Battle of the Blah: Streaming Pandora, Live 365, Spotify or iTunes Radio sucks


Streaming iTunes Radio is like Chinese Water Torture.

Streaming iTunes Radio is like Chinese Water Torture.

Recently I’ve been listening to a lot of music on streaming services.

Ever since I was banned from using my personal computer at the job, I’ve had to rely on other means for getting my music fix on.

You see, I have a massive sizeable music library, far too big for an iPod or portable music player.

And as I am loathe to allocate precious memory space on my phone to music, I’ve had to rely on alternate means to soothe my inner savage beast.

Back in the day, I used to rock Pandora hard.

I made a few stations based on artists I liked and was content for a hot second.

But when I realized that was listening to the same 15-20 songs over and over again, it quickly lost is luster.

Then there was last.fm.

Same difference as Pandora – except you could scrobble.

Someone suggested 365 Live as an alternative, and for a while I was content.

I’d primarily listen to their Classical or Jazz stations, and every once in a while stray to their Reggae offering (mistake).

I came across Spotify one day, and decided to give it a try.

In addition to their genres, you could create your own playlist or listen to radio stations built around artists or songs you like.

The problem with Spotify, aside from the annoying ads every three songs, is the repetitious nature of its playlists.

If you listen for more than an hour or to the same station multiple times, invariably you’re going to hear the same songs over and over again.

Now there’s one thing I don’t understand, each of these services claims to have millions of songs, but all of them suffer from repetition.

They all have ads (in the free versions) that pop up more frequently than terrestrial radio, and although they don’t last nearly as long, they’re annoying nonetheless.

For all that, I might as well simply listen to the actual radio.

At least then I’m under no delusion that I’ll experience variety.

But a few weeks ago, after I got my iPhone 5s, I noticed something new in iTunes.

Radio.

Do my eyes deceive me?

I don’t remember iTunes having a radio.

Scanning my memory banks, I did recall some mention of iTunes Radio at the WWDC.

But it was buried in the iOS 7 hoopla, and quickly faded from memory.

Having discovered the radio button in my dock, I decided to give it a go, and quickly created several stations.

The good thing about iTunes Radio is the absence of a learning curve.

Hit any one of the preset stations and you’re off.

Making a new station is as simple as pressing a “+” button and typing in the name of the artist or song you want to create a station around.

iTunes Radio does the rest.

Initially, I was pleased.

iTunes Radio seemed robust and the music was varied and (at first blush) non-repetitious.

But then it happened.

The commercials.

The repetition.

The random song unrelated to the artist or genre I had selected.

Worse than that though, was the spotty service.

Streaming iTunes Radio seemed to be worse than the other streaming services I used.

Now, to be fair, all streaming services suffer from some defect in playback.

But iTunes Radio seems to drop at an inordinately higher rate than Spotify, Pandora, Live365 or last.fm.

Waiting for iTunes Radio to connect (or reconnect as was often the case) was like Chinese Water Torture.

The anticipation was unbearable, especially when you were in the groove.

Despite my initial enthusiasm, iTunes Radio was no better than the rest.

It does provide you with the ability to purchase songs you hear on the fly, but so what?!

In the final analysis, streaming music apps are often more trouble than they’re worth.

I resign myself to the fact that I just have to devote some of my device’s precious memory to storing music.

Because streaming is for the birds!

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7 Comments

Filed under apps, mobile, music

7 responses to “Battle of the Blah: Streaming Pandora, Live 365, Spotify or iTunes Radio sucks

  1. If your trying to hear music for free you will get ads everywhere you go if you dont want ads or more variety bottom line is you have to pay. The artist that make the music have to get paid they have bills too. If you had a song on the radio wouldnt you want to get paid for it?

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    • Cubase, I feel you, as your point is the entire premise of my post. I haven’t found a service I’m willing to pay for, although Apple Music is very intriguing. Loads of variety. Great curated playlists. Super easy to use. And the free 3 month trial didn’t hurt. I may have found my thing after all.

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  2. Doug

    You should know that some Live365 stations are “live” — that is, they stream from a remote studio so Live365 *can’t* insert ads. Since they’re not limited by the storage space provided by Live365 they are basically unlimited in the variety of tracks. My own station has about 60,000 tracks – you could listen for weeks and not hear a repeat!

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  3. Coool. Well, with my channel you’ll get variety all right! It’s kind of a mish mash of genres, all of it taken straight from a vinyl record in my collection of about 10,000 albums (which gets bigger every week).

    Wish I could do something about those godawful ads . . . but alas, it’s out of my hands.

    I do use Spotify quite a lot for finding new music (some of which finds it’s way on to my show, provided I like it enough to buy the vinyl LP).

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  4. I actually have my own Live365 channel (J. Frank Parnell’s Musical Stew: All Vinyl Radio Show), but I totally agree with you on the online commercials and repetition . . . and repetition of the online commercials. It gets maddening even for me. If I hear FLO from Geico one more effing time I’m gonna . . . . !! Of course, with Live365 (and possibly the others?) if you “upgrade” it gets rid of the commercials (or so I hear). Speaking only for Live365, I think a lot of the repetition comes from folks who don’t add new music to their channels all that often. (Live365 is made up of regular folks like you and me who program our own channels.) Personally, I add new music every day (usually 6-12 songs), but my playlist is 33-35 hours long so whatever new music I add today may remain in rotation for up to three months. I set things to shuffle, but as we all know, there is no perfect shuffle. Repetition is bound to occur.

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    • Thanks for the input Scott. Until you responded, I didn’t know how Live365 worked (or any streaming service for that matter). But it makes sense if these are all non-updated streams, you’re going to experience repetition.

      The commercials are the worst! But I haven’t found a streaming service with sufficient enough variety that I’d be willing to pay for it.

      I’m going to check yours out though, as you seem to understand that variety is the spice of life!

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  5. bugs181

    Oooh! Another topic I thoroughly enjoy! One thing I’d like to point out is that this particular post is biased in that you’re only gleaning a look at radio streaming. And right you are! Most of the time, I can’t stand the radio streaming bits of all the listed services.

    Keep in mind though, that streaming has on-demand options as well. Sometimes at a premium cost though. I am a big fan of Spotify in this regard because on my Mac, I don’t have to pay for the on-demand feature. If however, I’d like to take on-demand mobile – that’s where the “gotcha!” lies.

    I also realize that with the on-demand feature along with the on-demand to playlist feature (with offline cache) that the commercials are much fewer than the radio streaming counterpart. For example, I’ve only heard 2 commercials (advertising Spotify themselves) in the last half hour.

    With all that said, Spotify for the above reasons will be my choice of service.

    Off topic: Not that I condone piracy but I wonder what the Spotify licensing says about rebroadcasting (streaming) [Airplay] from the Mac to the iOS or dock while at home. I am working on a new project called AirFree which will allow you to use all the fancy airplay, mirroring, and music streaming features to a small $25 computer called the Raspberry Pi. You should check out the Pi since your a techie like me!

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