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.


Over the past few years, the number of music-streaming services in Australia has exploded. There are now more than 15 competing services to choose from in the local market.

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

You can think of a music-streaming service as almost a radio station that you can program by genre, artist or mood.

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, so 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

Service Free option Basic plan ($AU/month) Premium plan ($AU/month)
Apple Music Three-month trial - AU$11.99
Deezer Ad supported - AU$11.99
Google Play Music All Access 30-day trial - AU$11.99
Guvera Ad supported - AU$11.99
iHeartRadio Free - -
iTunes Radio Ad supported - AU$34.99 per year
JB Hi-Fi Now 10-day trial AU$6.67 AU$8.25
Milk Music Ad supported - AU$3.99
Nokia MixRadio 7-day trial - AU$4.99
Pandora Ad supported - $4.99 (unconverted US pricing)
Rara - AU$7.99 AU$12.99
Rdio Ad supported AU$5.99 AU$11.99
Spotify Ad supported AU$6.99 AU$11.99
Tidal - AU$14.99 AU$23.99
Vevo Ad supported - -
Xbox Music 30-day trial - AU$11.99

Apple Music


The new(ish) Apple Music has been 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 Rdio, Pandora, Slacker and -- especially -- Spotify to be a one-stop destination for all things music. The result is a grand coalition of a cloud-based on-demand streaming service comprised of 30 million tracks, your existing iTunes music library, a new 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 which will allow six people to share the one subscription. 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.


Screenshot by Lexy Savvides/CNET

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 2 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 320Kbps streaming. This costs $5.99 per month for the first 3 months, then $11.99 per month thereafter.

Platforms: web interface, Android, iOS, Windows Phone, Windows 10, BlackBerry, Jawbone, Samsung Wireless Audio, Logitech Squeezebox, 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 All Access

Screenshot by Lexy Savvides/CNET

Australia and New Zealand were the first countries to receive access to Google's fully integrated streaming service outside of the US. All Access includes the features of the regular Google Music service, such as being able to upload 20,000 of your own tracks, as well as adding the benefits of streaming music from a library of 20 million tracks.

All Access also includes a Raio service that lets you skip as many tracks as you like. Personalised radio stations can be created, but if you'd prefer All Access to do the hard work for you, it provides recommendations based on your current library. If this isn't enough, songs can also be purchased on Google Play.

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.


Screenshot by Lexy Savvides/CNET

Guvera is a home-grown service. You can listen to full tracks through the web interface or mobile apps for free, supported by ads. Guvera's point of difference is that top users can get rewards -- namely downloads -- by consuming content such as ads.

Guvera's catalogue spans 10 million tracks, with popular new releases available as well as a decent range of independent artists. Users can search by artist or discover music through playlists. Music news and content is provided through a partnership with the Music Feeds website. Curation includes guest playlists and top tracks.

For the mobile apps, songs can automatically be cached for offline listening once a song has been played in part. These mobile apps are also ad-supported under the free model, but you can only listen via playlist shuffle rather than track-by-track on demand.

The apps generally require you to watch a 30-second video ad before being allowed to play songs, and there is a limit to the number of skips if you don't have a paid subscription.

Price: free. Ad-supported.

For an ad-free experience, the service costs AU$11.99 per month through Guvera directly, or AU$14.99 through the iTunes Store or Google Play.

Platforms: web interface, Android, iOS and Apple TV, Sonos.

Best for: free listening if you don't mind watching ads, with the option to automatically cache music on your mobile device.


Screenshot by Lexy Savvides/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 8, Kindle Fire, BlackBerry, Sonos, Samsung Shape, Xbox.

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

iTunes Radio

Screenshot by Lexy Savvides/CNET

Since the launch of Apple Music, iTunes Radio has been rolled into Apple Music, built into iOS devices. It's still available for free with ads, or with a $9.99 Apple Music subscription for ad-free listening.

