Blog Post

A GigaOM guide to streaming music services

Stay on Top of Emerging Technology Trends

Get updates impacting your industry from our GigaOm Research Community
Join the Community!

Streaming music services seem to be coming out of everywhere these days, with all kinds of features, capabilities and pricing structures. Now, with Apple (s aapl) finally getting into the mix with iTunes Radio, there are more than a dozen options to choose from that are accessible via both your personal computer and your mobile phone.

How can one person choose?

While there are a lot of areas where services overlap (streaming radio, obviously, is a core component in all of them), it’s the little details that make the decision a lot easier. Services like Google Play Music All Access (s goog) and iTunes radio work intimately with your current library to provide music you own in addition to endless listening options, which make them strong bets for those with extensive music libraries. Spotify and Rdio are better suited for smaller libraries in need of augmentation, especially since you can download your playlists to your computer for local listening offline

And, of course, there’s the price tag. Some services are completely free — provided you sit through ads — while others range from $25 for the whole year to $17.99 per month for an in-depth family plan. These premium options often offer a little bit more in terms of functionality, but are a commitment if you’re just looking for some streaming to get through your workday.

Here’s a handy graph to help you get through it all, and find a great service for you.

Service Price (per month) Streaming radio Custom playlists Purchase songs Extras
google play logoGoogle Play Music: All Access $7.99 Yes Yes Yes, Google Play Comes with storage of 20,000 songs
grooveshark logoGrooveshark Free ad-supported, $9 unlimited with native mobile access and premium features Yes Yes No Ability to “broadcast” your playlist to the public and listen to other broadcasts
iheartradioi heart radio Free ad-supported Yes No Yes, iTunes/Amazon Local radio station streaming, Optional “add-ins” for local traffic and weather, limited skips
iTunes Radio logoiTunes Radio Free with ads, $25/yr unlimited Yes No Yes, iTunes “Exclusive songs”, ad-free version comes with iTunes Match
PandoraPandora Free Yes No Yes, iTunes/Amazon Free mobile use, but limited skips
rdio-logoRdio $4.99 web use, $10.99 unlimited with mobile, $17.99 dual-subscription “family plan” Yes Yes Yes, through Rdio Local downloads of songs,
rhapsody_logo_bw1Rhapsody $9.99, $14.99 for 3 mobile devices Yes Yes Yes, but only through PC software Tracks downloadable for offline listening.
slacker music logoSlacker Free ad-supported, $3.99 unlimited, $9.99 premium Yes Yes, premium only No Offline radio stations for unlimited and premium, radio add-ons, mobile playlists for premium
songza logoSongza Free no Yes, but they’re curated No limited skips, but endless available streaming playlists
spotify-logoSpotify Free with ads, $5 unlimited, $10 premium with mobile Yes Yes No Third-party apps, local downloads of songs
twitter musicTwitter Music Full songs unlocked without Spotify Premium, iTunes Radio or Rdio Yes No Yes, iTunes Has trending songs via Twitter, songs work in Twitter stream

11 Responses to “A GigaOM guide to streaming music services”

  1. PhUZZy

    This sure needs updating. you’ve missed one of the other BIG ones.
    XBox Music Pass.
    Get your facts straight and complete before posting PLEASE

  2. Bobby Batson

    One of the key distinctions for certain folks like me is the ability to play these streaming services through Sonos. I believe all but Google and iTunes have that functionality.

  3. Someone who truly understands these services needs to do a comparison chart. This is the fourth I’ve seen since yesterday that is woefully incomplete. For instance, Google offers offline playback and unlimited skips on radio. Spotify and Google offer the ability to choose any song, any time, an unlimited number of times, and access to full albums (I’m half certain Spotify offers album access). Google lets you add rented music to your personal library. That is important because that means when you shuffle your music collection, rented songs will play as well, and you can also mix rented music with your purchased/uploaded music for playlists. Not mention auto-created playlists with Google.

    There are other distinctions with the other services that are notable but I’m most familiar with Google.

  4. Yes, Google Play Music has custom playlists. That should be fixed. Also………I can’t comment using Google Plus?? I would think that a site like this would know that Google Plus is the 2nd largest social networking site.

    • Lauren Hockenson

      Thanks for the fix! I left custom playlists out of All Access because I was under the impression that it was a function of the original Google Music capabilities.

  5. Yevgeniy Sverdlik

    This piece would be a lot more useful if it made any attempt to explain the size of the music library each service provides access to. That’s the most important thing about any streaming service.