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WinMX World :: Forum  |  Discussion  |  WinMx World News  |  Australian Music Streaming Comparison

Author Topic: Australian Music Streaming Comparison  (Read 2081 times)

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Australian Music Streaming Comparison
« on: January 19, 2013, 10:42:16 pm »

Rdio has been around for a while in the US, and has now made its way to Australia with the same slick interface. 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 left-hand side of the screen, while you navigate and browse for other music.

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 they can be listened to 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: a free seven-day trial, then AU$8.90 per month for web-only streaming, or AU$12.90 per month for web and mobile streaming.

Platforms: web interface, Windows and Mac stand-alone apps, iOS, Windows Phone 7, Android, BlackBerry, Sonos and Roku.

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


Rara's main selling point is its curated playlists. A team of musicologists based in London painstakingly choose music from a catalogue of 18 million songs, 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 of 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, but less on the indie music and independent label side of things.

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: the indecisive music listener.

JB Hi-Fi Now

JB Hi-Fi's music-streaming service may be the only one on offer from an Australian retailer, but it's also easily the nicest to use through its 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 three main ways: by using the standard search bar at the top of each page, by genre through the "Discover" window or by browsing mixes. 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 9 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: a one-month standard web-only subscription costs AU$6.88, a three-month subscription is AU$20 and a 12-month subscription is AU$80. For a Premium subscription, which includes web and mobile streaming, it's AU$10 per month, AU$30 per month for a three-month term or AU$99 for 12 months (calculated at AU$8.25 per month).

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

Sony Music Unlimited

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 PS3, 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 has a unique calling card: 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. Owners of extensive music collections will have to wait quite a while to sync with the service, as it's not particularly quick.

Using the web interface, creating playlists and discovering music is pretty seamless. The app, for Android and a new addition on iOS, has been overhauled since we last tested it, with a slick new interface that simulates the look and feel of a Walkman.

Price: a free 14-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 PS3 access, while the Premium service is AU$12.99 per month which gives mobile, TV, desktop, PS3/PSP/PS Vita access.

Best for: Sony and PS3 owners.

BBM Music

BBM Music is a beast unto itself, available exclusively for BlackBerry handsets. There's another twist, too: users can only select 50 tracks from the catalogue, with the ability to swap out 25 songs per month.

It's designed for users with a large collection of BlackBerry Messenger contacts, as you can share and listen to other people's tracks, which increases the value of the service by having a bigger pool of music to choose from. It's one of the most social apps on offer, as there's room to chat within the app through BBM.

The BBM Music interface is relatively simple, featuring tabs for what tracks are in the library, your contacts list and a search function to browse the catalogue. New songs can be discovered by looking at charts, genres, staff picks or, of course, by browsing through tracks selected by BBM contacts. You can cache songs for offline listening, too.

Price: a free 30-day trial is offered, with a subscription fee of AU$5.99 per month thereafter.

Platform: BlackBerry.

Best for: BlackBerry diehards (see:

Xbox Music

With the launch of Windows 8, Microsoft has revamped its music-streaming service for PCs, Windows Phone 8 and Xbox. The interface is clean and uncluttered, taking its cues from other Windows 8 apps that make best use of the touchscreen.

Over 30 million tracks are on offer for users, as well as discovery features like Smart DJ, which lets you enter an artist and then be delivered an automatic playlist of similar songs. With an Xbox Music Pass, you can sync music across devices, as well as download songs for offline listening. Xbox Music also ties in with your existing collection of MP3s and audio files, serving them up alongside the streaming offerings in the Windows 8 interface.

Rather confusingly, Microsoft offers Xbox Music for free (with caveats) for Windows 8 users, but an Xbox Music Pass needs to be bought for ad-free streaming and Xbox use. Plus, console owners already have an Xbox Live Gold membership.

Xbox Music allows you to download as well as stream songs, though for download, you need to link your credit card for payment. Tracks are typically offered for AU$1.70 each, while albums range upwards from AU$9.99 depending on the artist and number of songs on the release. We were unable to test Xbox Music in conjunction with a Windows Phone 8 device to determine how offline caching works, but we'll update this feature once the functionality is known.

Price: Xbox Music offers free streaming for the first six months for Windows 8 users, with audio ads. Free streaming is then limited to 10 hours of listening time per month. Xbox Music Pass offers a free 30-day trial, and is then AU$11.99 per month, or AU$119.90 for a 12-month subscription.

Platforms: Windows 8, Windows 8 RT, Windows Phone 8 and Xbox 360.

Best for: the Xbox-owning, Windows 8-toting music fan.

Samsung Music Hub

Music Hub is Samsung's music-streaming service. We tested the service on the web interface and on a Galaxy S3, which offers an intuitive experience. The app gives you access to popular music choices, and discovery options on the landing page, if you're feeling indecisive. Browse the service using the quick links on the side, or search the catalogue.

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 that are readily available on other services are nowhere to be found 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 existing Galaxy Tab, smartphone and smart TV customers, then 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, to take advantage of the free trial.


