Who picks the best songs? We test Pandora, Spotify, Beats Music, Rdio, and iTunes Radio

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Contender #1: Spotify

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Spotify Screenshot
The Playlist
Gary Clark Jr. – Blak and Blu (Live) Stevie Ray Vaughan – Cold Shot
The Derek Trucks Band – I’d Rather Be Blind, Crippled And Crazy The Black Keys – Meet Me In the City
Eric Clapton – Old Love (Live) Gary Clark Jr. – Glitter Ain’t Gold (Jumpin’ for Nothin’)
Alabama Shakes – Goin’ to the Party The Black Keys – I Got Mine
The Heavy – Sixteen Gary Clark Jr. – When My Train Pulls In (Live)
Gary Clark Jr. – Blue Light Boogie Gary Clark Jr. – When The Sun Goes Down
Gary Clark Jr. – Good Rockin’ Tonight Alabama Shakes – Hang Loose
Gary Clark Jr. – Things are Changing Eric Clapton – Layla (Live)
Gary Clark Jr. – Breakdown Stevie Ray Vaughan – Little Wing
Eric Clapton – Tears In Heaven The Black Keys – Lonely Boy

Thumbs up: 8

Thumbs down: 0

Skipped: 1

Nothing: 11

Songs I’ve never heard: 6

Gary Clark Jr. songs: 8

The pros

Spotify played it incredibly safe over the course of its 20 songs, and rarely strayed too far from Gary Clark and his recognizable style. Because of this, not a single song received a thumbs down — though I did skip one — during my hour-and-a-half listening session. It mostly impressed, offering a good combination of artists and songs I enjoy (i.e. Gary Clark Jr., The Black Keys, Stevie Ray Vaughan), while still allowing some room for music discovery (i.e. The Heavy, The Derek Trucks Band). Not once did I feel the radio ventured into territory I’m not fond of, thus producing a favorable listening experience.

The cons

Even though Spotify’s radio exposed me to new music, it only played a total of seven different artists over the course of the playlist. The selection process surely won’t be the same for everyone, but it’s safe to say most people welcome a bit more variety when they listen to music. Spotify also seemed to get carried away with Gary Clark Jr. at times, playing four of his songs in a row, most of which are from the same album. I chose Gary Clark to make the hours of this research enjoyable, but a proper radio should switch up the artists and albums often. Still, the lack of variety is a minor complaint when dealing with an otherwise solid program.

The verdict

What makes Spotify so great is its deep library of artists and albums, many of which get updated each week with new releases. If there’s a new album you look forward to hearing, Spotify typically has it ready for streaming the day it’s released. It brings a record store right to any smartphone or computer, and features none of the frustrating plastic wrap. For radio junkies, Spotify plays it fairly close to the vest, and while it ventures from the norm periodically, it generally stays close to home with the initial artist you select. It’s almost easier to go on your own musical journey by exploring the “Related Artists” tab when viewing some of your favorite bands. With Spotify’s endless library of songs, it’s easy to get lost in the sea of music they offer. Moreover, for just $10 a month, premium subscribers get access to uninterrupted song playback, high-quality audio recordings, mobile access, and the ability to download and listen to their playlists offline.

Next page: Pandora steps up to the plate…

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