Three Ways Listen to Music While You Travel

February 13, 2020 by · Leave a Comment 

Just like there are countless TV streaming services to choose from, there are several different ways to listen to music on your mobile device or laptop. It’s hard to know how to choose where you find your music, and how you’re going to listen whether you’re in the car, on the plane, at the beach, or even just working out.

Depending on your musical tastes and preferences, here are three ways you can listen to music while you’re on the road without scanning fuzzy radio stations between cities.

1. You can use a streaming service

A mobile streaming service like Spotify lets you listen to music while you travel.Most of us are familiar with radio streaming services like Pandora and Spotify. These are streaming services that cost around $9.99 per month for ad-free listening of your favorite music.

Spotify lets you build playlists of your favorite songs, subscribe to other people’s playlists, listen to an artist’s entire body of works, or even discover what your friends are listening to. Plus, Spotify recently purchased three podcast creation startups, so it now offers its own original podcasts, as well as the ones you normally access.

Pandora, on the other hand, looks at the kind of music you like based on some of your song selections, and tries to find other songs and artists you might also like. For example, I like a band called Balkan Beat Box, a klezmer dance music band. (If you want something to pick you up, listen to that station for an hour!) When I listen to the BBB station, Pandora looks for similar sounding music — electronic dance klezmer. With Pandora, I can find songs and artists I’ve never heard of before and then create a completely personalized playlist based on what I like.

If you have Amazon Prime, you can listen to Prime Music, which has a 2 million song library, or you can get Amazon Music Unlimited for $7.99 per month and access “tens of millions of songs.” You can also listen to Amazon Music Unlimited offline, which means downloading songs to your device. You can download all your favorite songs, but you’ll lose them as soon as you stop paying for the service.

Finally, you can always find music on YouTube or even YouTube Radio, a premium music streaming service that also gives you the options for audio-only or video-and-audio. Also, if you listen to regular YouTube on your phone, the music stops as soon as you shut off your phone or switch away from the app, which means it’s not suitable for car use. YouTube Premium and YouTube Radio both let you switch away from the app, so you can listen while you drive or multi-task.

2. You can listen to Internet radio

I’m actually not a big fan of streaming services when it comes to radio listening. When I was younger, I enjoyed terrestrial radio over listening to personal media — records, tapes, CDs — because I knew I was sharing the experience with hundreds and thousands of people at the same time. We were all listening to that song, we were all listening to that baseball game. I felt like I was participating in something much bigger than me and my music.

Plus, I’m no longer a fan of commercial radio these days. As the stations consolidated, so did the music, and it’s always the same Top 40 songs or same classic rock tracks wherever I go. It’s so hard to find stations that play alternative music or deep album cuts or local bands. However, there are a few out there, if you know where to look. (Check out this list of “The 40 Best Little Radio Stations in the US.” The article may be 10 years old, but most of the stations are still out there. And here’s a list of 2020’s best Internet radio stations.)

What you’re getting are those terrestrial local radio stations that also broadcast on the Internet, and they end up getting fans from all over the world. That’s because you can listen to Internet radio stations from all over the world.

There are a few ways you can listen to Internet radio. You can use apps like TuneIn, iHeart Radio, or Radio Garden (a visual station locator that uses Google Earth to let you search for radio stations in a particular city or small town).

Some stations even have their own apps that let you access their live feed and listen to any podcasts they produce. My two favorite Internet radio stations, KCRW in Santa Monica, CA, and WFPK in Louisville, KY, both have their own apps as well as appearing on TuneIn, Radio Garden, and any other Internet radio apps. You can also access them on the iTunes music player for Apple and Windows.

3. You can download it.

This seems a little stone-knives-and-bearskins these days, what with 5G and unlimited data plans, but there are still plenty of times you want to download music: 1) You aren’t going to be on wifi, like when you’re driving or flying, or 2) You don’t want to do constant streaming because you don’t want to pay for an app subscription, or you have a limited data plan.

Downloaded music can come from two sources:

  1. You already paid for it, which means you’ll never have to pay for it again. You can buy singles that you want to hear without buying the whole album, and spend $.99 or $1.29 for one song from iTunes.
  2. You can burn music from your old CDs and records, which means you don’t have to buy it in the first place. I had a CD collection in the hundreds, including a couple hundred independent and local artists you don’t find online, and I’ve burned at least half of them to my iTunes library, then loaded the best ones onto my phone.

I like the economics of downloading your own music too. If I wanted access to, say, The Police’s Synchronicity album, I could pay for Spotify for $9.99 per month — $120 per year — for the rest of my life, or I could buy the album online for $11.99 on iTunes.

The downside is that I only have the one album, as compared to having the tens of millions of songs that Spotify and Amazon Prime offer. But on the upside, I can build a music collection from a variety of sources that I can access any time without worrying whether I’m on wifi or am chewing up my data.

Of course, the best time to start figuring out your traveling music is now, weeks and months before you leave. Figure out what you like to listen to and the way you like to get it, build your favorite playlists, and learn your way around your system. That way, you’re not trying to navigate your way through a new music provider as you try to navigate the airport or highway.

