What Is Music Streaming?

By Thomas McNish

Streaming is the continuous flow of data or information like music or video to a computer or device without having the capability of keeping it on your hard drive. Learn about the advantages of streaming, how it's different than downloading music and where and how to do it.

What It's Not

There’s a lot of music on the Internet, but there are basically two ways of getting that music. Streaming is often confused with downloading, but there are major differences. When you download music, you buy it from a website like iTunes.com or Rhapsody.com and keep the music on your computer. On iTunes, songs usually cost 99 cents each, or you can buy an entire album for $9.99. Once you purchase the music, you can put it on CD, your MP3 player or listen to it while you’re on your computer.

What It Is

The way streaming differs from downloading is simple: You don’t get to keep the song. But you can listen to it for free. Think of it like a radio station, but you get to choose which songs you want to hear.

How To Know If You're Streaming

If you’re streaming music, most of the time it will already be on a website or it will pop up in your web browser. There will be no need to install anything. You just click the song you want to hear and it starts playing. It will usually say “streaming” somewhere on the player as well. But you should never pay to stream music.

Advantages Over Downloading

There are several advantages to streaming music over downloading it. There are a few sites that claim you can download music for free. These sites are often riddled with viruses, and you’re more than likely to catch one. So if you want virus-free music, you’re going to have to pay for it. Streaming music won’t cost you a dime. Another advantage is that it won’t take up any of your hard drive space. You can listen to music all day and never lose a megabyte of space. You’re also likely to find newer artists who don’t get airplay on major radio stations.

Where To Stream

The most popular place to stream music is probably www.pandora.com. Pandora radio lets you “create a station” based on an artist or song of your choosing. Then it follows your pick with a suggestion of an artist or song with similar qualities. If you don’t like the song Pandora suggests, you can skip to the next one. Be conservative with your skips, though. You only get six per hour. Another great place to stream free music is AOL Radio at www.music.aol.com. But my personal preferred way of streaming music is from the artist’s MySpace or Facebook page. Just Google the artist or song you want to hear, visit their MySpace or Facebook page (most artists have one) and click and play.

About the Author

Thomas McNish has been writing since 2005, contributing to Salon.com and other online publications. He is working toward his Associate of Science in computer information technology from Hillsborough Community College in Tampa, Fla.