NPR Music Logo
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LAST UPDATED: March 10th, 2020

National Public Radio is a non-profit media organization and a familiar stand-by in classic radio. Since its founding by Bill Siemering in 1970, NPR now serves as a national syndicate for a network of around 900 public radio stations in the United States. NPR produces and distributes all kinds of programming, including two of the most popular radio programs in the country: Morning Edition and All Things Considered. NPR Music is a subsidiary of NPR, available through the online NPR platform and various apps. NPR Music differs from other online music services because it syndicates hundreds of public music stations across the United States, rather than aggregating company-owned stations. 

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The Good

NPR Music is among the oldest radio establishment in the United States. During its time as a radio syndicate, the company has developed extensive musical offerings:
  • While the website accepts donations, NPR's music streaming service is completely free.
  • Users may sign in with Facebook, Google, Twitter, or Disqus and share their discoveries with friends online.
  • NPR Music offers unparalleled access to new audio content. NPR Music includes a weekly talk show about recent developments in the music industry, called "All Songs Considered." The show features video performances recorded live in the NPR studio, a handpicked selection of new music videos, and "puzzlers" that test listeners' music knowledge. In a segment called "First Listen," users can stream upcoming albums in their entirety.
  • Aside from All Songs Considered, NPR also features the following public radio music shows: Alt.Latino, Fresh Air Interviews, From the Top, Jazz Night in America, Metropolis, Microphone Check, Mountain Stage, Piano Jazz, Song Travels, The Thistle and Shamrock, and World Café.
  • In addition to its own programming, NPR offers a collection of radio stations from around the country. They are listed in a simple directory, categorized according to genre.
  • The NPR Music website features extensive music reviewing, all available to stream. The NPR Music website also features a variety of music writing, including articles, interviews, quizzes, and "Best Of" lists.
  • Thanks to unique audio engineering, all NPR stations feature the same, crisp sound, frequently described throughout the industry as NPR's "secret sauce." NPR's audio quality is among the best available.
  • As one of the oldest, best-established radio services available, NPR is extremely consistent in its programming. There are few surprises.
  • NPR offers a weekly digest email, with new content.

The Bad

  • Music stations aren't customizable through the NPR site. Users can either listen to NPR programs or choose another public radio station from NPR's listings.
  • Compared to other online music streaming services, NPR is fairly ad-heavy.
  • Because NPR is a syndicator and not an aggregation platform, users cannot stream music stations through the NPR Music page itself. Selecting a station from the catalogue will open a new window or tab.
  • Users cannot upload their own content to the site or curate their own playlists. The website itself doesn't actually host music, unless a session was recorded in the NPR studio during one of its segments.
  • Because show segments are categorized in so many different ways, there is much overlap between NPR Music's many tabs. The result is a disjointed, disorganized search experience that generally yields all the same recordings for different search terms. It is difficult to find audio other than that displayed at the top of the page after each search query. Given the sheer degree of NPR's production, less popular recordings are easily buried beneath traffic-heavy portions of the best-known segments.
  • While NPR stations are known for exceptional sound quality, the stations that NPR syndicates carry no such guarantee. Sound quality varies by station.
  • As a public radio syndicate, NPR cannot offer censoring for explicit lyrics.
  • NPR Music's streaming option are fairly limited outside the website. The NPR Music app is only available for iPhone and iPad, but streaming is available on any platform that can stream directly from the web.

The Bottom Line

NPR's syndication gives it access to near endless music, and the NPR Music program is among the most comprehensive available online. NPR's music service is ideal for anyone with broad tastes, affection for classic radio, and the patience to navigate countless studio recordings and artist interviews. The service is not in any way personalized, and it isn't well suited to those with specific tastes, nor is it suited for those who prefer music without extensive commentary. NPR Music doesn't pretend to be anything other than what it is, but what it is isn't ideal for everyone.
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Eddie Rios Ogden, UT

NPR Music is a favorite. I live the NPR brand and even music is done with a better flair. I appreciate the content and NPR Music never leaves men wanting something different. Easy to use tools, easy listening, easy entertainment.

4 years ago


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Amanda Montebello, CA

I really like the different genres of music and podcasts offered on NPR radio because they are unique and easily accessible.

4 years ago


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Mia Tallahassee, FL

Love all the little stories that get told on this radio. Listened to one in my classes and now I listen to them or recommend them all the time.

4 years ago