Streaming Music Services

In general, I’ve never been the kind of guy who likes to listen to music at work. And in most of my previous jobs, I really wouldn’t have been able to listen to music, since there were a lot of interruptions and interactions that would have prevented me from getting too far into anything before I’d have to take my headphones off to answer a call, or run over to a user’s desk, or whatever. But, in my current job, I’m doing a fair amount of “heads down” programming, with few interruptions. And I’m actually finding that some of the office noise distracts me enough that drowning it out with music allows me to be more productive.

For a while, I tried just listening to Coffeetivity. This was kind of helpful, but also kind of boring. I may give it another try at some point. I also tried focus@will. The idea here is kind of cool, but I’m not convinced it would make me more productive than listening to music of my own choosing. Again, I may give it another try at some point, maybe the next time they run a 50% off sale on a year’s subscription to their “premium” service. And, as I’ve mentioned previously on this blog, I was really in love with turntable.fm. Unfortunately, they shut down a while ago.

After messing around with all this stuff, I settled into a habit of listening to Pandora a lot. I set up some “stations” based on my favorite artists, and that worked out pretty well. About a year ago, I paid $36 to subscribe to Pandora One for a year, so I could get rid of the ads. That didn’t seem like a bad price, even though it really doesn’t buy you anything other than ad-free listening.

This past weekend, I got a notice that it was time to renew. (Normally, that would have happened automatically, but my credit card got stolen a while back and I had to replace it, so they couldn’t put through the charge on my old card.) I really wanted to just renew it for another whole year, but Pandora discontinued the annual plan a while back. So the $36/year (effectively $3/month) plan would become a $4/month plan with no annual billing option. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go forward with that, so I basically just let the subscription lapse. Then, on Monday, when I looked again, I realized that I was no longer eligible for the $4/month “loyalty price,” and would have to go on the new $5/month plan. So I decided that was a but much, and I’d look around at other options.

For now, I’ve settled on Slacker. The ad-free version is $4/month, and it gets you a few things that you don’t get with Pandora. The one feature I really like, and I wish Pandora allowed, is the option to download stuff for offline listening. I can’t use my employer’s wifi to stream music to my phone at work, so I have to rely on my Verizon data connection. This generally works OK, but I can wind up getting pretty close to my data cap sometimes, and I think it drains the battery a lot more than listening from a local cache. So just being able to download a cache of stuff over my home wifi, before leaving for work, is useful.

I’m also finding that Slacker’s “curated” stations are interesting. I listened to “The Current” station today, and it was really good. I’m not sure how often the content on that station is refreshed, but I could see myself listening to that one quite a lot. So, overall, I’m finding Slacker to be just as good as Pandora, but with a few more bells and whistles. Over time, I’ll see how well it holds up — whether or not there are any glitches with the app, how often content is refreshed, and stuff like that. But I’m feeling pretty good about it.

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