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March 21, 2012

7 Legal Ways to Listen to Your Music, Your Way

This post originally appeared on http://thecamspuscompanion.com and was written by a staff writer.

In my house, there are only two rules about music: no matter what you are listening to, you have to be listening to it loud, and you have to be listening to it through good speakers. With these rules in mind, and a fabulous Bose iPhone dock that I got for Christmas, I’ve set out to find the best ways to listen to music on my computer and iPhone. I checked out seven different programs, with the goal of finding the best listening experience possible. Here are the results.


Spotify is an application available for both Macs and PCs that allows you to listen to your own music library as well as millions of songs as they stream live. This service went live originally in the UK, and has since made its way to the United States. There is no limit to the number of songs you can listen to, but you do get periodic audio ads, although they are mostly artists promoting their number albums or tours, or Spotify encouraging you to subscribe to their premium service for $10.


  • Unlimited listening
  • Access to your library of music
  • Vast music library of millions of songs
  • Ability to create your own playlists


  • Fairly intrusive audio ads
  • Limited mobile functionality
  • Can’t listen to Spotify on other computers unless you download the app
  • Premium service for $10/month
  • Mobile app is sort of useless for listening to music

Final verdict: if you’re looking for a way to combine your own music and streaming music on a single playlist from your computer, Spotify is the way to go.


If you haven’t heard of Pandora by now, you’re either not in college or you’re living under a rock. This is the program to use  if you want to discover new music. Pick a favorite artist, song, or genre, and Pandora will create a continuous playlist of music based on your preference. You can like or dislike songs, and Pandora will adjust accordingly.

Unfortunately, unless there is a special promotion going on, audio ads will interrupt your listening roughly every 10 songs or so. If you’re listening on your computer, you will occasionally be prompted to respond to the site to make sure you’re still listening. You also have a skip limit per day, so if you run out of skips for the day, you’ll just have to sit tight while you listen to some less than desirable songs.


  • Great way to find new music
  • Unlimited listening
  • Vast music library
  • Browser based (listen on any computer)
  • Free mobile app (listen on the go)


  • Fairly frequent ad interruption
  • Skip limit
  • Premium service for $36/year

Final verdict: If you’re looking to discover new music, or make a playlist of song you’ll like with little to no effort, Pandora is definitely for you.

Google Music

My iPhone seemed like it had vast amounts of space when I first got it. 8 GB? What could I possibly fill my phone with that would take up 8 GB of space? Music, as it turned out. Sadly, as my music library swelled to more than 3,000 songs, and I downloaded more than 70 apps, something had to give. Usually, my on-the-go library consists of 1,000 or less songs. At least it did before I discovered Google Music. Essentially, this service allows you to upload your music library to your Google email account, and access it from any computer, and a variety of apps, for free.

You do have to download the Music Manager, and the initial upload took a long time, but it was totally worth it. There is a 20,000 song limit, so space is not completely unlimited, but it definitely holds more than my iPhone. Not great for finding new music either, but if you want to have your music with you on any computer, on any browser, go with Google Music. You probably have at least one Gmail account anyway, so what are you waiting for?


  • Browser based (listen on any computer)
  • Free (ish) mobile app (check out Melodies for a free app to access your Google Music account)
  • Enjoy your iTunes playlists from any computer


  • 20,000 song limit
  • Long upload time

Final verdict: If you’re looking for a way to bring your music library with you everywhere without tying up space on your smart phone, Google Music is the way to go.



I’m going to group these two together, because they essential serve the same purpose. One of the things I missed most about home when I went away to school was my radio stations. I loved listening to the DJs in the morning, and I knew which stations to listen to when I wanted alt, indie, or classic rock. Not only did I not have a radio at school, when I did find one  I didn’t know which stations played what. Luckily, I found radio.com, which has three of my favorite stations, and had a mobile app so I could listen where ever I was.

Essentially, both of these apps just stream the radio live, so expect commercials, same as if you were listening to your station from a radio. The apps are awesome, allowing you to search for genre stations or local stations, and save your favorites.


  • Local radio stations, even if you are far away from home
  • Browser based (listen on any computer)
  • Free mobile app (listen on the go)


  • Commercial interruption

Final verdict: If you want to hear real radio, check both these sites to see if your favorite stations are streaming ( they probably are).


Turntable.fm is sort of like a more interactive version of Pandora. You choose a “room” to listen to, and you listen to the song choices of 5 different DJs. The DJs can choose any of the thousands of songs that turntable.fm is streaming. You can thumbs up or thumbs down the songs you hear, and if enough people dislike the song, the next DJ in line gets a turn. Anyone can be a DJ, and the more thumbs up a DJ gets, the more points they get (points can be redeemed on the site for things like new avatars, etc). There are no ads, although I’ve had some trouble with buffering in certain rooms.


  • Discover new music
  • No ads
  • Indirect control over music choice
  • Free mobile app (listen on the go)


  • No direct control over music choice

Final verdict: if you’re tired of Pandora and you’re looking for a new way to find music, or you’re looking for a slightly more interactive social experience with music, try turntable.fm.


This browser based program lets you choose from millions of songs, create playlists, and listen to them from any computer. They also link you back to the artist and give you the opportunity to buy any of the songs you listen to. However, you don’t have to buy any of the songs to listen, and there are no limits to how long you can listen for. Nor are there any audio advertisements, so you can listen for hours to the songs you choose. Unlike like just about every service on this list, there is no premium service option, so you don’t have to worry about getting a “Grooveshark light”. If you want to listen to music that you don’t own, pick your own playlists, or be able to access playlists between computers, Grooveshark is definitely the way to go.


  • Unlimited access to millions of songs
  • No (audio) ads
  • Browser based (listen from any computer)


  • No mobile app
  • Some songs or artists not available
  • Their “radio” function (similar to the iTunes Genius function and Pandora’s service is so so at best)

Final verdict: If you want complete control over the music you’re listening to, and access to that music from any computer, go with Grooveshark.

No matter what you listen to, or how you listen, all of these apps are great ways to enjoy music. And since I’ve done all the dirty work, all you have to do is pick one and start listening. What are you waiting for?

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