Over the past year, 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.
Here is a price breakdown of the services listed:
|Service||Free option||Basic plan ($AU/month)||Premium plan ($AU/month)|
|Google Play Music All Access||30-day trial||-||$11.99|
|iTunes Radio||Ad supported||-||$34.99 per year|
|JB Hi-Fi Now||10-day trial||$6.67||$8.25|
|Nokia Music+||7-day trial||-||$4.99|
|Samsung Music Hub||30-day trial||$9.99||$12.99|
|Sony Music Unlimited||30-day trial||$7.99||$12.99|
|Xbox Music||Ad supported||-||$11.99|
Deezer offers a catalogue of over 25 million tracks to choose from, and was originally a French service. Now, Deezer is available in Australia, giving users access to a range of promotions like album streams before their official release, and gig tickets.
Users get access to a number of different radio channels and discovery services, which are primarily chosen by the editorial team. In a nice touch, you get features like 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: a 15-day free trial, then US$6.99 per month for the Premium service, which gives you web access and higher-quality streaming, or US$11.99 for the Premium+ service with mobile and web access, plus offline caching and 320Kbps streaming. Alternatively, the Discovery service offers free streaming on web access only supported by ads. After 12 months of unlimited listening in this mode, users are then restricted to 2 hours of listening per month.
Platforms: web interface, Android, iOS, Windows Phone, Windows 8, BlackBerry, Logitech, Sonos and Philips.
Best for: people who love to share music on Facebook.
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 Radio service that lets you skip as many tracks as you like. Personalised radio stations can be created, or, if you'd prefer All Access to do the hard work for you, it will provide recommendations based on your current library, and other playlists you might enjoy. If this isn't enough, songs can also be purchased on Google Play.
Songs can be pinned or cached offline for listening without an active internet connection.
Price: a free 30-day 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.
Grooveshark is a free, ad-supported streaming service that has been plagued by legal troubles. The service lets users upload songs from their own collections to make them streamable. Because of this, it's difficult to determine just how large Grooveshark's catalogue really is. Wikipedia cites it at 15 million tracks.
Recommended albums and tracks are presented as soon as you open a browser window, while you can also share and see what your friends are listening to with a dedicated column.
The currently playing track is displayed along the bottom of the browser window, while the queue is situated underneath it, and it lets you add or remove songs on the fly. Users don't need to set up an account to listen, but signing in does open up a range of recommendations that are curated automatically based on your listening habits, and it opens up the social aspects.
Price: ad-supported free service, with a premium subscription available for US$9 per month or US$90 per year that unlocks the Android and iOS apps and takes away ads.
Platforms: web interface, Android, iOS (for jailbroken devices only) and mobile browser.
Best for: streaming from a web interface.
A home-grown streaming service, Guvera has recently relaunched with a new look. It's an ad-supported service where users can stream full tracks through the web interface or mobile apps for free. Guvera's point of difference is that top users can get rewards, namely downloads, through the content consumed.
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 so you don't need a paid subscription to listen on the go -- unique among the other services on offer.
Price: unlimited free streaming. 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.
Best for: free, unlimited listening with the option to automatically cache music on your mobile device.
Australia is 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: ad-supported free 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'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.
Browse the catalogue by album, and the service will show up a range of similar artists that you might enjoy. 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. Afterwards, a standard web-only subscription costs AU$6.67 per month (on a 12-month subscription) while a Premium subscription, which includes web and mobile streaming, is AU$8.25 per month (again on a 12-month subscription).
Platforms: iOS, Android, Windows Phone, Sonos.
Best for: the music lover who used to enjoy buying CDs.
Editor's note: MOG will be replaced by Beats Music in Australia later in 2014, with existing users transitioned to the new service.
MOG is Beats Electronic's music-streaming service, run by Telstra/BigPond in Australia, offering 16 million tracks to choose from. There are recommendations based on what you play, as well as streaming quality of 320Kbps. BigPond users get unmetered data for music streaming.
The web interface is clean and simple to use, allowing you to choose favourites and create playlists easily. The catalogue has a good range of music on offer, with some independent selections as well.
