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WORKPLACE / MAR. 20, 2014
version 5, draft 5

7 Ways to Listen to Music at Work

We all have our quirks and idiosyncrasies. About everything, so that obviously extends to our work environment. Some of us need a meticulously organized space, where everything has and is in its place. Others like a bit of chaos. Some of us require absolute silence while we work. Some of us need a bit of background, ambient noise. And still others like nothing more than rocking out to their favourite music with their nose to the grindstone. To each their own.

If you fall into the latter category, it’s a great time to be alive, n’est pas? It has never been easier to have access to millions of songs and playlists, wherever you find yourself working. So many choices. So many services. But which one is right for you? Read on.

The streaming music providers fall into two main groups: those that provide music and playlists by single or artist, and those that curate and organize actual radio stations or channels. Let’s take a closer look at the best of both.

Music by Single, Artist, and/or Album

Beats Music

The newest member of the group, Beats Music launched this past year, but has quickly gained a loyal following. Sadly, it is only available in the USA, but they claim to be working on that. For $9.99/month, you get access to over 20 million songs and personalized music suggestions (as it learns your likes and dislikes). The most unique feature of Beats Music is the sentence, which allows you to enter details, mad libs style, about your current whereabouts, company, activity, and feeling (I’m at ___ & feel like ___ with ___ to ___ ). Beats will then pull up a playlist to match your sentence, with surprisingly good accuracy. So you might try entering “I’m at the beach & feel like relaxing with my girlfriend to jazz” and see what you get. Beats Music is fantastic (probably the best of the bunch) for curation and new music discovery.

Available for iOS, Android, Windows Mobile, and on the Web

Songza

Songza takes a different, but no less intriguing, approach to delivering its playlists. Its main feature is the Music Concierge, which offers up a variety of curated playlists depending on the time (morning, late morning, afternoon, evening, night, late night) and day of the week. When you first open the app, you’re met with the suggestions. For example, my Songza currently says “It’s Tuesday Late Morning. Play music for: Enjoying the Morning, Working in an Office (SFW), Working (no lyrics), Brand New Music, or Keeping Calm & Mellow. Just select and click. Of course, you can also browse by song, or artist, or any combination of day and time. Songza is free to use.

Available for iOS, Android, Blackberry, Windows Mobile, and on the Web.

Spotify

Perhaps the most famous of this group, Spotify has been around a while now, and has established itself as the top dog. Its catalogue includes over 20 million songs, and its premium account will cost you $9.99/month. You can listen for free, but the basic account is ad-supported and does not include mobile or offline access. Spotify allows you to search and follow artists, create your own playlists, and follow your friends and their playlists, too. It’s currently available in 55 countries (https://www.spotify.com/us/select-your-country/). Spotify has an excellent variety of songs and sound quality.

Available for iOS, Android, Desktop app, and on the Web.

Rdio

Rdio is often cited as having the best user experience, and for good reason. 20 million+ songs and a slick user interface, the service comes in both a free (ad-supported and no offline or mobile access) and premium version for $9.99/month. It is currently available in 51 countries (http://www.rdio.com/availability/). One major drawback for Rdio (at least if you’re an audiophile) is that its sound quality is HALF that of Spotify and Beats Music.

Available for iOS, Android, Windows Mobile, Desktop app, and on the Web.

Grooveshark

Grooveshark is not as famous or robust as the others in this category, but it does have its uses. This service is great if you just want to quickly find a particular song, and maybe create a playlist or two. It’s available virtually anywhere for free, with its Grooveshark Anywhere upgrade ($9/month) giving you mobile access (that you probably don’t really need).

Available for Android and iOS (with paid upgrade), and as a Desktop app & on the Web

Music by Station or Curated Channel

If you enjoy listening to actual radio stations, with morning drive DJ’s and giveaways, local weather reports, commercials, and a wide variety of music, then the next two service providers fit that bill quite nicely.

Accuradio

Accuradio doesn’t give you the ability to search by song or artist, but it does provide hundreds of curated stations or channels (all ad-supported) to fit any mood, like, or situation. It has a fantastic variety of “stations” including Native American, various decades (50’s through the early 21st century), various holiday channels, K-Pop, Celtic, Opera, and Top 40’s. Accuradio provides many channels and types of music that you're unlikely to find anywhere else. Like Songza, it also provides playlists according to your “workday mood”. Once you create a free account, you can curate and save favourite channels for quick retrieval.

Available for Android, iOS, and on the Web.

TuneIn Radio

TuneIn Radio allows you to find virtually any radio station, from virtually anywhere in the world, all in one place. You can search by local (automatically pulls up a list of radio stations based on your current geographical location), music, sports, news, talk, or by location (enter a country and city, and TuneIn lists all stations available from that place). If you’ve ever lived someplace and miss the local radio, this service is a gift (I loved the morning drive show on Virgin Radio Dubai when I lived there, and now I can continue to enjoy the hijinks). Find and save on your list of favourites. Now, as you’re listening to actual stations from around the world, you might not be able to hear certain shows or DJ’s when you want them because of the time difference (Dubai is eight hours ahead of me now, so it’s the afternoon there when it’s morning for me). But fear not! TuneIn Pro ($3.99) gives you the ability to record your favourite shows from any station and listen to them when you’re good and ready.  

Available for iOS, Android, Blackberry, Windows Mobile, and on the Web.

They say that music soothes a savage soul, and with any of these providers, you’re sure to get your fix, wherever you are, and whatever you’re in the mood to hear.

The only question that remains is: speakers, headphones, or earbuds?

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