This week with the Mac Mini: my choice of music services

iPod Touch with John Lennon, Macy Gray
Flickr Creative Commons photo by DeclanTM (CC BY)

Reviving the “this week with the Mac Mini” series of posts, I thought I’d give an update on my fall 2012 blog post about my choice of music services, since it was written before I made the Mac move.

These days, my choice of music/audio services include:

TuneIn Radio

I’ve written about TuneIn Radio before. TuneIn’s quite useful in letting me listen to NPR streaming audio during the day. The Pro version is only a dollar, but gets rid of the ads (plus lets one record the broadcasts, if one’s interested in such).

Jamendo

Jamendo is a music service that offers free MP3s by independent artists under a Creative Commons license. For those looking for non-mainstream artists, or music not under the RIAA’s thumb, this might be an option.

Pandora

I’ve been giving Pandora another go lately. It’s a nice streaming service for listening to songs similar to your favorites. The one flaw is the limitations on skipping audio tracks (even if you pay for the non-free version, apparently).

YouTube

I’ve used YouTube to try out listening to new songs/musicians, before deciding whether to buy their singles/albums. It helps that many musicians (or their record labels) have put their music videos on YouTube.

Amazon MP3 Store

Amazon’s music store, unlike iTunes, is both cross-platform friendly (including some Linux support/compatibility) and usually cheaper. Amazon will often have frequent sales, discount credits, or free songs. While I still would prefer lossless tracks over lossy ones, Amazon is convenient and inexpensive.

Amazon also offers integration with iTunes via a Mac/Windows album download program, which, besides launching when one downloads an album from Amazon, also imports the album into iTunes. Linux users can get a similar function already built into Banshee. Yes, requiring a separate program just to download a whole album is silly and clunky in my opinion.

A new addition to Amazon is that if you opt to buy CDs, their “AutoRip” service automatically give you free MP3 versions of the album, which some might find convenient.

And of course, there’s Amazon’s Cloud Player service, where music purchases are automatically stored online, from which one can play one’s music on your smartphone (via the Amazon MP3 app).

iTunes

Now that I’m back on Mac, iTunes is an option. However, since Amazon’s music is usually much cheaper, I haven’t really bought anything yet from iTunes. I have downloaded a few free items from iTunes, however, plus iTunes is my music player of choice. I also use iTunes for listening to podcasts and streaming audio.

Podcasts and streaming audio

I usually listen to NPR’s podcasts. It’s a nice way to catch up on my NPR listening, without dealing with my office’s sometimes-poor 3G reception. Podcasts I like to listen to include NPR’s “Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me” (if I missed that weekend’s broadcast).

I also keep bookmarked in iTunes several NPR affiliates’ streaming audio options, as well as Canada’s CBC Radio and Chicago’s WGN-AM (solely for the occasional Chicago Blackhawks game).

Freegal

Freegal is a service run by Sony that leases to public libraries their digital music library as free-to-download MP3 files to library patrons. (For a price to libraries, and thus taxpayers, of course, which might raise its own issues.) The service lets one download and keep several free MP3 singles per week to anyone with a library card; here in Milwaukee, I can download three free MP3s per week.

Of course, libraries still carry a vast range of CDs for checking out, but Freegal still might appeal to some.

CDs

While I don’t buy many CDs anymore, I do rip any I buy to my computer in a lossless format. Since the Mac Mini doesn’t come with an optical drive, I bought one from Amazon. Their Amazon Basics external USB optical drive has worked well so far.

Conclusion

That about sums up my current music situation. I haven’t tried Spotify yet, and have long abandoned last.fm, but otherwise, it’s nice to have such a wide range of music choices available.

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