Best streaming service for randomized playlists/"radio"
October 26, 2013 3:10 PM   Subscribe

Is one of the streaming services really great for a radio-like experience, with randomized and/or curated playlists? I don't want to have to build playlists myself -- it takes forever, and I can just do that in iTunes if I want (and in fact I have done that for years, but am sick of it). I would like to be able to pick a genre, mood or event, and have it be able to play songs for many hours. The ones I've tried so far have fallen short.

The key features I need are:
  1. A simple way to get a playlist without having to individually pick out songs or artists.
  2. The ability to stream for hours without interaction or interruption, on a Mac and iPhone.
  3. Playlists large enough that I won't hear any repeats during a 4 hour party.
  4. A broad enough selection of channels/genres/playlists that I can find one to fit my mood or the event I'm having.
  5. Good audio quality (doesn't need to be CD quality, but if I notice compression artifacts when I'm not listening for them, it's not good enough).
  6. No commercials (I'm fine with paying if the service meets the criteria).
I thought iTunes Radio might be good for this, but I keep having a problem where it'll occasionally just stop playing. I Googled it and others have the same problem, so I don't think it's just me. When I'm having a party, it's a pain to have to go restart it every so often.

I listened to Spotify's "radio" service this morning for about two hours, and heard at least three songs repeated during that time. Not acceptable.

I have Sirius XM, and I love it for the car, but for parties I'd prefer to have something that doesn't have talking. Also, their streaming player stops playing if you don't click the button every once in a while which is, once again, not good for parties. At one time I had an in-home Sirius receiver, but now I don't have a good place for the antenna, and I really would rather use an Internet-based service anyway.

I used to listen to Pandora a lot, but I found that it was really hard to make it come up with a mix of music that both had enough variety, but didn't also include a bunch of off-the-wall stuff that I don't like. It's been a year or two since I've tried it though, so maybe it's gotten better?

What else should I try? Rdio? Rhapsody? Any others? What do you use for this use case?
posted by primethyme to Computers & Internet (10 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Songza!!! On phone so won't link, but it is online and has a mobile app and no commercials! I particularly love the Pastoral Symphonies playlist - it's great for studying or cozily putting your home back in order :)
posted by estlin at 3:19 PM on October 26, 2013 [6 favorites]

Yup, you're describing Songza. This is exactly what they try to do. Their tag line is "Listen to Music Curated by Music Experts". You pick an activity/mood/event from their Music Concierge, and they'll present you with a handful of playlist options curated for that particular choice.

I do know I've heard repeats, but I have no idea how frequent they are. It may depend on the playlist chosen; I can't imagine they have a lot of options for some of their more eclectic options.
posted by cgg at 3:42 PM on October 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

You don't say where you are, but note that if you are not in the US, you cannot access Songza (without proxy contortions.)
posted by DarlingBri at 4:12 PM on October 26, 2013

Response by poster: Sorry, I'm in the US.

I'll check out Songza. But if anyone else has recommendations, please keep contributing!
posted by primethyme at 4:13 PM on October 26, 2013

Also try 8tracks, which has a whole lot of playlists uploaded by a wide variety of people. All free, no commercials or talking. You can search for ones that feature particular artists, songs, or genres (though you can't see the entire playlist until you've played it).
posted by lisa g at 7:36 PM on October 26, 2013 [1 favorite]
posted by Slyfen at 9:42 PM on October 26, 2013

Songza is exactly what you want. It has changed my life! It's available in both the US and Canada as a website or iOS app.
posted by Pomo at 12:05 AM on October 27, 2013

I am a big fan of Jango - you can create instant playlists based on similarity to specific musicians, or choose one of quite a lot of pre-curated playlists from a wide variety of themes (oldies love song, "pool party", grammies 2013, 80's dance, etc).
Downloadable as an app or available as a website, completely free of charge (you just need a login, but it's free).
posted by alon at 4:10 AM on October 27, 2013

I've used a few services and also got sick of ads and repeats. So I absolutely love 8tracks to death. There will be repeats since, I think, the tracks are played randomly, but not at a rate that gets annoying.

What I like about it is that you can pick tags and have a playlist that fits it. Like 'running' + 'indie'. So far I've liked every playlist I've picked.
posted by pootler at 9:48 AM on October 27, 2013

Songza is awesome and you should definitely check it out -really a wonderful service. However, the playlists are all of varying length and I don't any of them will take you through four hours. I've definitely "run out" of songs while listening to it and heard repeats. Still, it's the closest to what you're looking for. Picking playlists based on your activity is fun and convenient.

I would also check out Rdio. I have found that their radio system works so much better than Pandora or Spotify. No ads with the free web-based version (though it's probably only a matter of time). Haven't heard any repeats yet, and I always find some good new stuff.
posted by imalaowai at 9:56 AM on October 27, 2013

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