Xbox Music and my choice of music services

MacBook, coffee mug, and cactus

Xbox 360Microsoft’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.

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