Courtesy of Lifehacker
updated 7/27/2011 8:03:51 AM ET 2011-07-27T12:03:51

Whether you prefer free streaming at your computer, paid streaming on the go or the ability to host your own music in the cloud, there are more streaming music services coming online now than ever before. Here's a look at five of the most popular ones.

We asked readers which streaming music services you preferred, now that there are so many new contenders and old names that offer new features. You responded, and the votes are in. Now we're back to highlight your top five.


Spotify has long been one of the most popular streaming music services across the pond, and the service's launch in the U.S. last week certainly earned it some fans. Spotify has a music library at least 15 million songs large, free and tiered premium plans ($4.99/month for Unlimited and $9.99/month for Premium) and support for most major desktop and mobile operating systems. Plus its wide userbase, partnership with Facebook and growing popularity mean you'll likely be able to find what you want to hear. Got your invite? Get started with our essential Spotify tools.


Grooveshark is another of our favorite streaming services. Completely free, unless you want mobile access, Grooveshark boasts a huge library of user-uploaded songs, mashups, remixes and more. The service makes it incredibly easy to hop over, type in a song you want to hear and click play to just hear it, no accounts, strings or payment plans attached. You'll have to pay for the desktop player (essentially an AIR version of the site) and the mobile app ($6/month for Plus removes ads, $9/month for Anywhere adds the mobile app) but if you have playlists and friends using Grooveshark, it may be worth it. The last time we asked, Grooveshark was your favorite streaming music service.


Built on the Music Genome Project, Pandora was one of the first Internet-radio services, able to propose songs to you based on songs that you've previously enjoyed. Pandora is still one of the most popular music discovery services available. It's not music on-demand, as in you can't request a specific song and hear it, but it does an unparalleled job at introducing you to new bands, artists and songs you may like. The service is free, although ad-supported and with limited listening time and lower audio quality. Pay for Pandora One ($36/year) to remove ads, bump up the audio quality and get unlimited listening, as well as a desktop player.

Google Music Beta

While Google Music doesn't really offer streaming in the same way the other services do, you do get storage for 20,000 of your own songs and the ability to access them from any web-connected computer and your Android phone. Even though the service is still in beta, it's already one of the most popular cloud music services. When you sign up, Google gives you some songs to listen to, but you're expected to upload your own. Once you do, you have access to them anywhere you go. Google Music is completely free.


Rdio is a social music service, and what you have to listen to is highly influenced by what your friends are listening to and enjoying. The service crashed on the scene last year to rave reviews for its broad music library, social features and shared albums and playlists, and mobile apps for just about every smartphone platform. You can look around for music, but Rdio does a great job of getting you interested in the things that your friends are listening to first, and then leading you from there. You can try Rdio for free for a week, but after that it's either $4.99 to use it on the web or $9.99 for web and mobile access, and the ability to download songs for offline play.

Now that you've seen the top five, it's time to vote for an all-out winner.

This week there was a three-way tie for No. 6, all worth noting as honorable mentions: MOG, another subscription-based music service that's well loved for its 11 million-song library, and impressive radio and music discovery features, tied with Microsoft's Zune Pass, which exceeds the media player that spawned it. Zune Pass has a massive music library, a beautiful desktop player and offers subscription and pay-per-download options. Subscribers get credits they can spend on songs to download and keep forever each month. Rhapsody also tied, sporting 12 million songs, mobile and desktop apps for streaming and downloading, and tiered subscription plans based on the features you need.

Did we forget your favorite streaming service? Perhaps you have a case to make for one of the contenders? Share your thoughts in the comments.

You can reach Alan Henry, the author of this post, at, or better yet, follow him on Twitter.

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