Whistling while you work can get pretty old. Also, your co-workers might hate you.
The better option that many workers are using to inject music into the workday is a music streaming service, whether they're trying to help to drown out noise, stay focused, or even just combat boredom during work. Though, not all services are created equal. With companies cracking down on the strain that music streaming can put on bandwidth (or attention span), you might need to know the full breadth of your options. Here are some of the top services and what they offer in terms of features, pricing, and online/offline access.
Spotify has two tiers, free and premium. With the free version, you can stream music to your mobile, tablet, or desktop, as long as you don't mind the ads too much. (But beware, if you're listening without headphones, there's no guarantee you won't run into an ad for Trojans or UTI medication.) For $9.99 a month, you get all the same access, except with high quality audio offline, and an ad-free, awkwardness-free experience. Spotify's offline capabilities could be a good thing for workers whose companies block music services, or have a policy against using them.
Internet radio provider Pandora, also has free and paid versions. For free, Pandora can be accessed through mobile, tablet, and desktop in exchange for dealing with ads. PandoraOne usually costs $4.99 and offers no ads, better audio quality, and a desktop app that does not require a browser. Pandora's lack of offline access could pose a problem as it's a favorite target of companies that ban streaming services. If you're the subversive type, you might be able to get away with one of the other services on this list.
3. iTunes Radio
iTunes Radio works with any Apple device and has similar capabilities to other streaming services in terms of building stations based on musical preferences and tweaking them with likes/stars. If you use iTunes Match, a service that stores all you music in the iCloud for $24.99 a year, iTunes Radio is ad-free. If you want offline access, you can use iTunes the old fashioned way.
GooglePlay offers two tiers, Standard and All Access. Both can host up to 20,000 songs (which sounds like a lot until you compare it to Amazon's 250,000), accessible from any device, including Android, iPhone and iPad. The Google Play Music app lets you pick songs and playlists to download and listen to when you're offline. For $9.99 a month, GooglePlay offers unlimited skips on the customizable radio feature, unlimited access to millions of songs and albums, and recommendations. It works something like a hybrid between a music locker and a streaming service where you can upload your existing music collection, but also stream (or even download offline) songs you don't own.
Creating a Last.fm profile is free. You can listen through the browser, or a media player, which requires Last.fm's Scrobbler software. Apps for iPhone and iPod are available. A subscription to Last.fm costs $3 a month (via PayPal) and means you don't have to deal with banner ads on the website or mobile app. You also get to see who has been looking at your page, as well as what Last.fm is working on in their labs. (Disclosure: Last.fm and TechRepublic are both part of CBS Interactive.)
6. Beats Music
Beats Music is the newcomer on this front. Unlike many other services, Beats Music has no free tier. It also lacks a desktop version. For $9.99 a month (for one person on up to 3 devices), the service offers access to more than 20 million songs, no ads, and playlist recommendations tailored to the user— one of Beats' biggest talking points has been its expert curators. An update now includes in-app offline playback options.
Amazon Cloud Player is also a music locker. You can keep your music in your Cloud and access it from any device, any time, including Roku, Sonos, or Samsung Smart TV. The first 250 song you upload are free. Also, if you download music (MP3s or physical albums using AutoRip) from Amazon, that music does not count toward your space allotment. To store up to 250,000 high quality songs, the cost is $24.99 a year.
The free ad-supported version of GrooveShark is available on the web and mobile browsers. For $9 a month, you can ditch the ads and get access to unlimited streaming, as well as apps for Apple, Android, and desktop. Other features include PowerHouse mode, video mode, and a visualizer. GrooveShark doesn't offer an offline mode.
Erin Carson has nothing to disclose. She doesn't hold investments in the technology companies she covers.
Erin Carson is a Staff Reporter for CNET and a former Multimedia Editor for TechRepublic.