Australia was the second country outside of the US to gain access to iTunes Radio, a streaming service that is tightly integrated into the iTunes player. It is available through iTunes on Mac and PC, the Music app on iOS, and Apple TV.

iTunes Radio operates in a similar way to Pandora by offering a radio-like stream of songs based on artists and genres from your library. To start a different station, enter an artist name, song or genre to fine-tune. What sets iTunes Radio apart from other services is the tight integration with the iTunes Store. Like a song that's playing? Just click the price to buy the track instantly using your existing account.

You can use the star icon in the player to denote favourite tracks, add a song to your iTunes wish list, or tell Radio never to play that song again. Station selections, likes and dislikes are synced to iCloud so they are available across all devices.

If you are listening to music on the go via iOS, you can control iTunes Radio using Siri and find out information about the track playing using voice commands. There is no information available on the size of iTunes Radio's catalogue. You are limited to six skips per station per hour.

Price: free. Ad-supported service, with the option to subscribe to iTunes Match which removes ads and costs AU$34.99 annually.

Platforms: iTunes app (Mac, PC), iOS, Apple TV.

Best for: dedicated iTunes users and Apple users who want to stay within the ecosystem.

JB Hi-Fi Now

Screenshot by Lexy Savvides/CNET

JB Hi-Fi's music-streaming service is the only one on offer from an Australian retailer, and is very easy to use thanks to an uncluttered web interface. Registration is a little different to the other services on offer, where activation is done through a unique PIN sent via SMS to your mobile phone.

Once logged in to the service, JB Hi-Fi Now has a nice, big graphical interface that lets you find music in several different main ways: by using the standard search bar at the top of each page; by genre through the "Discover" window; by browsing mixes; or by radio-like streaming. It also lets you look at profiles of other users, and find songs that they like by filtering via age, gender and location. It's a little bit like an online dating service for music lovers, if you like.

The service offers over 18 million songs from a catalogue of major and independent labels.

The apps are designed with a matching clean layout to the web interface, and allow for offline caching.

Price: 10-day free trial for new subscribers. A standard subscription costs AU$6.67 per month (on a 12-month subscription) and offers web/AirPlay/Sonos streaming.

A Premium subscription, which includes the above plus mobile streaming on two devices, is AU$8.25 per month (again on a 12-month subscription).

Platforms: iOS, Android, Windows Phone, AirPlay, Sonos.

Best for: the music lover who used to enjoy buying CDs.

Milk Music

Screenshot by Lexy Savvides/CNET

Milk Music is a radio-style streaming service run by Samsung that takes the place of Music Hub. Available only to Samsung Galaxy users, Milk Music hosts over 200 hand-curated stations spanning multiple genres.

To tie in with the radio theme, the Milk Music app features a tuner on the main screen. The outer dial lets users scroll to select a different genre, while the inner dial provides more fine-tuned control to select songs between genres. Pull up from the bottom of the screen to increase or decrease the number popular songs and new music that is played.

Take the customisation one step further by choosing up to nine of your favourite genres to appear on the station dial. Sync preferences and stations across devices by signing in to your Samsung account.

Like other radio-style streaming services such as Pandora, Milk Music allows you a maximum of six skips per station.

The app is free to download from the Google Play Store or the Galaxy App Store.

Samsung has just introduced a premium option that strips away the ads and allows for users to cache up to 25 stations for offline play. There's also no limit to how often you can skip tracks and a higher quality of audio is available.

Price: free. Ad-supported. Premium costs AU$3.99 per month.

Platforms: Samsung Galaxy handsets and devices (S III, S4, S5, S6, S Edge, S Edge+, Note II, Note 3, Note 4, Note Edge, Note 5, Tab 4, Tab S, Note Pro, Note 10.1, Gear S).

Best for: Samsung device owners.

Nokia MixRadio

Screenshot by Lexy Savvides/CNET

MixRadio used to be known as Nokia Music, an online store and streaming service. Now, MixRadio is just a streaming service, letting users listen to playlists based around artist, charts or genres.

MixRadio is free and does not require a subscription when used on Nokia handsets. There is also a web interface available which offers 30-second previews for users without a subscription.

