Forget Spotify, Pandora and Beats Music. I’ve tried them all, and for my money, Rdio is the best streaming music subscription service out there. It has the best app design and, for my tastes, the best music selection. But you have to pay.
An update, though, is trying to make Rdio much more palatable to free users, as well as help all users find new music faster. It’s making the service free to everyone, emphasizing ad-supported stations for free users (with up to 15 times as many tracks as competing services), and new, smart social services for paid users.
iTunes Radio quickly became known as an underdog after its release last fall, with Apple facing an uphill battle against established services like Spotify and Pandora. In today’s video, we take an in-depth look at iTunes Radio, its features, its future — and why it deserves your attention.
Video might have killed the radio star, but streaming hasn’t killed the record store. Photos: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac
Stroll into your local record store and you won’t find the dusty-floored wasteland of empty bins you might imagine. Chances are you’ll see something that’s more vibrant, relevant and vital than before.
Like the nerdy know-it-alls at specialty wine stores and comic book shops, today’s typical employee at an indie record store is still a tastemaking wizard — just turned up to 11. Staff picks bear the unerring zeal of the true believer, and staffers are more focused on uncovering stuff that you’ll never find on a Walmart CD shelf.
“Since there’s been a turn to Spotify, Bandcamp and iTunes, we sell way more vinyl,” said Jim Haynes, assistant manager at San Francisco’s Aquarius Records. “We’re at about 75 percent vinyl to 20 percent CD and a smattering of cassettes. People are turning to an even more seemingly obsolete medium.”
Predictions of the end of physical media are as played-out as those reports about the death of rock ‘n’ roll, with everyone and their mother proclaiming that Spotify and other streaming services have killed the local record store. That fear-mongering sounds smart and might even contain a kernel of truth, but the reality is much different.
When iTunes Radio launched last spring, music streaming services like Pandora and Spotify took cover from the impending Apple invasion, but radio streaming apps like TuneIn Radio might be in Apple’s sights now as well.
Starting today iTunes Radio will feature National Public Radio as its first news channel for the audio streaming service. NPR’s channel will feature a 24-hour live stream with news, along with pre-recorded shows, but it won’t be the only news channel in the iTune Radio lineup.
iTunes Radio still has a long way to go before it catches up with Pandora’s number of subscribers, but in an effort to keep up with increasing royalty costs, Pandora announced this morning that it’s bumping up the monthly subscription price for Pandora One.
Starting in May new subscribers will have to pay $4.99 per month if they want their music stream ad free, which is still cheaper than competitors like Spotify and Rdio (both $9.99 per month).
Apple’s alternative, iTunes Radio is ad-free with $24.99 annual iTunes Match subscription, but Pandora is deciding to just drop the annual subscription option altogether.
iTunes Radio has barely been around for six months but after launching alongside iOS 7 in the U.S., Apple’s music streaming service has already knocked Spotify off the #3 spot among the most popular music streaming services in the country.
Internet Radio has some fierce competition. Since the launch of iTunes Radio in 2013, it became much harder to single out one service in particular that reigns supreme. Does the popular US service Pandora still have what it takes to surpass all others? Is Slacker Radio more your personal preference?
Either way, following on from last week’s column where we compared on-demand music services, we have taken it upon ourselves to narrow down the competition, including iTunes Radio, Pandora, Slacker Radio, iHeartRadio, Last.fm and TuneIn Radio; see the table below. We’ve also done some hands-on testing and in-depth research in order to determine just who has the leading edge and what they offer in terms of functionality, catalog size, features and usability.
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