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The New Golden Age of Radio

Music lovers enjoy a multitude of choices from digital streaming to vinyl albums

Mature man listening to music outdoors (Getty Images/Hero Images)

Getty Images/Hero Images

Online streaming services allow you to create your own radio stations.

En español | Listening to music today can be complicated. "The keyword is 'choice,' " says media analyst Mark Ramsey. "There's so much to discover." Increasingly, listeners find new music via streaming services that allow you, in essence, to create your own radio stations. And digital-download sales now dwarf those of physical formats like CDs. But no, vinyl isn't dead yet.



Cost: Free with ads, or $36 a year

Number of songs: 1 million-plus

Good for … if you aren't sure what you'd like to listen to. Pandora learns your musical preferences and creates custom radio stations.

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iTunes Radio

Cost: Free with ads, or $24.99 a year with a subscription to iTunes Match

Number of songs: 27 million

Good for … a Pandora-like streaming experience that's built into the newest versions of iTunes.


Cost: Free with ads, or $4.99 to $9.99 a month

Number of songs: 20 million-plus

Good for … sharing music and finding out what your Facebook friends have been listening to.


Cost: $4.99 to $17.99 a month

Number of songs: 20 million-plus

Good for … a digital replacement for your old record collection. Rdio lets you play complete albums, and its design emphasizes cover art.


Cost: Free

Number of songs: 15 million-plus

Good for … listening to 1,500 Clear Channel Broadcasting and other stations around the country.


SiriusXM Satellite Radio

Cost: $199.99 a year

Good for … commuters who spend a lot of time in their vehicles. About 6 in 10 new cars are now equipped with satellite-radio receivers, which carry a blend of talk stations and ad-free music stations.


Cost: About $13 each

Good for … late adopters. Most CD buyers are 35 or older. About 193 million CDs were sold in 2012, a 13.5 percent drop from 2011. Album sales in all media hit an all-time low the week ending Sept. 15, with 4.54 million units sold.


Cost: About $23 each

Good for … audiophiles who prefer the sound quality of analog. LPs are still a fraction of the music market, but sales have been climbing for the past seven years, with a big 17.7 percent jump in 2012. And LP turntable sales rose 50 percent.

Digital Downloads

Cost: 69 cents to $1.29 per track

Good for … those who insist on "owning" what they listen to. Paid downloads from Amazon, iTunes, Google Play and other virtual record stores increased by 14.1 percent in 2012 and now account for 35 percent of all album sales.