Mobile apps carry over this clean, simplistic look and feel, and include options for searching or browsing, as well as offline caching. Discovery options within the mobile apps are less prominent, though, as it's much easier to type in the name of an artist and go.
Unless otherwise selected, streaming quality and downloads in the mobile app are throttled to 48Kbps AAC+ on Wi-Fi or 4G long-term evolution (LTE). Users can choose 320Kbps streaming and download if they like.
Price: a free 14-day trial of the Premium service, then AU$6.99 per month for the Basic plan, which gives desktop access. The Premium plan is AU$11.99 per month for mobile, desktop, Telstra T-Hub 2 and Sonos access.
Platforms: web interface, Windows and Mac apps, iOS, Android, Telstra T-Hub 2, Sonos and Logitech UE Radio.
Best for: BigPond or Telstra customers for unmetered streaming.
Nokia Music is an online store and streaming service. Users can download tracks or albums for a set price (averages around AU$1.69 per track), while on select Nokia handsets, Mix Radio gives access to a range of playlists and radio-like streaming.
Mix Radio is free and does not require a subscription. It also supports offline caching and dynamic playlist construction based on existing taste. Mix Radio limits the number of times a user can skip songs each hour. Nokia Music+ is the subscription-based service that removes this skipping restriction, and gives access to web and mobile streaming as well as Windows 8 listening.
Price: downloads from the store range in price; Mix Radio is free for Nokia users. Nokia Music+ has a free 7-day trial and then an AU$4.99 subscription fee per month.
Platforms: web interface, select Nokia handsets, Windows 8.
Best for: Nokia users.
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.
This makes it instantly different to all the other services on offer, as it's much more like listening to a radio station. You can save artist stations as favourites, ads generally only take the form of audio plugs for Pandora's own promotional material and there are options to buy specific songs with link-out agreements or to skip and ban artists that you don't like.
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: ad-supported free service. Pandora One costs US$36 for a one-year subscription, or US$3.99 per month, which removes ads, gives access to the desktop app and offers 192Kbps streaming quality.
Platforms: web interface, iOS, Android, Windows Phone, BlackBerry, Nook and Kindle Fire.
Best for: a true radio experience, with a simple and intuitive user interface.
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.
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.
Mac and Windows users also have the option of a dedicated, stand-alone desktop app. This gives you the same features as the web browser experience, as well as keyboard control and iTunes or Windows Media Player collection matching. Rdio's catalogue spans 20 million tracks.
We tried out the Android Rdio app, and found it to be one of the cleanest and easiest to navigate of all the streaming 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. 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.
Price: ad-supported web/desktop streaming. Stations stream free on iOS/Android. Subscriptions cost AU$8.90 per month for web-only streaming (ad-free), or AU$12.90 per month for web and mobile streaming.
Platforms: web interface, Windows and Mac stand-alone apps, iOS, Windows Phone 8, Android, BlackBerry, Sonos and Roku.
Best for: all music lovers, but particularly good for indie and eclectic tastes.
Music Hub is Samsung's music-streaming service specifically designed for Samsung users. The Android app gives you access to discovery options on the landing page, which leads straight into popular tracks if you're feeling indecisive. Users can create playlists or browse through songs and albums by genre.
According to Samsung, there are over 3 million music and video tracks available for streaming through the Music Hub, but we found that some albums readily available on other services are unavailable on the Music Hub.
Music Hub lets you create playlists with a maximum of 200 songs by queuing up albums or individual tracks, and playlists can be cached offline. The web interface also lets you scan your PC for existing music files, and match them in Music Hub, so you can have access to this music from your other devices. Smart TV users also get access to music videos at 720p.
Price: a one-month free trial for new registrations. Then it costs AU$9.99 per month for access from one device (Galaxy phone or tablet), or AU$12.99 per month for access from up to four devices and the web interface.
Platforms: web interface and Samsung devices (Galaxy smartphones and tablets, smart TVs, Blu-ray players and home-theatre systems).
Best for: Samsung owners.
