Six Apps and Services That Want to Make You Quit Using iTunes

This post is part of a series that revisits some of our readers’ favorite articles from the past that still contain awesome and relevant information that you might find useful. This post was originally published on September 20th, 2011.

While I’ve used iTunes for the longest time, and it works pretty much as my media center; I have to come to terms with the fact that it isn’t as great as it could be. It’s heavy, slow, glitchy and at times I find it very annoying.

Ditching iTunes is especially enticing when you now have all these new options available: apps that go from streaming free music, to playing you a personalised radio with music that suit your musical tastes. iTunes is still my main music app, but it’s being quickly overtaken by some of these other options.

Radio Services

Smart radio services that use information from your library, have become the best way to find new music as you are guaranteed to find something that you like. Last.fm and Pandora are the most popular, although there are also some options for your regular internet radio listening.

Last.fm

Last.fm

Last.fm is a web app that lets you do a lot of things: store a history of everything you listen to, friend people and compare music tastes, comment on new music, join groups, check info on events, and many more things. It makes music a social experience, but one of the things that makes it so great is the radio service, which lets you listen to “stations” that are related to your music library. You can’t really choose one song and play it, you just pick a station and listen or skip whatever comes on.

The Mac app for Last.fm isn’t that complete, but it does a good job at keeping up with your “scrobbles” and it also lets you listen to the radio service of the web app. It won’t sustitute your music player, but it’s a good companion to it.

Price: Free
Requires: Mac OS X 10.4 or later

Pandora

Pandora

I like to think of Pandora as a more serious version of Last.fm, without many of the community pieces that make Last.fm so great. I’ve never been a user of Pandora, since it is only supported in a few countries, but I’ve always felt that it is a more professional version of its main competitor. Pandora gives you access to a bigger library, and easier accessibility to it. For example, unlike Last.fm, you can play the station of an artist and hear music from the artist as well as related music to him; while Last.fm will play you anything but music from the selected artist.

Obviously, Pandora is a web service but with apps like Pandoras Box, you can listen right from your Mac menu bar. To use third party apps, Pandora requires you to be a paid subscriber.

Price: Free/$36 per year
Requires: Mac OS X 10.5 or later

Other Radio Apps

A few months back I did a roundup on radio apps, which includes a number of apps that let you listen to regular internet radio stations, and not just recommendations. Apps like Radium for example, that sit in your menu bar and let you choose a genre of music or a specific radio station as fast as you can think about it.

Streaming Services

Spotify

This newcomer in the U.S. had made quite a good impression for our UK fellows since it came out there a couple of years ago. Spotify U.S. lets you stream almost any kind of music that you could imagine, and it’s free (well, “freemium”). Unless you buy a subscription you’ll get a few short ads every now and then, but the amount of music available in the app is unbelievable and unrivaled by any other streaming service.

The Spotify app for Mac is surprisingly great. It has support for scrobbling, playlists, queues, and it can even play music from your iTunes library, so you can altogether stop using iTunes (which is what I have been doing since Spotify US came out).

Price: Free, $4.99/mo, or $9.99/mo
Requires: Mac OS X 10.6 or later

Rdio

Spotify’s most capable competitor promises you can “listen to anything, anytime, without ads”. I have not used it myself as it’s only available in the US and Canada, but from what I’ve heard the library is great and the service is even better than Spotify. The downside here is that there is no “free” plan like the one Spotify has. There are two kinds of subscription, but they are priced at $5 and $10 per month.

While Rdio is mostly web-based, you can download a Mac or Windows app that lets you stream music directly to your desktop, and it even gives you mobile streaming access (and offline storage) at its most expensive subscription, much like Spotify does.

Price: $5/mo or $10/mo
Requires: Mac OS X 10.6 or later

iTunes Alternatives

iTunes is a tool that you almost can’t avoid these days. You have to use it to sync your iOS devices, buy apps or other kinds of media, store books, etc. But as iTunes’ functionality has grown, it has become a heavy and slow app, filled with stuff everywhere. Sometimes you just want to play a few tunes from your library without having to deal with iTunes, and that’s what these apps are for. They may not sync with your iPod or let you buy and rent movies, but they will play your music just fine!.

Vox

Vox is a lightweight iTunes alternative. It can access your whole library, but without slowing down your computer or the app itself. Unlike iTunes, it has support for a bunch of formats other than the usual MP4 and AAC; and also unlike iTunes, Vox lets you tweak sound and mess around with a number of settings.

Price: Free
Requires: Mac OS X 10.5 or later
Developer: AleNofx

Miro

Miro is perhaps the most complete competitor for iTunes. Not only can it play your music: it also has built-in support for Amazon’s MP3 store, video support (with way more formats than iTunes), support for Hulu and YouTube and many, many other things. Although the music part of it isn’t that great, it is certainly worth it to check it out just because of all the features that it has to offer.

