What do you mean you still buy music? Donchaknow all the kids are streaming it these days? Here are the best music streaming services currently available in Australia, as well as a look at what's not going to come here. Over 20 services to check out...
This is the latest instalment in Gizmodo Australia's big Smartphone Buying Guide rolling-out Mondays and Wednesdays in October.
In no particular order...
Samsung Music Hub
If you've got one of everything from Samsung in your house, it makes complete sense to turn to the Samsung content fountain too, right? Samsung Music Hub has been overhauled and restyled, sporting hundreds of thousands of tracks from Aussie and international artists.
Samsung’s Music Hub is only for Samsung Galaxy tablet and smartphone users. It’s got all the big hits from major record labels, and it’s pretty good value - $9.99 for a single mobile user, or $12.99 across four devices simultaneously, and all accounts qualify for a free first month.
Google Play Music
Google Play Music All Access - catchy name, right? - launched in Australia in mid-July, giving all-you-can-listen access to Google’s library of 18 million music tracks. It’s a flat $9.99 per month with an Android app available, but no iOS version. You can try Play Music All Access free for a month before you’re automatically charged.
All Access is a service that takes the best parts of other music services and blends it together. You can upload 20,000 songs to a digital locker in the cloud to keep and have and hold forever like iTunes Match, you can stream songs from curated radio stations like on Pandora and you can buy stuff to keep forever just like Google Play, ironically.
Torch Music is a specialised version of Google’s Chrome browser, also available as an Android app, which works as a social music discovery service delivering videos and audio directly from YouTube.
You can sign in with your Facebook account to share music with your friends, and it’s all free - the only catch is that as soon as you switch apps or lock your phone, the music stops. It’s also a data hog.
Thanks to a partnership with Australian Radio Network, iHeartRadio has officially launched in Australia.
Rather than being an all-you-can-eat, on-demand music streaming service, iHeartRadio is like Pandora: an internet radio service for internet and terrestrial radio stations around the world. It's free, unlimited and gradually opening up to Australians between now and September.
Sony Music Unlimited
Music Unlimited is Sony's own on-demand streaming service that it loads onto everything from Xperia phones and tablets right through to the Playstation 3 and PS Vita.
Launched in June 2010, it supports both iOS and Android platforms runs on a monthly subscription model. It's great if you use a few different Sony devices (or even just the one) and want to sync your tunes with your vendor's-own platform.
Nokia Music is one of the freshest streaming services on the scene, offering Lumia users an alternative to services like Spotify. It supports both streaming of music from playlists as well as a streaming radio service based on your preferences.
You'll only get Nokia Music, funnily enough, if you have a Nokia Lumia handset, and it'll set you back $4.99 a month for the premium tier.
Nokia Music also allows a limited number of music playlist downloads for free users and unlimited downloads for members, so you can sync your favourite tracks and listen to them without busting through your data cap.
While not technically a streaming service, iTunes has Match, a service that identifies the music in your library and matches it to what's already stored in Apple's cloud. From there, it lets you stream the music you already own across your authorised devices for $34.99 a year paid upfront.
Spotify took the world by storm when it launched, and eventually it blew into Australia as the streaming wars were hotting up and got everyone all excited for new music paradigms or whatever.
Spotify has both an ad-supported (read: free) tier, as well as a premium tier that ditches the ads, ups the audio quality and enables offline synchronisation with your devices. That will set you back $12 per month.
Rdio is the next best thing to Spotify — depending on who you ask, of course — which now runs both freemium and premium tiers. You get 12 million tracks for your $12.90 per month, but interestingly, you get three months of premium for free with no questions asked if you just sign up for an account.
That free offer is governed by a mysterious fair-play policy that restricts how much you can actually stream per month, but it's nice just to test out the service to see if you want to fork over your dollars or not.
Pandora isn't so much a music streaming service as it is an internet radio service.
Pandora’s point of difference is music curation by the numbers. It analyses what you give your up votes and down votes to before recommending other tracks based on that information.
Pricing at the moment looks to mirror US pricing: $3.99 for a one-month subscription and $36 for a one-year subscription.
Grooveshark is a web-based streaming service that runs in a browser and pumps out visual, rather than audio, ads to support itself. People upload music to Grooveshark at will and the service lets you register, build playlists, stream and start artist radio streaming.
