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Australian music streaming services compared

Choosing a music streaming service can be confusing. Here's the low-down on each one that's available in Australia.

James Martin/CNET

In the early days of music streaming, the number of music streaming services in Australia exploded, reaching a peak of more than 15 separate services in 2015. But increased competition in a crowded market saw many of those services shut down -- from lesser-known names like JB Hi-Fi right up to big players like Pandora

All told, at least seven major services have shuttered since those heady days (JB Hi-Fi Now, Samsung-backed Milk Music, Nokia MixRadio, Pandora, Rara, Rdio and Guvera, which stopped operations in mid-2017 amid ASIC investigations over investor claims they had lost millions). Others have rebranded (Xbox Music became Groove) and others absorbed (like iTunes Radio into Apple Music). 

But the remaining services are the well-established, big players, meaning there's plenty of choice for Australians. 

Streaming music is ideal for anyone looking to supplement an existing digital music collection with instant access to a wide variety of tracks, or for users who want to pick and choose songs on demand. 

That said, not all services are made equal. Most offer you the ability to stream unlimited music, but some also have provisions for streaming via mobile, offline caching for listening without an internet connection and streaming to other devices through the home.

Some services have a wider selection of tracks than others. If your taste leans more toward the left field of mainstream, then have a quick search around the service or use a free trial to see whether there are enough songs that float your musical boat.

Price breakdown

ServiceFree optionBasic plan ($AU/month)Premium plan ($AU/month)
Apple Music3-month trial for AU$0.99-AU$11.99
DeezerAd supported-AU$11.99
Google Play Music30-day trial-AU$11.99
Groove30-day trial-AU$11.99
iHeartRadioFree-AU$11.99
SpotifyAd supported-AU$11.99
Tidal-AU$14.99AU$23.99
VevoAd supported--
YouTube Red30-day trial-AU$11.99

Apple Music

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CNET

Apple Music was built from the bones of Beats Music, which Apple picked up for a cool $3 billion in 2014.

With the new service, Apple wants to push aside the likes of Spotify to be a one-stop destination for all things music. The result is a cloud-based on-demand streaming service comprised of 30 million tracks, your existing iTunes music library, an all-live worldwide radio station and even an artist-centric social network -- all living in one master app.

Price: Apple Music will costs AU$11.99 a month and you can get a family subscription for AU$17.99 (for six people to share one subscription). Uni students also get a discount down to AU$5.99. Some features will be available to non-subscribers who have an Apple ID, such access to the Beats 1 radio station as well as other Apple Music stations with limited track skipping on the latter, also access to Connect.

Telstra iPhone users on a 12- or 24- month Go Mobile Plan are able to get a year's worth of Apple Music for free from the carrier. After the year expires, the AU$11.99 cost will be added to their Telstra bill rather than being paid directly to Apple.

Platforms: All Apple devices including Apple TV as well as Windows PC, Android and Sonos.

Best for: Anyone in the Apple ecosystem looking for the best of streaming and radio services.

Deezer

deezer.jpg

Deezer

Deezer offers a catalogue of over 30 million tracks, giving users access to a range of promotions like album streams before their official release.

Users get access to a number of different radio channels and discovery services, which are primarily chosen by the editorial team.

Deezer offers a nice touch by giving users track controls and an Equaliser for a more enjoyable listening experience. Deezer also likes to share what you're listening to with your Facebook friends, so if this isn't your thing, it's best to turn off that feature once you sign up.

Price: Ad-supported Discovery mode (web only) for free listening. After 12 months of unlimited listening in this mode, users are then restricted to two hours of listening per month.

Deezer also offers a 15-day free trial of the Premium+ service for mobile and web access, offline caching and 320 Kbps streaming. This costs $5.99 per month for the first three months, then $11.99 per month thereafter.

Platforms: Web interface, Android, iOS, Windows Phone, Sonos, Philips, in-car integration (BMW and Mini).

Best for: Social music listeners, and those who want access across a wide range of platforms and devices.

Google Play Music

google-play-music-android.jpg

Sarah Tew/CNET

Formerly Google Play Music All Access, Australia and New Zealand were the first countries to receive access to Google's fully integrated streaming service outside of the US. Google Play lets you upload up to 50,000 of your own tracks, as well as adding the benefits of streaming music on-demand from a library of 40 million tracks (ad-free). 

On the mobile apps, songs can be pinned or cached offline for listening without an active internet connection.

Price: 30-day free trial, then AU$11.99 per month thereafter.

Platforms: Web interface, iOS and Android.

Best for: Being able to stream your own music collection and augment it with songs you don't already own.

Groove

groove-music-microsoft-lifestyle

Microsoft

Formerly known as Xbox Music, Groove is Microsoft's music option, offering over 30 million tracks in its catalogue. While there are fewer curation options on offer compared to other services, you can curate radio stations based on favourite artists, explore popular new music or buy tracks. 

Groove Music Pass holders can create playlists that sync across devices when this option is activated in the settings menu. Groove also ties in with Music on OneDrive (Microsoft's cloud storage platform) meaning you can add MP3s and even iTunes tracks to OneDrive and then access them through the Groove Music app. 

Both the iOS and Android apps have offline caching. 

Price: Premium service offers a free 30-day trial, before costing AU$11.99 per month, or AU$119.90 for a 12-month subscription.

Platforms: Web interface, Android, iOS, Windows Phone, Xbox and Sonos. 

