Using a plethora of devices from computers to media players and smart phones, we have the ability to stream music and movies from online services. To "stream" a music or movie file, means that you can play it directly from an online website or service. The alternate to streaming music and movies, is downloading and saving them on a computer, external hard drive, network attached server (NAS) drive, smart phone, or media player. The trend is toward streaming movies and music rather than buying them.
When our entertainment came from vinyl albums, VHS tapes, CDs, DVDs, and Blu-ray Discs, we would buy them and put them onto shelf after shelf. For some of us who like to have a large variety of movies and music available we would clutter our homes with massive collections. Buying digital movies, TV shows, and music to save in media libraries have had a similar effect, loading our computers and hard drives with gigabytes of saved files. This crowding of our hard drives can be called digital clutter.
Streaming music online is the best defense.
The best way to reduce your digital clutter is to stop downloading and saving files to your hard drives. You can stop buying and acquiring music because you don't need to own the music.
Having been raised with the hoarding Depression Era mentality of my parents, this concept was new to me: I didn't need to collect movies and music to have it available when I want to hear it. My teenaged son taught this idea to me. He would download a playlist of the songs he liked, listening to them for a week or two. Then I would watch in horror as he would delete all of the songs and replace them with new ones. What he knew, and I learned, was that we can listen to any song whenever we want. We don't need to own the music and save them to our computer's music library because it is always available.
Online Music Streaming Services
The top online music streaming services have tens of millions of songs available. For the same price you would pay to buy an album every month, you can have almost any song you can imagine from old classical albums to the newest releases. You can search the service for a particular song, artist, or album, and play it immediately. If you want to access it easily, you can save the song to your account's online music library. Songs in your online music library can be organized into playlists to suit your mood.
While the goal is to stream the music rather than use up your memory by downloading to your hard drive or device, many of the services allow you to download songs to listen to when you don't have an internet connection. Like my son, you can delete the temporary music library and re-download it at any time.
The top online music streaming services are:
Rhapsody- One of the first to offer online music streaming, Rhapsody prides itself in their music experts that put together different playlists and educate listeners about music. Rhapsody costs $4.99 per month to listen on your computer. If you want to download to your phone or listen on a media player or other device, the monthly subscription price is $9.99.
Spotify- Just landing in the United States last year after being a popular service in Europe, Spotify's top benefit is sharing music with friends. You can share a song with other Spotify users and friends through Facebook. You can drag a favorite album to share from within the Spotify player. It's a great way to discover new music or share your favorite workout playlist with people you know would enjoy it. Spotify has a free service for streaming to your computer. It is ad-supported and it doesn't give you the unlimited freedom or the mobile access that you get with the paid subscription. The monthly fee for the Spotify Premium account is $9.99.
MOG - MOG has not gotten the hype of other music services but it has some useful features. One of its best features allows you to take a picture of a CD using your smart phone, and it will find that CD and add it to your personal online MOG library. This is useful when you are walking the music aisles at Target and find an album you want to hear. MOG offers a limited free service to your computer. You earn songs to add to your free library by recommending the service to friends or by exploring and playing new songs from the MOG library. Alternatively you can pay to upgrade to an unlimited subscription service. For $4.99 per month you get unlimited songs on your computer and for $9.99 per month you can also listen on your smart phone, media player or Samsung Smart TV.
Qriocity- Pronounced like "curiosity," this is Sony's unlimited music streaming service. As such, access to Qriocity can be found in the menus of connected Bravia TVs, Blu-ray Disc players, Playstation 3, PSP and Vita devices. While it is also found on Android devices, it is not available on media players made by other electronics' manufacturers nor on iPhones. Its top feature are the premium "Sensme" channels, (playlists) to suit your specific moods—from "Relax" to "Energize" to playlists for morning, day and night. Qriocity can also upload your PC's music library so that all of your downloaded music is available along with your account's library of music chosen from the millions of songs available on Qriocity. $3.99 per month buys a limited number of playlists but can be played on all devices; $9.99 per month gives you access to all of the playlists and the library syncing function.
Note that Pandora is not listed as one of these services because you cannot choose the individual songs to play.
It is true that not every song is available to stream from online. There are some Beatles titles that are hard to find as well as other bands that don't stream their music. For those, we'll have to "rip" the CDs; that is, we will need to copy the disc directly to our computer's music library.
In part 2 we will explore online streaming of movies and TV.