On the mobile app, playlists can be cached for offline listening. MixRadio also features the ability to learn about your taste, creating dynamic playlists based on what you thumb up and down as you listen.

Price: free for Nokia users. MixRadio+ is the paid version, and for AU$4.99 per month it offers higher-quality audio streams, unlimited track skipping and unlimited offline mixes.

Platforms: web interface, Windows Phone 8, Windows 8.

Best for: ad-free listening for Nokia users.


Screenshot by Lexy Savvides/CNET

Pandora has become synonymous with the term "internet radio", as it offers a way to consume music without choosing individual tracks. Simply enter the name of an artist you already like, and Pandora will serve up a stream of similar-sounding music. It's more of a music-discovery service, or an instant playlist without the hassle.

You can save artist stations as favourites, and there are options to buy specific songs with link-out agreements. Skip and ban artists that you don't like for even more customisation.

As of mid-November 2015, Pandora is set to buy out key technology from Rdio, offering on demand music in addition to radio-style services. The deal has some way to go before its finalised, so watch this space for more information on the new features.

Access is through the web interface or the easy-to-use iOS and Android apps. You do need to have a free account to use the app, which also gives you access to any saved artist playlists. Note that because of licensing restrictions, you are only able to skip six songs per hour, per station, up to 12 skips per day.

Price: free. Ad-supported.

Pandora One costs $4.99 per month and removes ads. It also gives access to the desktop app and offers 192Kbps streaming quality.

Platforms: web interface, iOS, Apple TV, Android, Windows Phone, BlackBerry, Nook and Kindle Fire. Pandora says its app is available on more than 250 devices, and the service has also been integrated into select Toyota models. If the car has Toyota Link then users are able to stream Pandora via their smartphones. Once the phone is connected to the vehicle via Bluetooth, a listener's Pandora account is then replicated from the handset to the cars head-unit.

Best for: a true radio experience, with a simple and intuitive user interface.


Screenshot by Lexy Savvides/CNET

Rara's main selling point is its curated playlists. A team of musicologists based in London choose music based around a series of moods, genres and other such tags.

The web interface isn't the prettiest, compared to the other services on offer, and it is difficult to find charts of popular songs among the myriad cryptically named options. Rara does give you some personalised recommendations once you have listened to a range of songs, categorised under the "Just for you" tab on the front page.

The mobile and Windows 8 apps look a lot better than the web interface, offering a simple way to search and listen to tracks. There's only a minimal wait for tracks to start playing as they buffer over your active connection. Rara supports offline caching on mobile devices.

Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment, EMI Music and Warner Music Group are among the major labels on offer, which results in an extensive collection of top 40 music, and according to Rara, its catalogue spans 22 million tracks.

Price: for the first three months, AU$0.99 per month. After this, the price increases to AU$7.99 per month for web access. For mobile apps and web access, you'll pay AU$2.99 per month for the first three months, and then the price increases to AU$12.99 per month thereafter.

Platforms: web interface, iOS, Android and Windows 8 apps.

Best for: playlist lovers.


Screenshot by Lexy Savvides/CNET

Update:Rdio is on its way to bankruptcy court, with Pandora set to grab some of the key technology from the beleaguered service. We'll update with the changes to the Rdio service, presumably its cancellation, when further announcements are made.

Rdio gives you the opportunity to follow people, friends and taste makers, and listen to what they have flagged as quality tracks. The web interface offers a pretty comprehensive range of music that's particularly padded out on the indie and left-field artist side. Rdio's music player stays fixed on the bottom of the screen when using a web browser to stream, allowing you navigate and browse for other music unimpeded.

The Android Rdio app is one of the cleanest and easiest to navigate of all the services on offer. Syncing with playlists created online, the app shows a nice, big picture of the album or track in question on the screen, along with uncluttered playback icons.

At a subscription-level Rdio offers offline caching of tracks, so you can listen without an active internet connection. The app also lets you choose to stream "high-quality" audio (though it doesn't mention the bitrate) when you're hooked up to a Wi-Fi network -- or all the time, if you have a bottomless data plan.

