Music is the primal (and thoroughly awesome) force that moves us all, and the Internet has substantially changed the way we listen to the songs we love. Did you know that there are several music streaming services online? Better still, several of the best streaming music services are free to use, and they let you listen to select songs from your favorite artists, albums and genres, hassle-free.
The services typically vary in function. While some will analyze your favorite music and use those tracks to recommend new artists and albums, others provide a variety of preset channels to pick from, and a compelling mix of sports, commentary, and even live events. Still others let you upload your music collection to the web so you can access it from any computer. All of them are web-based, but many are available as apps as well.
If there’s one drawback to these digital services, it’s that they require an online connection to work fully. In other words, if there’s a blackout, good-bye musical distraction. Still, it’s a great way to connect with like-minded fans, and/or simply space out to your own personal Top 10 lists.
Following are five of the best music streaming services that you can listen to on-demand at home or work:
Pandora – Pandora is a front-end for the Music Genome Project, which is a massive effort to “capture the essence of music at a fundamental level” by using algorithms to brew up recommendations for listeners. In other words, Pandora’s online radio service turns up recommendations that are “genetically” linked to your favorite songs. As such, Pandora is an excellent music streaming service if you’re in the mood to expand your listening. It has some shortcomings, however: The free version of the service only allows for 40 hours of listening a week, and it’s only available in the United States.
Last.fm – Like Pandora, Last.fm is something of a frontrunner in the realm of music streaming. It also gives you recommendations based on your favorite listening selections, and lets you build playlists. The site is loaded with social networking options, which has helped build a rich and busy community around the service. Last.fm is a great choice if you’re looking to share your musical interests with your pals.
Grooveshark – Its name might bring up a mental image of the mellowest killer in the sea, but Grooveshark is actually one of the most popular music streaming services on the Internet, thanks to its ease of use. Unlike other services, you don’t need to sign up for a subscription: You simply dive right into the site and begin building a playlist. If you’re at a loss to find anything you like, you can even upload your own music collection to help build up the Grooveshark database.
Spotify – Spotify is an excellent streaming service that lets you share your playlists with ease. Premium users can access an offline mode to store music locally. The service recently launched in the United States, and is also available in much of Europe and the UK. Sorry, Canadians. It’s quickly risen to become the most prominent of the streaming music services, at least from the standpoint of awareness and media coverage, even if Pandora has it beat in terms of ubiquity on connected devices such as WiFi-enabled TVs and Blu-ray players.
Slacker Radio – You should check out Slacker Radio—and don’t come back with a response like, “Ehhh, maybe later.” Slacker Radio has great audio quality, and tons of customization options. That’s worth getting up off the couch for, right? But don’t believe us: Take it from top critics, who continually label it as a favorite pick on their best-of lists.
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