5 Best Music App Alternatives to Spotify
It might seem hard to believe now, but people did listen to music before Spotify found its way to American shores last year. And despite Spotify’s crazy popularity with 10 million U.S. users as of May 2012—3 million of them paying subscribers, according to Apple Insider—the fact is that Spotify’s service isn’t the last word in digital music.
For starters, you might prefer the idea of actually owning the music you buy, as opposed to paying monthly for music access. Spotify’s features can be limiting as well, especially on the stripped-down mobile app—limits we’ll get to in the comparisons below.
So, whether you’re dissatisfied with Spotify or you just want to try something else, these music apps might tickle your aural fancy.
The former champ of music streaming is still the sound wave app of choice for many listeners. If you haven’t tried it, the Pandora app creates custom radio stations based on your tastes, and it learns what you like over time.
Select an artist or song to get started, then add as many stations as you’d like. If you like a song you hear, hit the “thumbs up”; if you don’t, hit the “thumbs down” and the song will be skipped on that station.
In the free version, you can only skip six songs per hour and you’ll be periodically assaulted with loud advertisements (similar to Spotify). But if you like being fed new music—with surprising prowess—you might prefer Pandora.
Though Spotify does have radio, it doesn’t learn as you go. We recently started a “Nirvana” station and were soon treated to bands as varied as R.E.M., Green Day and Marilyn Manson, to name a few. Luckily for us, we dig ’90s music, because there’s no way to tell the station to be a little more Nirvana-y. (Free for Android, iPhone and BlackBerry)
Slacker operates under a premise similar to Pandora. Here, though, there are actual radio stations to choose from (like, say, your city’s Hip Hop station, provided they stream over the web), including news stations.
There are also satellite-radio-like preset stations typically dedicated to a particular genre or decade. From these presets, you can make stations that are more your own by increasing or decreasing the frequency of certain artists or songs, adding other genres, etc.
This music app also features on-demand music access for a monthly subscription fee of $5 (five bucks a month less than what it takes to get Spotify on your mobile device). The downside is that Slacker’s music library isn’t as large as Spotify’s claims to be. (Free for Android, iPhone and BlackBerry)
Last.fm was really the originator of some of Spotify’s best features—namely, the social tie-ins.
“Scrobbling” (which you can do from Spotify, too) is the act of keeping track of what you’re listening to. Last.fm can then take this information to make new music recommendations or post on your profile to share with friends. The recommendation process isn’t as organic as Pandora’s, but the results tend to be pretty sound (if you’ll forgive the pun).
Other social features include concert listings in your area (and keeping tabs on which friends are going to which shows), which was probably a cooler idea before Facebook and texting were the norm. There’s streaming radio, too, but virtually all of the other music apps listed here provide a better radio service.
Last.fm is an oldie, but we still love to scrobble. (Free for Android and iPhone)
This is the app that shares the most similarities with Spotify, though that’s a bit unfair to say, seeing as Rhapsody has been around a lot longer.
In terms of monthly payment structures and song libraries, the differences are minor (and are detailed in our Rhapsody review). Spotify’s advantages are a slightly cheaper cost, a slightly bigger library and Facebook integration. But in a pure app-to-app comparison, Rhapsody probably comes out on top. Spotify’s mobile app is actually pretty stripped down and lacks many of the features that make it such an attractive desktop service—more “Spotify Lite” than “Spotify On Your Phone.”
So if you’re listening to music on your phone almost exclusively, try both (or try Spotify—there’s no free subscription for Rhapsody), but don’t be surprised if you prefer Rhapsody in the end. (Free for Android, iPhone and BlackBerry)
Songza is a concept app, and that’s exactly what we like about it. Instead of competing head-on with the Spotify’s of the world, Songza set out to do something different. It is another music-streaming app, but everything on the app is a pre-made playlist. And it’s free.
Though clearly this approach limits customization (you can’t make your own playlists, you can’t jump to specific artists or specific tracks), Songza has a playlist for just about every conceivable situation—moods, parties, games, genres, ideas, areas of study, etc. And the playlists are much longer than your old mixed CDs—many of them are 50+ songs, so you don’t have to worry about what to listen to next.
You might want to use Songza as an addition to another primary music app, but at the cost of free, there’s really no reason you shouldn’t have Songza installed on your phone. (Free for Android and iPhone)