Photo: Illustration: Ellis Hamburger
It’s nearly impossible to choose which online music streaming service is right for you, so we break down the competition into neat little categories based on your needs.With Facebook expected to start integrating the big players into its big new content update today, it’s more important than every to find the best way to listen to music.
We have offerings from Spotify, Rdio, Rhapsody, and MOG in the ring.
Let's be honest. You want free music. We want free music. Free music is the biggest draw right now.
The streaming industry has slow to adopt free on demand music options. So far your only real (legal) options are Spotify and MOG.
We think Spotify does free the best. Right now, you can get unlimited free streaming. After six months, you'll be limited to 15 hours of streaming. One caveat: You can only listen to a unique track five times per month.
MOG just launched its 'Free Play' service last week. Instead of renewing the amount of free music you can get at the top of each month, you have a 'gas tank' that depletes with each song you play. If you want more music, you have to earn it by sharing your MOG activity on social networks and remaining active on mog.com.
Also, Rdio plans to launch a free service in the coming weeks.
Rdio is built as a social music interaction platform.
Sure, it plugs into Facebook and Twitter sharing like the other guys, but each Rdio user has their own full profile where you can follow them, see what they're listening to, check out their top artists, and browse their playlists.
Spotify has some similar features, but Rdio does it better, and looks great doing it.
Plus, tons of music labels, pundits, and critics have Rdio profiles you can follow to make sure you're up to date on what's new in the music scene.
Rhapsody launched a major upgrade last week with deep Facebook integration. That means it's super easy to discover new tunes based on what your friends like and are listening to. In the real world, we find a lot of our new music based on friend recommendations. Rhapsody makes that so much easier and does it better than the competition.
MOG recently launched a gorgeous new HTML5 web app for playing music and managing your playlists. It's a huge improvement over the old flash-based version. It's still technically in beta, but you won't have trouble doing everything you need to do. To give the new player a whirl, go to mog.com/m.
Out of all the services we've tried, we don't think any of them truly nail mobile.
But Rdio's app comes the closest. The app is bold and blue, featuring a grid-based home screen that lets you do anything in a snap.
The bottom music player bar is very slick, as is the social integration which lets you see which albums are in 'Heavy Rotation' within your social network.
What's the point of a brilliant social media interface if none of your friends are using it?
Dozens of our friends are using Spotify, and that alone is a reason to give it a real shot (and of course, because it's free).
It's simple to drag songs onto a friend's name and share music. Spotify's social integration may not be the best, but it's certainly the most relevant.
Not all the music services have a desktop app. And that's OK. It's hardly a dealbreaker. But we've quickly fallen in lovewith MOG's new Mac App. It's almost exactly the same interface as the new HTML5 web version, but includes AirPlay so you can beam tunes to your Apple TV.
Unfortunately, the biggest problem with MOG's desktop app is that you can't download songs for listening offline.
Spotify lets you listen to music offline from its desktop app, but the only reason we didn't pick it here is the design and usability. It's pretty darn ugly and hard to manage. It looks too much like iTunes, but, you know, grey.
We'll admit that this is a very, very sticky subject. Everyone seems to have their own definition of what 'high quality' or 'CD quality' is. Then there's streaming quality, download quality, quality when playing via music systems like Sonos, the list goes on.
So we took all those factors into consideration and picked MOG for this one. MOG's entire library is available at 320 Kbps, the highest quality available. Couple that with everything else listed above, and we think MOG is the best.
Each of the big music services say they have between 11 million and 15 million (or more) songs in their library. But some like Spotify can inflate that number with silly karaoke versions of tracks and other nonsense. (Luckily, MOG tells us they stripped most of that crap out.)
You'd have a hard time finding one service with a significant advantage in music selection. We think it's more important to look at the other factors listed here when deciding the service that's best for you.
It's easy to bring out a buffet table of 15 million songs, but what's more difficult is helping users find the best stuff.
Editor's Picks, or something like it, is part of the reason iTunes and Amazon have had such great success.
MOG gets credit for having the best custom curated Editor's Picks, while Rdio gets credit for enabling labels and music blogs to easily create Rdio profiles you can follow.
MOG's system is a bit more effortless, but Rdio's is much more precise.
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