5 Music Streaming Services That Are Still Free


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Apple's iTunes Radio is no longer free, but these alternatives still are. Here's a breakdown of what each service offers.

Apple’s iTunes Radio officially is no longer free.

Apple folded its Internet radio service into its $9.99-a-month Apple Music service at the end of January.

The move follows the end of several other free music-streaming services — for example, Grooveshark shut down and Rdio was acquired in 2015.

So we rounded up five of the biggest, most popular and most established music streaming services that still are free, or that at least offer a free account option.

Then, we broke down each to show you what you get for free — and which features require you to pay.

iHeartRadio

What it is: iHeartRadio describes itself as “a free, all-in-one digital radio and music streaming service.” It allows you to listen to thousands of live stations from across the country. You also can create personalized custom stations featuring your favorite artists, and similar music.

iHeartRadio is a division of iHeartMedia Inc., which owns 858 radio stations.

Catalog size: More than 20 million songs

Free vs. paid subscriptions: iHeartRadio has no paid subscriptions — everything is free.

Pandora

What it is: Pandora describes its service as “free personalized radio that plays the music you love.”

Pandora’s ability to identify music that suits your tastes stems from its Music Genome Project, which Pandora describes as “the most comprehensive analysis of music ever undertaken.”

Here’s how it works:

Just drop the name of one of your favorite songs, artists or genres into Pandora. … [The Music Genome Project] will quickly scan its entire world of analyzed music, almost a century of popular recordings — new and old, well-known and completely obscure — to find songs with interesting musical similarities to your choice.

Catalog size: More than 1 million songs.

Free vs. paid subscriptions: Pandora One is the name of Pandora’s paid subscription, which costs $4.99 per month. A free one-week trial is available. A discount is available for an annual subscription, which costs $54.89.

Pandora One features include:

  • No ad interruptions
  • Higher-quality audio (192 kbps when listening on the Web)
  • More skips, which refers to the ability to click Pandora’s “skip” button to skip a song that Pandora has chosen but you don’t want to listen to

Pandora’s subscription options could change later this year, however, as the company announced in December a “plan to substantially broaden its subscription business and roll out a multi‐tier product offering by late 2016.”

Slacker Radio

What it is: Slacker provides access to songs and curated stations as well as news, sports and talk.

Users can choose from hundreds of radio stations — Slacker also suggests stations based on a user’s choice of artist, song or even activity — or create their own stations from Slacker’s song catalog.

Catalog size: More than 13 million songs

Free vs. paid subscriptions: Radio Plus and Premium are Slacker’s two paid subscriptions, which cost $3.99 per month and $9.99 per month, respectively.

Radio Plus’ features include:

  • No ad interruptions
  • Unlimited skips
  • Access to offline stations, which allow users to listen to music on their mobile devices without using wireless data

Premium’s features include:

  • Offline playback, meaning you can download music to a computer or mobile device so that you can play it anywhere — even without Internet — and without using wireless data
  • On-demand playback, meaning you can listen to any songs in any order at any time
  • Ability to create custom playlists

SoundCloud

What it is: SoundCloud describes itself as a “social sound platform,” as it allows users to not only listen to others’ music but to upload their own music so they can share it:

Recording and uploading sounds to SoundCloud lets people easily share them privately with their friends or publicly to blogs, sites and social networks.

Catalog size: More than 100 million songs

Free vs. paid subscriptions: SoundCloud is currently free for listeners — there are one free and two paid options for uploaders — but TechCrunch recently reported that SoundCloud will launch a paid subscription later this year.

SoundCloud chief executive Alex Ljung told the publication:

“No details to share on that yet other than I would think of it as an add-on rather than a change to the existing service.”

Spotify

What it is: Spotify allows you to search for music to listen to based on your choice of artist, album, mood (such as “chill”) or activity (such as “breakfast in bed”), for example. It also has radio stations that can be personalized to better suit your taste.

Catalog size: More than 30 million songs

Free vs. paid subscriptions: Spotify Premium is Spotify’s paid subscription, which costs $9.99 per month.

A free 30-day trial is available for first-time subscribers who sign up via Spotify.com. Discounts are available for students (50 percent off) and families (50 percent off each additional account).

Spotify Premium’s features include:

  • No ad interruptions
  • Higher-quality audio (about 320 kbps compared with about 96 kbps or 160 kbps with a free subscription)
  • Unlimited skips
  • Offline playback
  • On-demand playback

Do you use any music streaming services? We’d love to know which one and whether you have a free or paid subscription — let us know in our Forums. It’s a place where you can swap questions and answers on money-related matters, life hacks and ingenious ways to save.

Stacy Johnson

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