I know there are lots of ways to listen to music online, but I’d love to be able to create something like a radio station that played only songs I like. What are my options?
Doug’s never been into purchasing CDs, but Ken used to purchase a lot of them — he’s got a huge collection of them in boxes. Of course, he rarely plays any of them; they’re all ripped and stored on a network-attached storage device, and he can enjoy any of his music anywhere in his house, or on the road, by simply streaming it from the NAS. When Ken stops buying CDs, you know the world has really changed. That time has come. Just as cassette and 8-track tapes finally disappeared (although there are still folks using cassette tapes to listen to music, they’re few and far between), CDs are at the end of their life cycle, and we couldn’t be happier. At this point, the discs and their packaging are an environmental nightmare; and, since you cannot recycle the unwanted discs, they simply end up eating space in landfills.
Clearly, unless you’re a serious audiophile who requires the highest fidelity reproduction, digitized music (which is almost always compressed in some way and therefore loses some of its fidelity to the original source) stored on a hard drive (local or cloud-based) is the way to go at this point. The question is, however, where do you find the music you want to listen to in a continuous stream? You can purchase tracks from any of several different sources, but then it’s up to you to create your own playlists. The question here is how to create something like a personalized radio station that can play music you like, continuously. (You may note that we’re not even discussing “illegal” sources of online music; we have no interest in contemplating how you can find copyrighted music for free.)
Although music services come and go and you may have your own favorite, Ken strongly favors Pandora.com,, which allows you to easily create your own “stations” by supplying search keywords. Pandora provides both a free and a paid service. If you opt for the free service, you get a lot of ads and restrictions on how many songs you can skip. The paid service allows for fewer restrictions and no ads.
To try it out, Ken browsed to http://www.pandora.com, and when asked, entered the name Debussy (to hear music of the classical composer Claude Debussy). Music started playing immediately, and soon other music like that of Debussy’s filled the room (as did ads, unfortunately, without a paid account).
If you’re a fan of Johnny Cash, for example, you could enter that name and create a Johnny Cash station. You can create as many different stations as you like and switch between them as your mood suggests.
We suggest trying out Pandora to see if it fits your needs. You can use it for free, but you’ll be happier with a paid account.
You might also want to investigate other options: Spotify (http://www.spotify.com) and the new Beats Music (http://www.beatsmusic.com) also provide large catalogs of music, for a fee. (Spotify has a free service, like Pandora, with somewhat irritating ads.) No matter which option you choose, you’ll be able to play just the music you like, in a continuous stream.
Doug Behl and Ken Getz spent years answering technical questions in private, and are minimizing the questions by pre-emptively publishing the answers. Hear Doug and Ken’s tech tips on KNCO radio weekdays at around 8:21a.m. and 5:38 p.m.; find full write-ups including links to the products they mention at http://blog.techtipguys.com. Submit your own technical questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.