2011: The Year of the Music Buffet

One of 2011’s greatest gifts to the rabid music listener is the sudden rash of subscription-based online services that allow you to share playlists with friends, discover new artists, and, perhaps most importantly, access your music anywhere, anytime.
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One of 2011’s greatest gifts to the rabid music listener is the sudden rash of subscription-based online services that allow you to share playlists with friends, discover new artists, and, perhaps most importantly, access your music anywhere, anytime.
musicbuffet

Editorial sponsored by HP. Your Entertainment. The way it should be.

One of 2011’s greatest gifts to the rabid music listener is the sudden rash of subscription-based online services that allow you to share playlists with friends, discover new artists, and, perhaps most importantly, access your music anywhere, anytime. As if it wasn’t amazing enough that you’ve been able to carry around thousands of songs in your pocket for the last decade, now libraries of millions of songs are available to you on any computer, even on your smartphone. The next thing we expect is just being able to play music on demand in your brain, but until that day you’ve got to make a rather difficult decision between which one of these “music buffets” you’re going to metaphorically feast at. We thoroughly investigated the leading triumvirate of Spotify, Rdio, and MOG to hopefully give you a fair and balanced (for real!) peek at each service so you can make an Educated Holiday Decision for the resident music obsessive in your life (or just so you can treat yo self). Anyway, dig in…

Spotify was founded in the UK but is making a splash all over the world thanks to its easy social networking setup, exclusive streams, and celebrity playlists. You can instantly (and without limit, even for free) stream your friends’ playlists and check out their most-listened artists and songs, access your own music library from other computers (Spotify will sync with your iTunes), and instantly stream almost any album. With a premium subscription, yours at $9.99 per month, you get unlimited music without ads and better sound quality, and you can stream to your mobile phone, among other advantages. It’s not a bad deal – those ads, which can be a little jarring, are really the only thing that mars the Spotify experience for the average listener.

The obvious advantage of Rdio is that it’s ad-free, even for free users. Subscribing does have its benefits though – a web-only Rdio subscription, at $4.99 a month, gets you immediate, unlimited streaming music from tons of artists on your computer; an unlimited subscription, for $9.99 a month, and you can stream anything on your phone too. Even without paying for a subscription, though you’re limited to a certain number of plays, you can listen to a radio station of what’s on heavy rotation for the average listener, and check out playlists complied by your friends or by tastemakers from record labels to blogs to musicians. You can also search for an artist or a label and stream whole albums (or just listen to a radio station of all that artist’s material) while you check out reviews from other listeners and journalistic sources.

MOG has a similar pay structure to Rdio - $4.99 a month will get you unlimited, ad-free web access; add five bucks and you can get unlimited downloads and streaming on your phone as well. Even free users can check out personalized recommendations, artists recommended by friends, editor’s picks, new releases, and chart-toppers. In fact, MOG has probably the best plan for free users – their FreePlay system allows you to increase your allotted streaming time by inviting friends or simply by exploring the app – making playlists, sharing albums, adding favorites. Like the other services, you can stream records and create and listen to playlists; unlike the others, you can create and personalize radio stations based on bands you already know you love. And it certainly helps that the audio quality is exquisite.

So, based on our (or our own) extensive research, which premium subscription service are you giving this year? Which would you most desire as a stocking stuffer? Or, if you’re already using any, which is your favorite?