Price: Free
Requires: Mac OS X 10.5 or later
Developer: Participatory Culture Foundation

Conclusion

The music industry is, probably more than any other industry, in constant evolution. Personalized radio services (like Pandora) used to be seen as the newest and coolest way of listening to music, but with new streaming services like Spotify and Rdio, this is now debatable. These services make the concept of buying music a thing from the past, and they offer such accessible prices that you just can’t help but feel attracted to what they offer.

However, there’s also the need of keeping up with music libraries not only on your desktop, but also in your mobile devices. In my opinion, that’s what’s keeping music stores like the iTunes one afloat. Streaming services may be the future, but they still have some shortcomings to resolve.

Which service or app do you use? Are you still buying music from the iTunes or some other store? My music listening process is really divided nowadays: I keep up with everything I listen to on Last.fm, I listen to a lot of new music on Spotify and I keep the music that I really like on iTunes or by buying the vinyls. I should say though, I barely even open the iTunes app anymore, since Spotify lets me access my library from the app. What about you?


  • http://flavors.me/cocky Jeremy

    You’re missing some good ones here. I’ll give a few more.

    Enqueue, Clementine, Decibel

    • http://www.stefanocicatiello.com Stefano

      I didn’t know Enqueue, seems promising :)

    • Nathan

      Thanks! for the enqueue :)

  • http://sdussaut.com Sébastien

    I’ll also give Ecoute as an alternative :)

    • http://jdfwarrior.tumblr.com David Ferguson

      I just wish Ecoute didn’t require iTunes for the library. Ecoute is def nice..

  • Philipp

    I’d love to use Spotify or Rdio – but I’m in Germany. So I’m stuck with Last.fm and Grooveshark, which I use.

    I loved Pandora and used it for quite a while – till it said : Sorry, not available in your Country and I’m just too lazy to find good Proxys.

    As Itunes-Alternative I use Cog so far.

    • http://twitter.com/drale2k Drazen Mokic

      I feel with you, i`m from Austria.

      No Spotify, no Pandora, no Netflix.. nothing ;(

    • http://about.me/jorgerdz Jorge Rodriguez

      Yeah, I know how that feels. There are some ways around it though, like paying a suscription to get “Unlimited Travel” with Spotify. That’s what I do, it’s $5 per month. Not sure if it’s completely legal, though.

    • GV

      One way around geographical restrictions is to use a proxy server to make it appear that you are connecting to the Internet from a location different than where you actually are.

      I use a personalVPN service that has servers in around thirty countries. Your IP address is replaced with the VPN server IP address so webpages that you visit think that you are in the country where the VPN server is located.

      Personal VPN services increase security when using public WiFI and wired Internet connections by providing an encrypted connection between your computer and the VPN server. VPN also prevents your ISP from tracking where you go on the Internet and monitoring e-mail if you use an e-mail service that isn’t provided by your ISP.

      I have been using Witopia personalVPN for five years. It is easy to install and use, tech support is fast and excellent and the cost very reasonable. personalVPN can also be used with iOS and Android devices.

      Disclaimer: I have no financial ties to Witopia; I’m just a very satisfied customer.

      http://www.witopia.net 30-day refund period if the service does not live up to your expectations.

  • http://macsoftwarereviews.wordpress.com Panah Neshati

    You also failed to mention that Miro also works as a torrent client. That alone is a great feature.

  • http://www.stefanocicatiello.com Stefano

    I searched a good iTunes alternatives for a long. Now i’m using Swinsian.
    MiniTunes is interesting too.

  • http://psaikali.com Pierre

    After trying a lot of these (Miro, Vox, Clementine, Cog, …), I found that Ecoute is really the best lightweight music player there. It loads your iTunes library, has LastFM integration, and much more. It still needs a few features (read all songs from an artists) but it’s definitely worth its price.

  • Alexei

    I just checked many of the player commented here. Most are garbage; most look like ancient versions of iTunes. Ecoute looks nice but I’ve read that it opens iTunes for some reasons. Whats the point of using a “lightweight” player if you have to open another (iTunes) app?
    Lightweight should be light on RAM and CPU. Does Ecoute uses less resources than iTunes 10.4 ?

    • Lhowon

      It only opens iTunes when you exit Ecoute to sync the metadata of songs. And you can disable that function in Ecoute’s preferences. Honestly I use Ecoute so often that I rarely have to close it anyways.

      • Alexei

        Just installed Ecoute for a test drive (with my +6000 songs).

        Ecoute:
        RAM:50mb
        CPU: from 3% (playing background) – 20% browsing (laggy scroll).

        iTunes:
        RAM:80mb
        CPU:3% (background) to 20% browsing (super smooth).

        For what I see it’s just a matter of taste.

  • Ronald

    I use Spotify Premium so I get the ability to download any track, album or playlist to store offline on my phone or laptop. Once they improve the mobile app to be less playlist-orientated and more artist/album orientated like the iPod app, there will be no need to use iTunes for music.

  • Ed Moore

    I gave up on iTunes a long time ago and switched to using Miro. iTunes was having HEAPS of problems playing the HD podcasts I watch. Once I moved across to Miro even using the same feed, the videos played perfectly.

    I only wish I could set my music to keep playing through my list but only play the one video file. At the moment there is one setting that handles both.

