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The ways in which we listen to music in this day and age are vastly different from those of, say, 20 or 30 years ago. Whereas once upon a time, listening to the radio and purchasing hard copies of albums (i.e. vinyl, cassettes, CDs, etc.) were the only methods by which one could access music, the 21st century has completely changed the audio landscape.
In fact, nowadays, it is rare to find somebody purchasing a physical copy of their favorite artist’s newest release. If this does occur, it is usually a case of a superfan or a record collector going out of his way to acquire a now somewhat niche product. In other words, records and CDs are more the stuff of hobbyists and enthusiasts than they are of common ways for the masses to consume music.
As you likely are already well aware, streaming has become king. If somebody wishes to hear the latest Jay-Z or Beyonce album, all he has to do is type the artist’s name into an app and, voila, their entire discography appears in a convenient and waste-free format. Not only does streaming mean that we are able to save a great deal of space (could you imagine having to store the entire collection of modern music somewhere in your house?), it also means that we can access just about any song, no matter where we are, in a matter of seconds. What a time to be alive!
There are many different music streaming apps and sites for one to choose from. And each one has its own strengths and weaknesses. It might be slightly overwhelming, then, with so many options, to decide on which one is right for you. Especially when you take into account the fact that, in order to get the most out of a given streaming app, you are probably best-off opting into a monthly subscription-based plan – and those plans can add up … quickly.
But how can you possibly know which is the best option for you? Well, you can try asking yourself the following question: what do you hope to get out of your music streaming service? If you value having the most possible songs at your disposal, you might want to go with Tidal. If you like having tons of personalized playlists curated just for you: Spotify might be your best bet. However, if you find yourself nostalgic for the days of the radio, you will want to consider iHeart Radio.
iHeart Radio is owned by the major radio corporation formerly known as Clear Channel. They have since rebranded as iHeart Media Inc. in 2014. This was probably due to a very negative public image, especially with younger demographics – the very demographic that they’d hoped to win over by shifting the thrust of their efforts from radio to streaming in the 21st century.
Clear Channel first launched the iHeart Radio app on October 7th of 2008. It was released for the Apple iPhone and iPod Touch. In the first iteration of the app, iHeart Radio only included 12 radio stations across 8 major markets (major metropolitan areas). They continually expanded over the next few years, releasing an app for Droid smartphones and Blackberry in 2009. It wasn’t until 2010, however, that iHeart Radio truly began to resemble the app we see today – with thousands of live local radio station streams, as well as customizable and featured artist stations (a la Pandora).
In 2016, iHeart Radio unveiled a new feature: iHeart Radio Talk. As of today, that feature is now simply entitled “Podcasts.” In 2018, iHeart Radio acquired Stuff LLC, securing the position of the app as the number one commercial publisher of podcasts according to Podtrac. They have retained that position since.
In terms of design, the app and the site are pretty on par with one another, which is somewhat rare when it comes to streaming services such as this. In fact, the app and the site are pretty streamlined with one another and are, more or less, identical. This makes both the site and the app very usable and user-friendly.
When you open the app, you will find your recently played artists, songs, and playlists at the top. Next are the radio stations you have saved, your followed podcasts, and customized playlists. At the very bottom of the app (and the site), you will find a few tabs from which you can select. The layout is not entirely unlike that of Apple Music … the main difference is that the tabs on iHeart Radio are Library, Radio, Podcasts, and Playlists.
Overall, iHeart Radio is designed rather intuitively. It will not take even the least tech-savvy users long at all to figure out how to use. It is all pretty straightforward and organized well, making the experience of listening to the radio on your phone, tablet, or laptop as easy as it should be.
One thing that makes iHeart Radio unique from most other (if not all other) music streaming services is the fact that it enables you to listen to your local AM and FM radio stations. No matter where in the world you are, if there are AM or FM radio waves being transmitted, iHeart Radio can likely pick up on them.
In addition to that, iHeart Radio can also be used similarly to how you would use Pandora. Simply type in an artist and listen to a radio station of their songs infused with the tracks of similar musicians. Also, feel free to create playlists, like or dislike songs to improve your station, save stations, and follow specific podcasts. iHeart Radio provides a completely customizable user experience.
Pricing and Plans
iHeart Radio is a freemium service. So long as you don’t mind ads and a limited number of song skips, you can use iHeart Radio to your heart’s content, absolutely free of charge. However, if you want to make the most of everything that iHeart Radio has to offer, you will want to consider one of iHeart Radio’s two-tiered subscription options.
iHeart Radio Plus is perfect for a more casual podcast and music fans. It provides unlimited song skips, the ability to play songs and albums on-demand, and a save from radio feature (all of which are unavailable on the free version). This will only run you $5.99, making it one of the cheaper music streaming subscription services on the market.
However, if you are a more serious listener, you might consider signing up for iHeart Radio All Access. With this option, you get everything that is offered in Plus, but you also get a couple of things that are not, such as the ability to download songs and listen offline, as well as the ability to create custom playlists.
Suggestions that I Have
iHeart Radio, overall, is not a bad way to stream music … not by any means. That being said, there are some crucial ways in which this app and site could be improved. Firstly, the playlists are quite small. iHeart has a cap of 40 songs per playlists. Considering the fact that I currently have a Spotify playlist with nearly 4,000 songs (and growing), this is a microscopic number.
Secondly, you will be hard-pressed to find some less than mainstream artists on iHeart Radio. If you find yourself listening to a great deal of underground or unknown artists, iHeart Radio may not be the service for you.
Thirdly, as an app that began, first and foremost, as a digitized way to listen to the radio, it would be nice if they offered a digital radio dial, allowing you to browse stations with an interface that mimics that of a car radio. Not only would this be a fun way to interact with this kind of app … it would also be a useful way to browse local radio, as opposed to having to choose from one of the apps preordained, registered radio stations. Just a thought.
All in all, iHeart Radio is the music and audio streaming app and site for anyone who doesn’t want to sacrifice their ability to listen to local radio while they stream their favorite songs and artists on demand. It is also the go-to source for serious podcast enthusiasts, as they have tons of podcasts to choose from and follow. However, if you want the widest variety of music out there and the ability to personalize your listening experience, you will likely be better off with Spotify, Tidal, or Apple Music.