Thoughts on streaming music

I've written a lot about streaming music services. I'm a fad follower. I can't help it. As humuliating as it is to admit, I even bought one of those knockoff Creative Zen players to use a subscription Rhapsody service a few years ago when the concept first emerged because I just had to try an "all you can eat" music approach. We're WAY beyond that now. Rhapsody's player ended up eating all my music, and the streaming part never worked, so I went back to my iPod and iTunes. But now we have Rdio, Slacker, Spotify, Pandora, and Grooveshark, among others. Pandora has been around a long time. I remember setting up an elaborate way to listen to it through a Palm connected to my stereo speakers. I thought I was pretty smart. I had no idea that things like iDevices with AirPlay would come along within the decade to make stuff like that commonplace.

Pandora's fallen out of favor with me (its suggestions aren't on target anymore for me), and currently Spotify is in. Spotify has a new radio service that is like Pandora and Slacker, and its suggestions are good. It is rough around the edges, though, with no approve/nix options. Rdio also now has free streaming of entire albums (but not unlimited streaming on the free plan), so between Rdio and Spotify I can almost always find what I want. Slacker radio is sort of a cross between Pandora and the services that play entire albums on demand; it does both with paid plans. I pay $10 per month for Spotify's unlimited plan that also allows me to cache files to my iPhone. I spend so much time driving these days that I like having an offline mode for streaming music. I keep thinking $10 is extravagant ($120 per year for music I don't even own???), but I'll beat the old "cup of coffee" horse. I really do spend that much on coffee in 2 days. And I listen to music a LOT.

Spotify has iTunes integration, which I can't get to work for much of anything other than dragging playlists from iTunes to Spotify, which is OK, I guess. I wish the import function worked for me like it's supposed to because I have a lot of smart playlists in iTunes, but I'm getting pretty picky here since we're already living in the future with these music services.

I didn't plan this out, and it's sort of a messy system, but it works for me: I listen to Slacker radio to find new music I like. When I do, I go to Spotify and find the entire album it came from. I add the album to a playlist in Spotify I have called "Purgatory." I usually listen to the purgatory list. Songs I hate are just deleted. Songs I like are starred, and they are then automatically synced and downloaded to my iPhone because I've ticked the option to make the starred playlist available offline. Starred songs that stay around for a few weeks I usually end up buying (from Amazon; I still like the mp3 format). Purgatory songs that aren't deleted or starred I usually delete after a few weeks because clearly I'm just lukewarm about them.

Apple products have made my quality of life hugely better through musical tricks like this. I can listen to my starred music Spotify list in my car, walk inside, poke some buttons, and have my surround sound system pick up the music right where I left off. And all the while, I can walk around the house carrying my phone starring and unstarring music, adding it to various playlists, and all kinds of helpful stuff.

Note my lack of discussion of iTunes Match. Hideous, hideous thing.