Currently, music fans who want to listen to radio outside the normal AM or FM bands have two main choices: satellite and online radio. Each of these choices have some clear benefits and downsides.
It is worth exploring the nuances of each type of technology in order to understand which one is suited for which type of user. Is satellite radio for you? Or is online radio the better option for you? Ultimately, it depends on what type of listener you are, your listening habits, and your budget.
Note: all information contained in this article was valid at the time of this writing.
Type of Music?
If you tend to like obscure music that isn't often picked up on the mainstream, online radio stations like Pandora or Slacker Radio are probably better suited to your needs then satellite radio. This is become there is a limited (though large) number of stations on satellite radio, while online radio services have a nearly unlimited number of channels which can be customized for each user.
On the other hand, if you tend to listen to broad genres, satellite radio might be the better option. Satellite radio, like Sirius and XM, provide a wide variety of single-genre stations. Some stations on Sirius focus on live concerts, while others focus on niche genres such as fusion jazz and electronica.
Your Listening Habits?
If you can listen to your radio in the car or at home but nowhere else, then satellite radio may be the better option. This is because satellite radio tends to be confined to one or two places. On the other hand, if you tend to listen while walking, exercising, or on your mobile device, then online radio such as Pandora is probably better for you. Satellite radio is not nearly as portable as online radio, so consider that when choosing your primary form of alternative radio.
Finally, consider your budget when choosing whether to go with satellite radio or online radio. If you opt for satellite radio, you will incur a monthly fee (usually around $10 per month). However, online radio is usually free. For example, Pandora offers 40 hours of listening for free per month. After that, you need to pay $36 per year (three dollars per month). So, the most you will pay per year for Pandora is $36 per year. The most you will pay per year for satellite radio could be anywhere from $120 to $150.
(Note: this does not include data fees if you choose to listen to Pandora on a mobile data connection.)
Clearly, the difference is significant. For individuals on a budget, therefore, online radio is the better option.
Which to choose?
No one can tell you which to choose: satellite radio or online radio. However, for most people in most circumstances, online radio is the more reasonable option. It is normally cheaper, it has a wider variety of channels, and it is much more portable than satellite radio. However, if you enjoy any Sirius-exclusive shows, then give Sirius a...well, serious...look.