Updated on December 10, 2021
Microsoft’s announced a revamp of their Xbox streaming music service, as part of both their Windows 8 push and their push to make the Xbox a home entertainment center hub (versus merely a video game system). Renaming their music service from “Zune” to “Xbox Music,” the service will cost $10/month to use on the Xbox (apparently on top of the Xbox Live Gold fees) and Windows 8 phones. A free, (very) limited streaming version will be available on Windows 8 PCs and tablets; no version will be available for Windows 7 (as a way to try to cajole people into upgrading to Windows 8). No word on availability for Macs or Android/iOS phones or devices, either.
While I enjoy my Xbox, I don’t see myself using this service, especially if it’d be yet another monthly fee. I’m also not sure how successful this service will be, when there’s a myriad of well-entrenched services that already exist. At least its new name is being tied to the popular Xbox, versus the less-than-popular (and now dead) Zune.
For myself, the services I use for music 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: A music service that offers free MP3s by independent artists under a Creative Commons license.
- Pandora: I haven’t used this one that often lately, but it is useful as a customized streaming radio station (though the song skip limitations seem to be one of its flaws).
- YouTube: Recently, 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 cross-platform friendly (including Linux) and is also fairly cheap. Amazon will often have frequent sales, discount credits, or free songs. While I usually prefer ripping my CDs to a lossless format like FLAC, Amazon’s store is useful for buying singles. It’s also useful for buying albums if they’re cheap enough ($5 or less) to forego buying a CD. As for lossy versus lossless music buying, one could think of MP3s as the modern equivalent of cassette tapes (i.e., lesser sound quality than a CD, but cheaper/convenient) versus “the one true replacement for CDs.”
- Podcasts: 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).
In the past, I’ve also tried out eMusic, Magnatune, and Last.fm. I’ve also heard positive things about newcomer Bandcamp.
Overall, I think I’m well set for finding new music, so won’t need Microsoft’s new music service whenever it (inevitably) arrives on Android platforms.
Anthony Dean is the owner of Diverse Tech Geek and Diverse Media Notes.