Over the past couple of months I’ve been on the hunt for a music subscription service worthy of my $5/month.
Here are my thoughts about each.
- Custom stations that actually play similar music.
- Terrific genre stations.
- Limited song selection (800,000).
- Can’t play songs on-demand.
I love Pandora because it chooses what I listen to and it does a ridiculously great job at it. I can create a new Pandora station with a few artists I’m in the mood for and be confident the resulting station is going to be exactly what I want. And if not, I can thumbs up/down songs to tweak the results.
The only problem I have with Pandora is it’s limited song selection (800,000). After awhile songs begin to be repeated.
Relative to others music fans, I don’t have a wide range of music I listen to so this becomes a problem.
Enter the other services: Rdio, Spotify and MOG…
- Great design, user experience.
- Solid Mac desktop app.
- 9 million tracks.
- Great for finding new music/connecting with other music fans.
- Custom stations not very good at picking related music (at least compared to Pandora).
I’m going to start with Rdio because it’s approach is fundamentally different than MOG/Spotify in two ways: social and discovery.
Rdio describes themselves as a “social music service.” Rdio is built on top of a social network. You can follow users and stalk their listening habits.
This feature goes hand-in-hand with Rdio being a music discovery service as well. Rdio continually encourages you to listen to music as evidence of the main page being what they call “Heavy Rotation.” It shows you what you’ve been listening to the most and lets you see what others are listening to in your network (or site wide). It will also recommend other artists based on what you’ve listened to.
One thing that stands out about Rdio is the design. It’s pretty on the eyes, easy to use and their Mac desktop app is great.
It does not have any pre-built stations like Pandora, but you can create a custom station based on a specific artist, what’s in your Heavy Rotation or what’s saved in your collection (think of it as your favorites). My experiences with these custom stations were lack-luster. I wasn’t pleased with the selection (and there’s no way to influence the station) so I rarely used that feature.
- 11 million tracks.
- More control over custom stations (but feature still not usable overall).
- Horrible site design/layout. Using site is like having a root canal.
- No native desktop app (have to use browser-based player).
What was impressive about MOG was it’s catalog of 11 million songs (until Spotify released in the US). Unfortunately, that’s about it.
The site is poorly designed and a pain to interact with.
One feature MOG does have, however, over Rdio/Spotify is the ability to create custom stations and influence the station by rating songs or using a slider which gradually goes from playing just songs from the artist to slowly introducing other similar artists. But like Rdio, it’s recommendations engine was sub-par.
Finding new music through MOG is done through perusing the Editor Picks or browsing through playlists that have been created. So music discovery is not nearly as strong as it is in Rdio.
- 15 million tracks.
- Good Mac desktop app.
- Integrates well with existing music library.
- No web-based player.
- Virtually non-existent music recommendations.
- No ability to play custom stations.
Where Rdio is on one extreme of social music and music discovery, Spotify is on the opposite. There’s no social and no music discovery. If you use Spotify, you pretty much have to know what you want to listen to.
One unique feature Spotify does have is their desktop client. It’s designed to replace iTunes. It’ll scan/add your current music library to the app and let you sync your iPhone/iPod using it.
So which is best?
After using them all, I really miss Pandora and how good it’s music recommendation engine was. It fit my music-listening habits well. I just want to listen to music that sounds like ______, but I don’t want to explicitly choose everything I want to listen to.
But, alas, Pandora’s music catalog kills it, so I have to choose one of the other three.
MOG is definitely out of the picture because of it’s horrible site, but rumor has it they’re rolling out a new design soon. Perhaps I’ll take another look when that happens.
Lately, I’ve been using Rdio, but will most likely switch to Spotify (because of it’s larger music catalog). If I cared about the social aspects or discovering new music, then Rdio is the clear winner.
But for my needs, I just want to listen to music. So in my head, the more music I have access to, the better. Rdio doesn’t provide anything I have to have.
In an ideal world, a music service would exist with the music recommendation engine of Pandora, the song selection of Spotify and the design of Rdio. ;)
What are your thoughts? Which service do you prefer and why?