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Online Music Streaming: YouTube vs. Spotify vs. Pandora vs. 8tracks

Many people, including me, get quite opinionated whenever anyone starts comparing technology. The iPhone vs. Blackberry debate and the Twitter vs. Tumblr argument should both be added to the list of topics not to bring up at a dinner party, unless you want your guests shaking their heads and guffawing at each other across the pan-fried scallops.

Another somewhat lesser known technology-based debate people are having these days focuses on online music streaming. Are you the master of Spotify? Or do you whittle hours away on YouTube? What medium do you prefer to use to discover and listen to new music online?

I’ve taken four popular sources of online music and I have (with some bias) explored which work best for various purposes/scenarios. (A gold star goes to the person who can figure out which of these is my favourite.)


A major player in terms of internet traffic, YouTube might have only been around since 2005 but it definitely takes the cake for being the best video streaming site.

As you know, YouTube is used to watch babies dance to hip hop, people eating spoonfuls of cinnamon, skateboarders fall on their faces, and cats doing everything a cat could possibly ever do. It’s also a huge source of music. I have, on more than one occasion, found myself in the dark corners of YouTube after roaming from one sidebar link to another and I have discovered some of my favourite artists this way.

However, while YouTube is perfect for finding new music and learning the moves to Gangnam Style, it’s not necessarily the site you want to use at parties or as background music while you’re studying as it doesn’t have the most graceful transitions between songs. (It also loses a couple of points for all of the awful comments.)


Now when it comes to Spotify, money can make a huge difference. If you are willing to pay for a premium account you get to avoid the incredibly annoying commercials and can set up some amazing playlists that make Spotify perfect for parties and get togethers. Why not simply set up a playlist on iTunes you ask? Well, because this way your guests can add whatever songs they like to the playlist, which can only be done on iTunes if you’ve already downloaded the song they’re looking for.

So, if you feel like paying £9.99 a month for commercial-free music then Spotify is a great option. However, if you don’t want to pay or can’t afford it you’ll have to sit through the insufferable ads, which somehow seem to play more and more often the longer you keep listening.


8tracks is a site fully dedicated to playlists. You don’t have to join to be able to listen to other people’s playlists and signing up to create your own is free. It’s somewhat similar to Pandora in that you, the listener, can suggest a genre, artist or theme and then surf playlists in that category.

There are no commercials, so it’s got the free version of Spotify beat there, but it does have a limit on how many songs from one playlist you can skip within an hour. If you really loathe whatever song is playing, however, you can switch to another playlist. 8tracks also lines up more playlists for you and suggests ones you may like.


An incredible way to discover new music, Pandora allows listeners to enter the name of a band/artist and it will proceed to play music it believes you will enjoy based on your entry. You can also give the song a thumbs up or down, which further specifies what the radio station will play for you.

Pandora Radio makes listening to a particular genre easy and caters to your likes and dislikes; however, it’s only available in the U.S. Sorry!

So, which music source are you a bigger fan of? And did you manage to figure out which might be my favourite? Let me know in the comments!

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