Songl has recently re-launched in Australia, backed by Southern Cross Austereo, Sony Music and Universal Music. It's a music-subscription service just like all the others listed here, with a catalogue spanning 4 million tracks. Former Anubis.fm customers can use their log-in details on Songl.
The web interface is clean and uncluttered. Thanks to the radio tie-ins, users can find a range of playlists, videos and streams from stations across the Austereo network. Songl also supports custom playlists, and you can add tracks on the fly while browsing featured music and new releases.
Unlike some other services, Songl gives you a choice of streaming bitrates on both the web and Android apps -- either 128Kbps or 320Kbps. The Songl apps are pretty simple, allowing users to choose from existing playlists, recommended albums or popular music. The app supports offline caching, for a maximum of 1000 tracks.
Songl does not currently have an agreement with independent labels represented by Merlin, so fans of acts such as Adele, The XX, Nick Cave and Grizzly Bear will not find their songs on Songl.
Price: new users get access to a 30-day trial. After that, it costs AU$12.99 per month for unlimited desktop, mobile and Sonos listening.
Platforms: web interface, Android, iOS and Sonos.
Best for: Australian radio fans.
Formerly known as Qriosity, Music Unlimited is Sony's integrated music-streaming service. We say integrated, because it works across a range of Sony devices, including the PS4, PSP, Sony internet-enabled TV, Walkman, Blu-ray player and home-theatre system -- and, of course, through the web interface. The catalogue is home to over 10 million tracks.
Music Unlimited also has catalogue matching, or the ability to sync music from your PC to the service. After installing a dedicated piece of software (no Mac support), it will scan your computer to find music files, and then match them up to corresponding songs on the site. This means that you can effectively duplicate your existing library and have it accessible on Music Unlimited, and then find similar artists based on what you already enjoy.
Using the web interface, creating playlists and discovering music is pretty seamless. The apps for Android and iOS feature a slick new interface that simulates the look and feel of a Walkman. The apps support offline caching and 320kbps AAC streaming.
Price: a free 30-day trial is offered, which gives access to the Premium service. The basic Access plan costs AU$7.99 per month, which gives desktop and PS4/PS3 access, while the Premium service is AU$12.99 per month, which gives mobile, TV, desktop and PS4/PS3/PSP/PS Vita access.
Platforms: web interface, PC/Mac, Android, iOS, PS4, PS3, PSP, PS Vita, Bravia TVs, Sony Blu-ray players, Walkman.
Best for: Sony and PlayStation owners.
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 work in a similar manner to the desktop application, with automatic and near-instantaneous syncing of playlists that you create. You can also cache playlists for offline listening, provided that you have a Premium account. Mobile streaming is only available in 96Kbps, 160Kbps or 320Kbps (the latter bitrate for Android and iOS only). Note that if you have a free account, you cannot stream using the mobile apps.
Price: a free 30-day trial of the Premium service. Users can then choose a free account, which displays and plays non-skippable audio ads on the interface, or choose from two paid tiers: Unlimited, which costs AU$6.99 per month for desktop listening only, with no ads; and Premium, which costs AU$11.99 per month for 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.
Best for: someone who is already familiar with the iTunes interface, or doesn't want to pay for music streaming.
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: a free, ad-supported service.
Platform: web interface.
Best for: YouTube and music-video fans.
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 will bring offline caching in a future update. An Xbox Music Pass needs to be purchased for mobile streaming and Xbox use.
Price: Xbox Music offers free streaming via the web interface and Windows 8 users, with audio ads. Free streaming is then limited to 10 hours of listening time per month after the first six months. The 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.
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.
Best value for money: iTunes Radio (AU$34.99 per year or AU$2.91 per month), Pandora (US$3.99 per month), JB Hi-Fi Now (AU$8.25 per month/12-month term for PC and mobile access)
Easiest to use: Pandora
Best for the eclectic music lover: Rdio
Best free services: Xbox Music, Spotify and Guvera
Best apps: Rdio, Sony Music Unlimited and Xbox Music.
Editor's note: information and pricing was correct at the time of writing, though details are likely to change. This feature was last updated on 11 February 2014.