The only issue with it is that it's currently being accused by music industry heavyweights like Universal and Sony that it's in violation of copyrights. Get it before it's gone.
MOG is an international streaming service that Telstra and BigPond decided it needed in Australia to try and remain competitive in the music space.
A 14-day free trial is available of the service and it's unmetered if you're a Telstra BigPond customer. A basic subscription costs $6.99 per month and gets you access to music on your computer, but mobile streaming and offline syncing cost extra at $11.99 per month.
Backed by Southern Cross Austereo (of 2Day Network fame), Sony and Univeral, Songl is an attempt to guide revenue back into radio network coffers. You get both an ad-supported tier for free and a premium tier for $12.99 per month with Songl, as well as access to streaming radio from Triple M and 2DayFM networks.
You can also keep 1000 songs in an offline cache on your tablet or smartphone, if you're into that sort of thing.
Guvera's most obvious selling point is free (ad-supported) access on mobile devices, which is something of a rarity in the space.
Deezer is an interesting little social media-based streaming service that offers you free, unlimited music streaming for 12-months. After that time you're restricted to two hours of streaming per month, or you can jump onto the $6.99 tier which gets rid of ads and enables radio services, or you can get onto the Premium+ tier which allows streaming over 3G/4G networks and offline syncing.
12-months free is a pretty sweet deal, though.
Rara's big selling points are a nice-looking interface and hand-curated playlists. No free option, but it does have some nice apps.
Xbox Music is a nice service that streams music between your Microsoft gear. So if you have a Surface, Xbox 360, Windows Phone and Windows 8 laptop, it's the music streaming service for you, because you can sync your tunes across all of your devices.
Xbox 360 and Windows Phone 8 users will have to pay $11.99 per month for an Xbox Music Pass which gives them access to the service. That includes the millions of songs Windows users will get, as well as the option for unlimited playlists, but on top of that, Xbox 360 users get tens of thousands of music videos, too. You know, for when you want to relive the glory days of Video Hits in your lounge room.
JB Hi-Fi NOW
JB Hi-Fi is still one of the most prolific sellers of CDs and vinyl records in Australia, so naturally it's going to try and cash in on its dominance in the online space, too.
In terms of charges, Now will cost $25 for a three month subscription, $50 for six months or $80 for a full year. The JB Hi-Fi NOW service is also available as mobile streaming service on up to two devices at once, costing $8.25 per month during a 12 month $99 subscription.
Myspace has been the butt of many jokes for some time now, but the first massive social network has been revived by new owners with guidance from pop guru Justin Timberlake as a hub for artists to upload their music for the streaming joy of members.
It's still in its early stages but it doesn't look like Myspace has any subscription tiers when it comes to streaming music, the only catch is that there are no apps, it's all web-based streaming.
As you can see, Australia has quite a saturated streaming music market, but there are a few services that aren't available locally that we still pine for.
Scrobbling works fine anywhere, but Last.fm's radio service is only available in Australia via VPN (See Lifehacker's Guide To Streaming Blocked Overseas Content). Using your data, it will serve up some choice stuff you've never heard of, as you dig around in the community, Last.fm opens itself up in the way a record collection used to. Luckily, because Last.fm's platform is open, you can take advantage of all of its good parts, and use it to improve other services with better user interfaces. Free or $US5 if you want to listen to music on the standalone desktop app.
Slacker Radio is only available in Australia via VPN. Its on-demand service notwithstanding, Slacker's focus has always been radio, and importantly, curated radio stations. This is real radio because it's assembled by real people rather than by an algorithm. Many of these stations are excellent. After you make an artist-based playlist, you can tweak the mix of music with six different sliders, which can be used to create some interesting blends. Free ad-supported, $US5 unlimited radio with mobile station caching, $US10 unlimited radio and on-demand music.
Turntable.fm is a fun little music service where friends can gather in a digital room and sling records back and forth to create mixes. It was available internationally for a minute after its launch before its owners got copyright attention and threw up the geoblocks. Sorry, Aussie mixers.
What's your favourite music streaming service? Did we miss one? Let us know in the comments!
Angus Kidman also contributed to this article.
Headphones image via Shutterstock
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