As of May 14, 2015 Rdio has a new service tier called Rdio Select. At AU$5.99 as month you get ad-free streaming radio and an allowance of 25 songs for download. The 25 is a hard limit -- you can never have more -- but the entire allotment can be refreshed each day. When a new song is downloaded, it takes the top spot and pushes off whatever was in number 25.

The streaming radio component of Select can be skipped forward at any time and Rdio is creating and updating 10-song playlists for download. These include some artist-curated lists, with playlists from the likes of Mumford and Sons and Hot Chip available at launch.

Rdio Select works on iOS and Android devices, as well as with some other connected devices such as Chromecast and Sonos.

Price: free. Ad-supported web/desktop streaming. Stations stream free on iOS/Android.

Subscriptions start at AU$5.99 per month Rdio Select, while the Rdio Unlimited plan offers web, desktop and mobile streaming with offline caching for AU$11.99 per month.

Platforms: web interface, Windows and Mac stand-alone apps, iOS, Windows Phone 8, Android, BlackBerry, Chromecast, Sonos and Roku.

Best for: all music lovers, but particularly good for indie and eclectic tastes.


Screenshot by CBSi

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 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 96Kbps, 160Kbps or 320Kbps (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, 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 8, BlackBerry, 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 is already familiar with the iTunes interface, or doesn't want to pay for music streaming.


Screenshot by 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 re-launched with great fanfare at the end of March.

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 Strips. 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, 44.1khz FLAC audio at a 1411kbps 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:Tidal has apps for both Android and iOS, as well as a web player and a desktop application. The service is also working with a number of Hi-Fi and audio equipment manufacturers to be integrated into their devices. These include Denon, Polk, Pro-Ject and Sonos.

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.


Screenshot by Lexy Savvides/CNET

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. Vevo has Android, iOS and Windows Phone 7 apps, as well as availability through Xbox 360 (Xbox Live Gold is required).

Price: free. Ad-supported.

Platform: web interface.

Best for: YouTube and music-video fans.

Xbox Music

Screenshot by Lexy Savvides/CNET

NOTE: Microsoft is rebranding itsXbox Music service to Groove when Windows 10 begins rolling out on July 29.

Microsoft has revamped its music-streaming service with a fresh new look for web, Windows 8 and mobile streaming. The interface is clean and uncluttered, taking its cues from the minimalist Windows 8 look-and-feel. The mobile apps use the same interface for consistency.

Over 30 million tracks are available in the catalogue. Overall, there are fewer curation options on offer compared to other services; for example there is only an Explore tab option that surfaces popular new music, top albums and top songs. A Radio function offers a Pandora/iTunes Radio-like experience for custom listening.

Users can create playlists that sync across devices when this option is activated in the settings menu. On a slightly different tip, the Windows 8.1 app has a feature called Web Playlist that creates a custom list inside Xbox Music, based on any website. For example, if a user visits a radio website and it mentions a variety of songs, Web Playlist will automatically generate a list of these songs for streaming.

Both the iOS and Android apps have offline caching, but you need an Xbox Music Pass for mobile streaming and Xbox use.

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

Platforms: web interface, Android, iOS, Windows 8, Windows 8 RT, Windows Phone and Xbox 360.

Best for: the largest catalogue on offer.

The verdict

With a wide variety of music-streaming services available to Australian users, there is plenty of choice to wrap your head and wallet around. Where you want to listen to your music - across several devices or just from your computer - and what gadgets you already own will most likely determine what service is right for you.

Most of the services covered above have robust access across devices, but Rdio, Spotify, Xbox Music and Sony Music Unlimited are the most flexible. Sony and Samsung cater well for users who have already invested in devices within the brand's ecosystem, while iTunes Radio offers a tight integration with the existing iTunes media player.

Overall winners

  • Best value for money: Pandora ($4.99 per month)

  • Easiest to use: Milk Music, Pandora

  • Best free service: Milk Music, Spotify

  • Best apps: Rdio, Xbox Music.

Editor's note: information and pricing was correct at the time of writing, though details are likely to change.

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