HTA Top Picks: Smart Music Apps

With so many ways to listen to music – Spotify, iTunes, Google Music, etc. – it can be difficult to choose what’s best for you. Each has their own strengths and all have different payment plans, options, and features. Luckily, we have a lot of folks on the Howard Tech team that have a fine appreciation of music and have tried several of the apps available. Here are some of their favorite ways to tune in and most notable features that make them stand out from the rest.


Mike Blair, AmazonMusic

For all Amazon Prime members you get a free music app, Amazon Prime Music with a great selection of free Prime Music. If you would like a larger catalog of music, it is available with their paid service. I simply utilze the free music available to Amazon Prime members. They have Stations and Playlists which create automix tapes for you. I could spend a week making a 70’s mix tape. My favorite stations are the 70’s Folk, including Big time John Denver, Jim Croce, and Van the Man fan. I also am a fan of an eclectic mix station ‘Grill and Chill.’  They also have a Karaoke Channel, if you’re into that sort of thing.

Cost: Free with Amazon Prime. Amazon Music Unlimited (AMU) is an additional $7.99/month.
Available On: All devices.
Other Cool Features:
  • Stream over 2 million songs ad-free.
  • Play your music on your Echo.

David Casey, Spotify

I use the free version of Spotify for their playlists, recommended music, genres and trending charts. Mainly though, I use it to listen Spice Girls and Foreigner. (You can make Private Sessions if you don’t want your friends to see you are listening to Spice Girls or Foreigner.)

Cost: Free, but paid version is available.
Available On: All devices.
Other Cool Features:

  • Keep the party going by crossfading your music to get rid of that awkward silence between songs.
  • Create new playlists from current playlists and similar in length.
  • Collaborate with friends on a playlist for a wedding, party, road trip, or other event.
  • Listen to Audiobooks.
  • Learn another language.

John Lebo, Pandora

I use Pandora, especially when at the office. I have a specific station, Yellow Claw, that I like to listen to because it’s energetic and matches the mood in the office. Sometimes we do get sick of hearing the same song, over and over again. There are a few ways to switch it up when that happens. You can create a Thumbprint Radio station which will combine some or all of your stations. I only give songs a Thumbs Down if I really don’t like them. However, that removes it entirely. There’s also the option to tell Pandora “I’m tired of this track.” This will temporarily remove the song from rotation.

Cost: Free but ad-supported and limited features. Pandora Plus is $4.99/month offers unlimited skips, replays, and offline listening. Pandora Premium is $9.99/month with way more customizable listening features.
Available On: All devices.
Other Cool Features:

  • Share your playlists with friends.
  • If you subscribe Pandora’s RSS feeds to top-rated feeds to learn new music.
  • Sample entire albums by using this in your browser: site:pandora.com inurl:[name of album]

Jason Maeser, Apple Music via iTunes

For a monthly fee, Apple Music on iTunes has most of what I listen to. Also works on all my devices! iTunes certainly isn’t the best “app” in itself but when it comes to music it gets the job done.

Cost: $10/month, unlimited devices.
Available On: All devices.
Other Cool Features:

  • Share your Playlist with a friend.
  • Display the lyrics to a song for an instant round of karaoke.
  • Set the alarm clock on your iDevice to wake up to a song from your library.
  • For optimal sound quality, adjust your equalizer (“EQ”) in your Music settings.

Dylan Mugan, Google Play Music

Google Play Music is free to use and allows you to upload and store 50,000+ songs into a personal database, using your Google account. Like most of the other music apps available, it also has a paid subscription ($10/month), which enables unlimited skips and playlist downloads.

Cost: Free
Available On: All devices.
Other Cool Features:

  • Google Play has its own built-in Shazam like music finder. Tap the search bar and click on “Identify what’s playing.”
  • When you pay for a Google Play Music All Access subscription, you also receive YouTube’s Red subscription. That means you can find your favorite song’s music videos right in the Google app.
  • Set a sleep timer on your music to turn off when you suspect you’ll doze off.

Michelle Pelszynski, TuneIn Radio

I know, I’m old school. One of my favorite things of listening to the radio is finding my “DJ” – someone who has similar musical taste and can introduce me to new music. On TuneIn Radio you can listen to all of your favorite radio stations from anywhere. Some of my favorites are Towson Maryland’s 89.7 WTMD, Seattle’s 90.3 KEXP, Vermont’s 91.1 WGDR, and Hawaii’s 93.1 Da Pa’ina. You can also listen to sports, music, news, podcasts, talk radio, and audiobooks.

Cost: Free, but paid version removes ads.
Available On: All devices.


Alex Rubenstein, Nugs App

If you’re into live music, like I am, but can’t possibly go to all the shows all the time across the country, Nugs App is the perfect app. It is a streaming platform for soundboard recordings offered by bands, and primarily jam bands. Other musicians are starting to catch on though.

Cost: Free
Available On: All devices.


Jessica Ward, Spotify

I prefer Spotify, you can make your own playlists on the free version and can search and play for songs. Pandora’s free version only allows you to create playlists based on songs/artists/genres, not specific songs.

Cost: Free, but paid version is available.
Available On: All devices.


About The Author

Michelle Pelszynski

Michelle Pelszynski

Born and raised in Howard County, Michelle is an upbeat wordsmith, with a passion for giving back to her community. She enjoys live music - from bluegrass to hip hop, having fun with her husband and daughter, traveling, running, practicing yoga, reading, and baking. She also has the pleasure of coaching a group of amazing young ladies in the Heart & Sole and Girls On the Run after school program.


This entry was posted on Thursday, September 21st, 2017 at 9:30 am. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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