Best for: Access to "one of the biggest catalogues on the planet" according to Microsoft. 

iHeartRadio

Screenshot by Claire Reilly/CNET

Just like the name suggests, iHeartRadio is designed for the radio lover in mind. In Australia, iHeartRadio is part of the Australian Radio Network (ARN) so there is lots of on-demand content from associated stations such as Kiis and WS FM, as well as live radio streaming.

It's not just a straight-up radio experience though, as iHeartRadio also offers straight music streaming by playlists based around your favourite artists or songs.

The catalog spans 15 million tracks. iHeartRadio is free, and after listening to a custom artist stream for a while, we didn't hear any ads at all. The mobile apps offer the same functionality as the web interface, though there are song skip limits.

Price: Free.

Platforms: Web, Android, iOS, Windows Phone, Kindle Fire, Sonos, Xbox.

Best for: Free listening, as long as you enjoy playlist rather than on-demand streaming.

Spotify

Microsoft

Spotify is the name many associate with music-streaming, with a catalogue of over 20 million tracks.

The desktop interface is reminiscent of iTunes, featuring a playlist and shortcut list in the left column, with track selection and current tunes in the centre panel. Spotify links to your Facebook account or a dedicated Spotify account, so you can keep up with what your friends listen to. You can create custom playlists, and add tracks on the fly through search or while browsing featured music and new releases. Users can also follow artists or individuals to keep up with their recommendations.

A range of apps are available that help curate new finds or add dedicated playlists; for example the Last.fm app connects to your account for scrobbling and radio recommendations. The main "Discover" panel reveals recommended albums, artists and songs based on tracks you have previously listened to.

The Spotify mobile apps are clean and simple, working in a similar manner to the desktop application. For free users, Spotify offers shuffle playback of your playlists only rather than track-by-track selections. Mobile streaming is only available in 96 Kbps, 160 Kbps or 320 Kbps (the latter bitrate for Android and iOS only).

Price: Free. Ad-supported listening via web and desktop; shuffle play from the mobile apps.

Spotify offers a free 30-day trial of the Premium service. After that, it costs AU$11.99 per month and offers no ads, mobile listening and offline mode. For Premium users, Spotify also allows you to log in and keep listening to your music outside of your profile country if you travel.

Platforms: PC or Mac app, iOS, Android, Windows Phone, Sonos and Squeezebox. Spotify is now the official music partner for PlayStation, with the service replacing the standalone Sony Music Unlimited.

Best for: Someone who wants an easy interface or doesn't want to pay for music streaming.

Tidal

Tidal

Tidal first appeared in back in 2014 under the control of Swedish company Aspiro. It was bought in early 2015 by Shawn Carter -- better known as Jay-Z -- and relaunched with great fanfare.

Tidal has two main selling points. One, it's being promoted as the first streaming service owned by recording artists. This has lead to Tidal securing some exclusive content from its owner operators, including tracks from Rihanna, Daft Punk and the White Stripes. There are also curated lists from Jay-Z, Beyonce and Cold Play.

The second selling point is its high-fidelity option, which offers 16-bit, 44.1 kHz FLAC audio at a 1411 Kbps bitrate.

Price: For the regular service you'll pay AU$11.99 a month for unlimited streaming. If you want the Hi-Fi version, with the FLAC quality tracks, that goes up to AU$23.99.

Platforms: Web interface, Android, iOS and desktop app.

Best For: If you're the kind of audiophile who despairs at what they hear from current streaming services, the Hi-Fi version of Tidal might well be literal music to your ears.

Vevo

Vevo

Anyone who has spent some time on YouTube watching music videos will be familiar with Vevo. On its stand-alone site, Vevo connects to your Facebook account, and can scan your "Likes" in order to construct video playlists. It's a little different from the other services, in that technically it's video streaming, as opposed to strictly music streaming.

The catalogue appears to be more limited than the other services, with just 45,000 videos in its repertoire. It offers content from Universal Music, Sony Music Entertainment and EMI, just to name a few. Vevo also offers live streaming of concerts from time to time.

Price: Free. Ad-supported.

Platform: Web interface, Android, iOS, Windows Phone, Xbox. 

Best for: Music-video fans.

YouTube Red

YouTube Red lets you listen to videos outside of the YouTube app.

Screenshot by Sarah Mitroff/CNET

Google finally realised that millions of people were getting their music fix on YouTube for free and getting sick of ads, so it created the subscription, ad-free YouTube Red. 

Like Vevo, it's all about music videos here, but it's a bit more than just music. YouTube Red offers you all the videos you'd expect on YouTube (plus "exclusive shows and movies from YouTube's biggest stars" known as YouTube Red Originals) without any preroll ads. That means you can set up music or album playlists (or hours of cat videos) without having any interruptions. It works on mobile and desktop and offers offline caching for when you don't have a connection. 

Most importantly, unlike the normal YouTube app, you'll still hear music even when the app isn't open or your screen is off.

Price: AU$11.99 a month (with a one-month free trial). 

Platform: Android, iOS, desktop, smart TV. 

Best for: Music-video fans and those nights when all you want is a non-stop YouTube Party. 

Editors' note: Information and pricing was correct at time of writing, though details are likely to change. 

First published Feb. 11 2014, 2:46 p.m. AEST.

Update, July 20, 2017 at 11:45 a.m.: Removes information about defunct music services and adds new details on YouTube Red.