If there is one thing I like more than music, it is getting things for free. Now if you were to combine the two, well, that would be what I like to call Shangri-La, dear friends. It turns out, that such blessings to mankind in fact do exist. They are called free Internet radio, and they are everything I had hoped they would be. But with sites like Spotify, Pandora, MySpace, 8 Tracks, and Jango all promising the best free listening, how could you possibly know which Internet radio is the right one for you?
Over the past month, I have spent countless hours signing up for and listening to a handful of streaming Internet radio sites, all in preparation for this day. Compiled below are what I feel are the best sites, rated with categories ranging from accessibility to song selection. If you are feeling lost in the torrent of streaming music, worry no more, NewMediaRockstars has got you covered.
Song Selection 6/10
Pandora has them all, if a band or artist is even slightly known, chances are Pandora will feature them. My biggest issue with the player however, is the selections that are chosen for you based on your stations. It is as if Pandora thinks they know what you like, but never really take your personal tastes into consideration. When a computer is tasked with picking music for you, it can be unpredictable.
Pandora does have user interaction down to a perfect science at this point. The simple layout leaves virtually no room for confusion. The menus have been stripped down to your music and your stations, no more, no less.
Is It Really Free 5/10
In terms of absolutely ‘free’ radio, Pandora gives it their best shot. I can tell your right now, this is the reason I do not use Pandora anymore. Since the streaming site does offer free streaming, they must jam-pack it with ads. Nothing is more frustrating then being in deep concentration, only to be ripped out of it by an ad screaming at you about NBC’s dinosaur cop drama, or something like that.
Song Selection 9/10
Let me preface this by saying, I know Spotify isn’t nesscarily a streaming music website, but it still offers free streaming music in the form of an application, close enough. Spotify has a phenomenal song selection, it did not matter how obscure I got; they had it. There was not any recommended music based on what I was playing, to the best of my knowledge. If Spotify had added an easily accessible recommendation feature, this would a near perfect streaming music player.
Downloading the Spotify application onto my computer and setting up my account was a debacle. The application supports connectivity with my iTunes and Facebook, I just still don’t know how. I would really like to know if Spotify is notifying all of my friends that I am currently listening to the best of Phil Collins, if so, I would like it to stop immediately.
Is It Really Free 8/10
If you don’t plan on using the Spotify mobile application, then Spotify will be completely free to you. There are fewer voice ads shouting in your ear holes than Pandora, but they are still there.
Song Selection 10/10
Rdio boasts a fairly strong music selection, with a heavy rotation homepage that gives examples of what is in most people’s ear buds right now. Rdio mutually allows users to listen to entire albums and singles. The site also has entire discographies available for play, and even feature B-sides and limited presses.
Rdio takes cues from Pandora, with a minimalist layout and simple music player. Immediately after signing up I was searching for songs and making playlists without any confusion. Though they do not have the most visually friendly interface, Rdio more than makes up for it with simplicity.
Is It Really Free 6/10
This is where you lose points Rdio. When I first signed up for Rdio, I could not help but notice a green status bar ticking away with the words ‘free music’ on it. It dawned on me one day that as the bar got shorter, it meant that I was running out of free plays. I understand the concept of limited commerce, but when there are dozens of free streaming music players on the Internet, I don’t think Rdio needs to remind me that my time with them is limited.
Song Selection 4/10
8 Tracks lets users upload different play lists based on genre and overall tone. When you search for music on 8 Tracks, you are searching for more of a feeling. The majority of the play lists revolve around studying, working out and partying. Using 8 Tracks requires you to have some faith in your fellow man and their taste in music. You might find a few play list gems, but in my experience they were few and far between.
8 Tracks has a very streamlined layout that encourages users to pick music based on tags like, study, ambient, folk, indie and hip-hop. Out of any streaming music site out there, 8 Tracks has by far the most accessible lay out with a great design.
Is It Really Free 9/10
The only restriction that 8 Tracks imposes on users is a limit on song skips and how many times you can repeat a play list. Other than that, 8 Tracks has no talking ads and few side banners.