users create stations based off any artist, album, song or genre, and Pandora identifies elements in the selected work and plays other songs that contain similar elements.  Users can refine their stations by giving a thumb up to songs they like, or giving a thumb down to songs they dislike and wish to skip.  Pandora is available both online and through a mobile device app; however, users are limited to 40 hours of free listening a month on the app.  Any additional time can be accessed by paying 99 cents for the remainder of the month, or $3.99 a month for an advertisement and limit-free Pandora One account.

Pros: Pandora contains a music feed feature that allows the user to follow the exact songs and stations their Facebook friends are listening to, making it a great way to discover new music.

Cons: On top of the limited mobile hours, users can only skip or give a thumbs down to songs six times per station, per hour or 12 times across all stations per day.

Spotify

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Spotify is an ad-supported application for computers and mobile devices that offers full songs, albums and discographies for your free listening pleasure.  Along with the pick-and-choose library of songs, Spotify offers its own radio service.  Spotify radio can create stations based on specific playlists, genres, artists, albums and songs.  Recently launched, Spotify Discover finds similar artists and albums the user may like, and also notifies the user of nearby concerts of his or her favorite artists.  Spotify has also recently made its services available through your Internet browser of choice, avoiding the hassle of launching an application.

Pros: “Private session” setting hides your Spotify activity from your Facebook feed.  Listening to *NSYNC alone on a Friday night?  Only you and your laptop will know.

Cons: Only Spotify’s radio service is available through the app.  Mobile streaming of Spotify’s extensive library is only available through the purchase of a Spotify Premium account, which costs $9.99 a month.

Songza

Songza is a music-streaming platform that takes a unique approach in forming playlists for its users.  Once logging into Songza via app or web, the program will detect the time and day of the week, list potential activities the user is engaged in and suggest playlists based on the selected activity.  Is it Saturday night?  Songza has playlists for pregaming with your friends or drinking at a bar.  Monday morning?  Songza has playlists for singing in the shower or waking up happy.  If you wish to bypass Songza’s concierge playlist creator, you can access a myriad of other playlists by selecting a specific decade, genre or even your mood.  With kooky playlists such as “The Worst Songs of All Time” and “The Twerk Tape” Songza is equal parts fun and useful.

Pros: Songza plays with no audio ads—only your selected tunes will come through your headphones.

Cons: Users can’t request specific songs, artists or albums to base their playlists off of.