  • http://iphone6leak.com Neil

    Grooveshark, way better than Spotify

    • http://about.me/jorgerdz Jorge Rodriguez

      I can’t get into Grooveshark. I think it’s too messy; there are about 10 versions of each album and all the metadata is messed up. I’ve used it as a web app when I’m using another computer, but even then I prefer YouTube’s playlist features than using Grooveshark.

    • Bernie Myers

      Way less legal too.

      • http://about.me/jorgerdz Jorge Rodriguez

        Yep, I was gonna comment on that, but I don’t really know anything about Grooveshark’s legality. I’m pretty sure it can’t be legal. It doesn’t look like it.

  • Wade

    Can’t believe you didn’t list MOG, and to correct misinformation above in the article, Rdio indeed offers a free streaming service (it was just announced last week, same with MOG going free). Kind of a poor rundown when you miss such obvious alternatives and don’t even get the facts correct.

    • http://about.me/jorgerdz Jorge Rodriguez

      Sorry, this was written before those were announced. But yeah, I’ve heard a lot about MOG lately. Mostly good stuff, I’ll have to try it out. I had heard that they didn’t offer free plans, just a free 15 day trial, but I haven’t looked it up myself.

  • http://enrique-ramirez.com Enrique Ramírez

    You know which app makes me want to quit using iTunes? iTunes!

    I use Audirvana. Still needs some work (specially with playlists), but works like a charm.

    • http://www.devolute.net Ian P

      This.

      iTunes is what started my very long hunt for a less-terrible alternative. http://www.enqueueapp.com/ was the happy result of this hunt.

  • to

    No one mentioned Neutrino yet!
    http://machinecodex.com/neutrino/

  • http://cyruswu.com Cyrus

    Can any of these apps stream to my Apple TV?

  • Pavel

    Only iTunes can use AirPlay though!

    • http://about.me/jorgerdz Jorge Rodriguez

      Indeed. I just got an iPad and I have been using iTunes to stream music to it. Really convenient and surprisingly fast. Also, another reason to open iTunes instead of Spotify.

      • Tony Medina

        I have the perfect solution for you my friends. I’m a big user of Spotify, and I use Airfoil to stream my spottily to my AppleTV (which is hooked-up to a nice sound system). You can actually use AirFoil to stream any app like Safari, VLC, etc. I highly recommend you check it out.

  • http://www.cloudthing.se Daniel

    I use Instictive as a my main music player. It’s lightweight, smooth and has last.fm support.

    http://www.instinctiv.com/

  • http://Parentalcontrolsoftware internet blocking software

    Well, I think these apps are nice and somewhat needed for entertainment. However, I think the people who use to be with itunes will not stop using it.

  • Phunkidude

    Who needs Airplay? Airfoil does just as good a job.

  • http://www.appleumbrella.com Apple Umbrella

    so much helping for me to share with my circle. thanks

  • Ish

    One thing that’s left in the dust with services like Spotify, are the artists. $0.0002 is the going rate per play on Spotify. Once you realize that an artist needs to have an album play 160,000 times or so before earning the cost of a single CD sale, then you realize how messed up these services are for them over the long run…. The other services are only fractionally better. I’m for affordable music, but not at the cost of destroying the ability of artists to make a reasonable amount of money via their creation.

    • i can add up

      hi ish, the link you reference gives the following numbers
      retail album, artist earns $1
      spotify play $0.00029

      this gives a ratio of approx 3500:1, a long way from the 160,000:1 you come up with…

      also you are mixing singles with albums. if a user listens to a cd’s worth of music on spotify, say 12 tracks. the ratio is less than 300:1.

      now i’m not here to say whether this is a good ratio, but i am pointing out that you need to work things out correctly

      • Polygon

        Yeah. 3500:1 makes it so much better.

  • Ish
  • William

    I love Spotify- £10 a month, and I get unlimited streaming on all my devices, brilliant sound quality, and the ability to save tracks offline. I use it every day.

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  • Ben

    Sonora is great too
    http://getsonora.com/

  • http://papermail.me Jacob Penderworth

    This post brings back the memories of Rdio’s beautiful old icon.

  • Philipp

    This post doesn’t only bring back rdios old icon .. it brings back my old comment on missing rdio and co in europe.

    I am listening to music with my 5€ rdio account right now and I’m liking it quite a lot. I wonder why appstorm is bringing back old posts without checking the content for outdated information. rdio and spotify as well as others are not restricted to only a few countries anymore.

    For rdio, i see some improvements which could still happen but I found that it had the best usability for me compared to many other services.

  • Daniel

    Check out Deezer. Great service.

  • sabes

    I can’t believe that Tomahawk wasn’t mentioned: http://www.tomahawk-player.org/

    • haddock

      Agree! One of the best so far.

  • http://twitter.com/jelleverkleij Jelle Verkleij

    Last.fm has a great new beta client: http://www.last.fm/group/Audioscrobbler+Beta

  • Sigilist

    Lost of outdated information in this article… including a correct URL for Vox.

    http://voxapp.didgeroo.com/

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