How do you get your music online? What are your favorite apps, stations, and artists? Tell us all about it on our Facebook page, or in our Twitter stream.

Photo credit: PXHere.com (Creative Commons 0, Public Domain)

Five Things to Listen to That Aren’t Music On Your Next Trip

April 25, 2019 by · Leave a Comment 

If you’ve ever been on a trip and wanted to listen to something else other than music, you would find there are quite a few options available if you only knew where to look. Maybe you’re a fan of podcasts or audiobooks, maybe you want something more like a movie for your mind, or maybe you’d like to hear what’s happening in another part of the world.

If you’re looking for something other than music, and you want to be informed, entertained, or educated, there are several options for you to try. And whether you’re traveling by yourself or with your family, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. Here are a few of the options I use whenever I’m on the road.

1. Listen to News From Another Country

Sure, sure, you can listen to your local news, and you should do that anyway. It’s always good to be informed about what’s happening close to home. But it’s sometimes interesting to hear what other countries are saying about what’s happening over here. And it’s especially interesting to hear what kinds of issues are affecting those countries.

For example, I like to listen to the CBC and BBC via their apps or the TuneIn app. It lets me hear about their local issues, as well as some of the global news we never hear at home.

I also have a Canadian podcast I listen to called CANADALAND (they capitalize it that way, not me!), which covers not only Canadian media criticism but a lot of their local issues affecting different provinces and cities. It’s interesting to have some insider knowledge about a different country, and I’ve had some great conversations with several Canadians about what’s happening back home.

2. Podcasts

I’m a regular podcast listener because I like it better than most commercial radio these days. I have about 12 – 15 podcasts I listen to every week. There are a few general interest podcasts, like Alec Baldwin’s Here’s The Thing, Broken Record With Malcolm Gladwell, and David Tennant’s aptly-named podcast, David Tennant Does A Podcast.

As a writer, I also have some writing specific podcasts I never miss, like Jeff Pearlman’s Two Writers Slinging Yang, Grammar Girl, and The Downtown Writers Jam With Brad King.

Whatever your job, hobby, or side hustle happens to be, I can almost guarantee there’s a podcast about it. Just find your favorite podcast app — I prefer Overcast, but Stitcher has a premium model that gives you extra content — and pick a few podcasts to start listening to. Don’t feel like you have to listen to every episode all the way through — fast forward or just delete and move on. Try out new shows and find what you lie as you settle into an easy-to-manage routine. That way, when you’re heading out on your trip, you’ve got a small bank of episodes saved up and ready to work through.

3. Audiobooks

The audiobook industry is a billion dollar industry, and is a great way to read books without actually reading them. You can borrow CDs from your library, download electronic resources from the same library (get the Hoopla or OverDrive app; ask your librarian if you’re not sure how to use it), or download thousands of free audiobooks through services like LibriVox.

And you can also download the latest books through Amazon’s Audible, a service that lets you download three titles each month. The first month is free, and then you pay $14.99 each month thereafter. If you’re leaving on a trip soon, take it for a test drive and decide whether to keep it right after your trip ends.

4. Audio Drama

This used to be called “radio theatre” (note the -re, which means it’s fancy), but now it’s called audio drama because it’s rarely heard on the radio. it doesn’t matter what you call it though, because there are literally tens of thousands of hours of content available on the Internet, most of it for free.

The Overcast app and Decoder Ring Radio Theatre podcasts, one of my favorites on every road trip. Consider this for your next trip.

The Overcast app and Decoder Ring Radio Theatre podcasts, one of my favorites on every road trip

A lot of it comes in the form of new podcasts, like one of my favorites, Decoder Ring Theatre (which produced several of my plays nearly seven years ago), Girl In Space by Sarah Werner, and the wonderful The Orbiting Human Circus.

There’s also plenty of OTR (old-time radio) you can download, like Great OTR, a website run by a friend of mine.And nearly all of the OTR content online is free to download: Just Google “free old-time radio” and you’ll be shown thousands of hours of free old radio shows, from comedies to mysteries to science fiction to police drama.

Download them to your hard drive and load them to your favorite MP3 player., or save them to Dropbox, and then use an app like Cloudbeats to listen to the files directly from Dropbox. (Make sure you set this up before you leave on your trip though.)

5. Stand-Up Comedy

My wife and kids love listening to stand-up in the car. They’ll turn on Pandora or YouTube Radio, select a favorite comic, and then hit play. Since most of these comics’ acts have been released as albums broken down into tracks, the algorithms will generate random playlists of similar comics and take them through a plethora of comics and their work, just like if you started listening to one song from a favorite artist.

It’s a great way to find new comics, stumble on some old favorites, and turn the trip into a series of hilarious surprises. My family will reach the end of a two-hour trip and not want to get out of the car once they arrive, because they’re waiting to finish just one more routine.

(Be careful listening with little kids in the car: some comics are not suitable for children, and given the random nature of their work, you may find yourself quickly fumbling for the Next button.)

What do you listen to when you’re not listening to music? What are some must-hear programs and podcasts? Share your suggestions with us on our Facebook page, or in our Twitter stream, and be sure to connect with us on Instagram.

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