The Best Music Streaming / Radio Stations of 2016

If you're looking to discover new music, access your existing favorites, or keep your party guests entertained and dancing, then these online radio stations and music streaming services will interest you.

Traditional radio station format involves a human DJ making the playlist decisions, often in real time.  Self-directed streaming leaves the playlist decision-making up to you.  Many of these services below will blend both of those experiences.

The list below is compiled from reader suggestions, and represents those services which offer maximum convenience, streaming and discovery features, and best value for the price point. If you would like to contribute to this list, submit your nominations to About.com via our Facebook page here.

Warning:  you will consume significant bandwidth when you stream music.  Keep this in mind if you are going to use your cellphone data or office network to listen to these sites.

1
Last.fm

The best streaming music online: Last.FM
The best streaming music online: Last.FM. screenshot

Social networking is strong at Last.FM: you can connect with other users and trade suggestions and friendly banter. You can vote that you 'love' or 'hate' a particular artist or song. The recommendation will even try to help you choose songs by taking your favorites and extrapolating from there. The service does cost 3 dollars per month, and sometimes it feels like Facebook, but Last.FM is a crowd pleaser. Try it and decide for yourself if you agree with the thousands of users who frequent this site.

2
Google Play Music

Google Play Music
Google Play Music. screenshot

Google's Play Music All Access streaming service costs $10/month, so the price is par with similar music stations online.  The downside is that Google Play music doesn't have as many copyrighted songs as other premium services like Spotify.

Where Google's streaming music shines is that you can upload up to 20,000 of your own songs and access those songs as you travel.  And you get unlimited skipping, which supports discovering plenty of new music.  Definitely give Google Play a try when you are shopping for your next music streaming service.

3
Spotify

Spotify streaming music. (Spotify.com)

Spotify is arguably the best freemium music service available today.  While Spotify is limited to the USA, Canada, parts of Europe and South America at this time (sorry, Japan and the rest of you), it's already a massive hit with listeners. As they surmount music licensing challenges, Spotify hopes to expand into other countries.

Why it's so good: Spotify is a fast and reliable radio system that outstrips the competition.  Spotify differentiates itself from iTunes and Pandora by behaving as a massive external hard drive  (i.e. it plays full songs and albums as if you owned the CD). As a recommendation and discovery tool, Spotify also stands out:  it reads your own music collection and playlists from your hard drives, and then suggests new releases, top-10 lists, and your friends' music lists.  The interface is clean, and the search box is very convenient.

Spotify has free and premium tiered subscription options.  The free version will pause you between songs intermittently, and will restrict how many songs you can play on-demand.  The free version also gives slightly lower-quality bitrate, so the songs can sound more hollow and rough, depending on your discerning tastes.  

Definitely try Spotify.com for free, though, and decide for yourself if you agree with the miliions of subscribers who flock to this service.. 

4
8Tracks

8tracks.com
8tracks.com. 8tracks.com

8Tracks is a relatively new service based on socially-curated playlists. The name comes from each playlist requiring at least 8 songs.  The big value of this service is that you can discover some really terrific lesser-known music through the recommendations of its thousands of members. 

The site has free advertising-based subscriptions, as well as paid subscriptions of approximately $25 for 6 months.  You get a chance to become a type of DJ, too, as you submit your own 8-track playlists to the world.

5
Maestro.fm

Image © Maestro Music Inc.

Like Last.FM, Maestro is about social networking with other music fans. You can trade playlists, follow user discussions on music genres, and discover new artists through conversations. You can even store some of your music at their remote storage site. If you like Facebook and Last.FM, do give Maestro a try.

6
Pandora

Image © Pandora Inc.

Pandora uses a form of low-level artificial intelligence: it tries to learn what your music habits are, and then suggests new music that you might like. The 'recommendation engine' behind Pandora is still very new, and uses arguably shallow criteria for deciding the DNA of a song. But thousands of users love Pandora, and if you live in the USA, definitely try this service. Sorry, American, Australian, and NZ computers only... machines outside the USA/Aus/NZ will be blocked. Copyright agreements are annoying, yes.

7
Grooveshark: Self-Directed Radio

Image © Grooveshark Inc.

