I recently interviewed Richard, a music lover who converted his vinyl record collection to digital files so he can listen to his music while on the computer. |
His collection, acquired over more than 70 years, fills most of his 7-terabyte hard drive. That's a lot of music — one terabyte of space can hold roughly 250,000 songs. But there are other ways to enjoy music without the work and considerable expense of transferring "old media" to new.
The need to own music has waned with the rise of streaming music services. There are many to choose from and most offer a free option. But just because you don't have to pay for it, doesn't mean you shouldn't carefully compare the choices to find the one that suits you best.
Streaming music is for you if you have a reliable Wi-Fi connection. Otherwise, you're back to the old model of paying and downloading songs from iTunes — and $1.29 a track adds up fast and consumes valuable storage space on your computer. (Not many folks have the storage capacity Richard has and he's ready to add more.)
There are two primary types of services. Pandora's radio-style format instantly creates a radio station based on an artist you submit, and Spotify's build-your-own model lets you choose songs or entire albums and add them to your account. Both sandwich audio ads between songs, which is the price people have had to pay for free music.
If you don't want interruptions, you can pay for a subscription. Pandora charges $36 a year for an ad-free subscription. Spotify costs $10 a month, which includes offline listening and access from mobile devices.
Most people choose to put up with hearing ads to listen for free. But here's a third choice — different format and no audio ads -- that's worth a spin.
Songza is a New York-based free streaming music site that sits squarely between Pandora and Spotify with pre-made playlists put together by music enthusiasts. No more radio matches like Pandora or building your playlists song by song a la Spotify.
Success depends on how well Songza puts its playlists together, but early results indicate it's a hit.
Downloads have skyrocketed since Songza recently released an iPad version - 1.15 million in 10 days. Songza climbed to the top of the iPad free apps chart and is number 2 for iPhone. The company says an Android app should be available "very soon" in the Google Play store. There is also a Kindle Fire app and a Web service, making Songza accessible from most any Internet-connected device.
While there's no shortage of curated playlists on sites such as AOL Music, Songza organizes its lists by time of day and what you might be doing, under the heading "Concierge."
Say you're having a Monday afternoon slump, choose "energy boost" and then pick your genre from pop, classic (Songza's take on oldies), dance, rap and rock. Just the names of the playlists should perk you up — try Trans Am Rock with rock anthems from Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones and Allman Brothers.
You also can search Songza by genre, moods, decades and culture. Recent playlists are displayed on the home menu, but you can save your favorite playlists for easy access in the future.
Like Spotify, you must have a Facebook account to log in to Songza, and the app asks permission to post to your Timeline. If you don't want to flood your friends' newsfeeds with your songs, choose "only me" in your visibility options as you set up your account.
Songza also allows users to contribute playlists, but for licensing reasons, only other users can listen to them, not the creators.
You also should know that you may not find all your favorites on any of the streaming music services. Most have deals with the major record labels, but there are a few holdouts, such as The Beatles.
If that's the case for you, then buying the music is your only option — whether that's in a digital format or good old vinyl. To convert vinyl to digital, you'll need a special device.
Quite a few are available for $100 to $200, but ION expects to launch a compact $35 unit called Vinyl Forever that should be available soon from major electronic retailers.
Ogden, Utah-based TopTenREVIEWS.com guides consumers by comparing products in the world of technology, including electronics, software and Web services. Have a question? Email Leslie Meredith at firstname.lastname@example.org, or join her at AskLeslie on Facebook or Leslie Meredith on Google+.
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