Are Streaming Music Services All the Same?

No, You Need To Understand the Features of Each Service.
November 30, 2011


Online music streaming is a major category of cloud-based media services. But, there are many different models. Each service yields its own set of advantages, offering listeners varying degrees of customization and unique experiences for new music discovery and social interaction.

Broadcast Streaming Radio
The most basic type of streaming service uses the internet as an alternative means of transmission to satellite or over-the-air broadcasts. SiriusXM Internet Radio is one such example. Interestingly, SiriusXM internet broadcasts are streamed at a bitrate
of 128 kbps on average, double that of their satellite transmission which is broadcast at 64 kbps. Accordingly, devices capable of receiving SiriusXM broadcasts over the internet will provide higher quality sound, provided the device is capable of the higher bitrate.

Another example of broadcast streaming is TuneIn Radio (formerly RadioTime). Many traditional radio broadcasters mirror their programs through an internet stream. TuneIn provides a database of more than 40,000 of the world’s radio stations, all searchable by genre, program name or locale. A special feature called “Local Stations” uses your geographic location to provide a list of AM/FM radio stations in your area. Internet streams of AM and FM broadcasts are prolific enough that a streaming media device that supports TuneIn Radio can eliminate the need for an overthe-air AM/FM tuner. The interference-free digital signal is usually superior to the over-the-air broadcast, too. Some stations are not available on TuneIn Radio due to licensing reasons, so your preferred station lineup should be reviewed before employing this strategy.

Custom Internet Streaming
More sophisticated streaming services like PANDORA® internet radio allow you to build custom radio stations that play music according to your particular taste in music, which you can start by naming artists that you like. By rating songs that the service presents in real time, you can fine-tune each station you create and also discover new music. With this model, you can influence the content but not specify it. Pandora is wonderful when you want to simply play music that’s both familiar and similar in style, allowing room for flexibility and discovery.

Virtual Streaming Libraries
Other services like Rhapsody and Spotify provide more of a virtualized
library in the cloud. You can select specific albums, artists and tracks that you want to hear, as well as create your own playlists. Your selections and playlists can be accessed by computer, mobile devices and certain home audio components that have partnered with these service providers. Rhapsody and Spotify are great when you know exactly what you want to hear and you have the time and motivation to construct a collection of music and playlists.

Services like Last.fm and MOG combine the benefits of custom radio and virtual library streaming, allowing you to construct your own library online, but also offering the ability to let the service suggest music for you based on your listening habits and/or listener-provided keywords and track ratings.

Increasingly, each service is creeping into the social media sphere in unique ways. This presents a whole new level of consumer desire to not only enjoy their media independently, but also check out others’ recommendations and share their own unique tastes, anonymously or openly with their friends. In the near future, more high-end A/V devices that stay ahead of the curve will integrate social media features alongside streaming services.

If streaming music is a significant portion of your entertainment spectrum, look for support for your preferred streaming music service within any whole-house automation system you consider. For example, Control4 supports a seamless integration of Rhapsody and allows you to incorporate all your favorite Internet radio stations into the media setup of the system.

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