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How to find new (or old) music using Spotify, ITunes and Pandora

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by B.J. Roche

Here’s a peeve. You hear something new on the radio and really like it. But they don’t tell you who the artist is. Hate that!

Maybe this is why so many of us keep going back to the old stuff we grew up with. But several new-tech platforms can help you bridge between your old faves and new stuff that’s coming out. So, say you liked Marvin Gaye back in the day. You might really like Rafael Sadiq! Ask me how I found him. Via Pandora. One of my students set me up with it, and it’s great. If you’re hunting for new music or you want to find mixes of old stuff you liked in college, you now have several new-tech ways to do it. Here’s a guide to three platforms for finding new music, and the pros and cons of each.

I love Pandora because it’s easy to use, and if you’re a newbie to new-tech music world, it’s a good place to start with streaming music. Once you’ve signed up for Pandora on your computer, or downloaded the Pandora app to your phone, or mp3 player, you choose “stations” around artists you like, for, example, the Beach Boys or Chaka Khan. Pandora uses its own “music genome” to find other artists that you might like, and sends you a playlist. You can have as many stations as you want, and they’re all saved to your account, waiting to be accessed. You can “thumbs up” and “thumbs down” all of the songs to clarify what kind of music you really like and what Pandora has matched and that you really dislike. If you’re having a dinner party, you can set the station, plug in the Ipod or phone to your stereo system and you’re good to go.

Pros: it’s free, and you’ll definitely find some new artists you might like in your  ”stations.” It’s great for the treadmill: (we suggest aforementioned Chaka Khan, Stevie Wonder, and Michael Jackson stations if you want something to get you moving.) Once you have an account, you can listen to it on the web at work or through your mobile devices. You can upgrade to premium version without ads and with better audio for $36 per year.

Cons: You don’t keep the music on your device. There’s some advertising, and you can only skip through a limited number of songs. And when you access online, you may find ads with 50-plus men on the sidebar. This could be a pro, depending on your situation.

You’ve probably seen Spotify mentioned in Facebook newsfeeds; it’s the latest and some say, greatest, music sharing platform. Since the company has partnered with Facebook, you need a Facebook account to access Spotify, which also uses your Facebook account  to share music you like. (See CONS, below.) After you’ve downloaded Spotify, the interface resembles iTunes, in that you can choose what songs you want to listen to in addition to making a playlist with all your favorite songs. The Spotify database is rich with different music and bands, and you can also listen to your friend’s playlists and start following their playlists. Spotify offers different packages depending on the streaming of music

Pros: Lots of music, shareability.

Cons: We’re creeped out by the element that the kids seem to love, which is the “sharing” of every. Single. Thing. You. Listen. To. (If you don’t want the world knowing that you’re listening to Barry White and the Love Unlimited Orchestra at work, remember to click the privacy buttons in your profile.)

iTunes is the Apple-based music store and streaming platform that has, basically, everything you’d ever want to hear. It is very easy to use and simple to maneuver around. Simply type what you’re looking for in the search box and a list of possible movies, podcasts (radio stations provided by Itunes), and songs are listed in whatever order you decide (author, most popular, album, etc). Itunes is the only way you can get songs onto your iPod permanently. The nice thing about Itunes is that should you lose all your music, whatever music you have bought can be re-downloaded back onto iTunes with no hassle.

Pros: Easy to use, legal way to own music.

Cons: Aside from the price per song, we can’t think of many; one downside if you’re looking for new music: you only get a 30-second snippet to decide whether you like the music. If you’re on the fence, check the song out in YouTube to decide before buying.

OUR ADVICE: Dive right in. Start with Pandora and if you want a more robust system with more musical choices, move up to Spotify. And let us know what you think.


Jeffrey L. Wilson offers a good wrap up of these and other platforms over at PC Magazine.


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