Kiplinger's Personal Finance
You have more ways than ever to program your own music.
1. WYOU is on the air.
Never mind paying a buck to purchase, download and store individual songs. You can now create your own radio station. The streaming field is crowded with spunky start-ups, such as Pandora, Spotify, Rdio and Slacker. Plus, relative old-timers are getting into the act with Apple iTunes Radio, Google Play Music All Access and Microsoft Xbox Music Pass. Each service streams tunes wirelessly to your digital devices and offers a free option (with ads) or a premium option. 2. You can program your station, too.
Your control over what you hear varies by service and whether you've chosen the free or fee option. For radio-style listening, it's hard to beat free. Pandora users, for instance, go to the service's app or website to enter the name of an artist, song or composer. The service then creates a "radio station" that plays songs in the category you've chosen. (You also have the option to choose one of Pandora's Genre Stations.) The free version has ads; the premium edition ($4 per month) offers ad-free listening and higher-quality audio. Spotify allows users of its free service a bit more control, most notably the ability to play the songs of one artist in shuffle mode. 3. Sample the music menu.
Each service offers a range of musical genres, from blues to country to hip-hop to classical to world music. But streaming services use algorithms to pick songs for their radio stations, and the resulting playlists can vary considerably. You may find you're more in sync with one digital DJ than another. 4. Get the app.
Android, BlackBerry, iOS and Windows Phone users can go to their respective app stores and search for the name of the streaming vendor they want to try. And be aware that even when you're disconnected from the Web on the subway or an airplane, you can still listen to tracks. Paying customers of Rdio, Slacker, Spotify and Xbox Music Pass, for instance, can download songs for off-line listening. 5. Import your iTunes tracks.
You probably listen to podcasts, audio books and interviews as well as music on iTunes. The good news is that longtime iTunes users can import audio files from an iTunes library into many streaming services. Google Play Music All Access, for instance, will bring in iTunes playlists free. Or, if you like iTunes and want to stick with it, give iTunes Match a try ($25 a year).
(Jeff Bertolucci is a freelance writer for Kiplinger's Personal Finance magazine. Send your questions and comments to email@example.com. And for more on this and similar money topics, visit Kiplinger.com.)
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