Grooveshark is a real crowd pleaser! It is not a conventional Internet radio station where a DJ or database designs the playlists. Instead, you choose your own songs with the playlist creator. But much more than your own computer, there are hundreds of thousands of songs to choose from at Grooveshark. If you're willing to put in ten minutes of effort to design your own playlist, Grooveshark will not disappoint. Advertising is a sidebar of visual ads on the right, which can be removed for 3 dollars per month.

8
Acoustic Alternative.com

Not just acoustic, but also alternative, Charlestown, Ska, punk, and other genres can be found at Acoustic Alternative. AA is not as popular as other stations on this list, but the readers who have recommend Acoustic Alternative really like it.

9
Pirate Radio Network

Image © Pirate Radio Ltd.

Pirate Radio Network offers two different means of listening to their broadcasts: via web tuner or via a downloadable special player. Hundrds of music genres abound here, and you're bound to discover new music that you will like at Pirate Radio Network. For those of you who use a PC: you can even make your own radio station and start broadcasting yourself as an amateur DJ. You will have to install a software package to try this, but it's definitely worth trying if you've ever wanted to DJ.

10
SHOUTcast by Nullsoft

Image © SHOUTcast Inc.

SHOUTcast is a massive selection of individual radio stations (over 700 pages worth). In fact, there are so many stations here, it is intimidating to even find one in the first place. But if you like niche music that is hard to find, definitely try SHOUTcast. Gothic metal from the 90's, big band swing remixes, German synth music... if there is a place to find niche music, it would be here at SHOUTcast.

11
Ravespace/Nu-Perception Radio

Image © Nu-Perception Inc.

If you like drum, bass, jungle, and very deep percussion, then you're bound to like Nu-Perception. Rave fans and trance fans consistently bookmark this site as a destination of choice for their mad beats and hard-driving rhythms!

12
Accuradio

Image © Accuradio Inc.

Accuradio is a solid music destination, having proven itself over the years. It outputs high quality sound (for those of you with high-end sound hardware). It is very configurable by genre, artist, even instrument. It has a fabulous selection of radio channels/stations. If you can ignore the large real estate consumed by advertising, Accuradio is a definite top choice for music fans.

13
977 Music

Image © 977music.com.

977 Music is another one of many social networking radio station hubs. There is plenty of visual advertising, so this site has good funding behind it. 11 individual channels are offered. The big appeal is the Facebook-type aspect of this, where you can meet other music fans who share your tastes. While 977 Music is not a standout service, it does have a solid following of users, and was recommended by at least About.com readers to be included in this list.

14
Yahoo! Music

Image © Yahoo!.

Yahoo! Music used to be one of the kings of Internet radio in 2004-2005. It has lost popularity to other names like Pandora, but Yahoo! is still a darn good destination for music. Users like the streaming video options, along with the information on artists and current events news. Give Yahoo! Music a try for at least 15 minutes as you find a radio station for yourself.

15
Live365

Image © Live365 Inc.

Hundreds of individual radio channels, an immense breadth of music genres, and minimal advertising = a good Internet radio station. The interface is a little cumbersome at first, and it isn't as clean as Rip Rock and other stations, but definitely give Live365 a try.

16
RIPROCK Radio

Image © Riprockradio Inc.

This is a very stylish single-channel site dedicated to the classic rock FM culture of years past. Rip Rock blends all the recognizable FM classics from the rock genres with new and obscure pieces. Van Halen, Rolling Stones, Tom Petty, The Police, 38 Special, and more. Requests are taken by the email engine, and there is a charming basement-studio flavor to this station. If you are new to Internet radio, but know FM rock radio from your youth, then definitely check out Rip Rock Radio.

17
Radioparadise.com

Image © Radio Paradise Inc.

The Wailin' Jennys, Spoon, Gustavo Santaolalla, Basement Jaxx, Pearl Jam, Norah Jones: these are some of the artists you'll hear played at this listener-supported radio station. Sound quality is controlled by you, (16k to 192k bitrates, to allow for bandwidth restriction on your connection). There are even live DJ's providing commentary and voice interaction, just like an FM or AM radio station. If you like the sounds of Radioparadise, you can support their operations by buying their nifty merchandise.

More From Us