Editor's note: at the time of writing, Songl is currently in locked Beta mode. Existing customers can access the site, but new users will have to wait until the relaunch.

Songl is a self-professed Australian service, said to be designed with Aussie music lovers in mind. It's a music-subscription service just like all the others listed here, with a catalogue spanning 4 million tracks from labels such as Universal Music, EMI and Sony. Former customers can use their log-in details on Songl.

Of all the sites that try to replicate the look and feel of Grooveshark, Songl comes closest in its web interface, with the same extended player along the bottom of the screen. There's also the ability to view thumbnails of tracks playing, and to queue up tracks. You can create custom playlists, and add tracks on the fly while browsing featured music and new releases.

Songl can link up with your Facebook account to find friends with publicly available playlists, but that's all, it seems, that you can share. Liking tracks is also supported. Unlike some other services, Songl gives you a choice of streaming bitrates — either 128Kbps or 320Kbps.

The Songl app is pretty simple, offering a list of options on launch, including choosing from your existing playlists or listening by recommended albums or popular music. The app supports offline caching, too.

Price: the basic package costs AU$8.99 per month, which includes unlimited streaming from the web interface (128Kbps quality only), while the premium package is AU$12.99 per month for mobile access, 320Kbps quality and offline caching of 1000 tracks.

Platforms: web interface, Android, iOS and Sonos.

Best for: the patriotic music fan.


Spotify is the behemoth of music-streaming services overseas, and has finally landed in Australia. Offering a catalogue of over 16 million tracks, Spotify is often the name used interchangeably with music streaming in many circles.

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, and you can keep up with what your friends listen to as well — but note that you must have a Facebook account to use Spotify. You can create custom playlists, and add tracks on the fly through search or while browsing featured music and new releases.

While other services, such as Rdio, seem to have recommendations down to a fine art, Spotify is a little more mixed if you enjoy music-discovery services. You can add a range of apps that help curate new finds or playlists, such as linking through to your account for scrobbling and radio recommendations. However, even after weeks of listening, Spotify doesn't seem to present accurate recommendations on its own without these apps. The main "What's New" panel simply shows recommended albums that are based on overall popularity, rather than having anything to do with what you've been listening 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 or 160Kbps. Note that if you have a free account, you cannot stream using the mobile apps.

Price: two versions of Spotify are available to Australian users. The free service places display ads on the interface, as well as audio ads that you can't skip. There are two paid tiers: Unlimited, which costs AU$6.99 per month and removes the ads; and Premium, which costs AU$11.99 per month, and allows offline mode as well as 320Kbps streaming. For Premium users, Spotify also allows you to log in and keep listening to your music outside of your profile country if you travel.

Some restrictions do apply to free accounts. There's unlimited streaming for the first six months, but after this, Spotify throttles to a 2.5-hour streaming allocation each week, up to a total of 10 hours.

Platforms: PC or Mac app, iOS, Android, Windows Phone, Symbian, BlackBerry, Sonos and Squeezebox.

Best for: someone who is already familiar with the iTunes interface, or doesn't want to pay for music streaming, and is a Facebook user.


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.


Deezer offers a catalogue of over 20 million tracks to choose from, and was originally a French service. Now, Deezer is available in Australia, and it requires you to sign in with your Facebook account — a bit like Spotify.

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 mobile and web access, plus offline caching.

Platforms: web interface, Android, iOS, BlackBerry, Logitech, Sonos and Philips.

Best for: people who love to share music on Facebook.


MOG is Telstra/BigPond's music-streaming service, offering 16 million tracks to choose from. It offers 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, then AU$6.99 per month for the Basic plan, which gives desktop access, or AU$11.99 per month for mobile, desktop and Sonos/Squeezebox access.

Platforms: web interface, Windows and Mac apps, iOS, Android, Sonos, Squeezebox.

Best for: BigPond customers and anyone who wants a clean, easy-to-use interface with no extra cost for mobile access.


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.

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 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.

Price: free. 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, BlackBerry, Nook, Kindle Fire.

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


Another home-grown streaming service, Guvera has recently relaunched with a new look. Sign up for a free account to get access to streamed tracks through the web interface, while downloads are also available. Guvera's point of difference is that you can get access to downloads by "interacting" with certain brands and promotions.

The catalogue is also somewhat limited. While we were unable to source an exact figure, Guvera definitely caters for a more mainstream ear. Users can search by artist or discover music through playlists, while streaming quality is capped at 128kbps.

Price: unlimited free streaming. Guvera Platinum costs AU$11.99 per month, or you can exchange 6 download credits for a 1 month access pass.

Platforms: web interface, iOS, Android.

Best for: free downloads.

Nokia Music

Nokia Music is an online store and streaming service. Users can download tracks or albums for a set price (averages around AU$1.49 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.

Price: downloads from the store range in price; Mix Radio is free for Nokia users.

Platforms: web interface, Nokia Music Player (PC/desktop), select Nokia handsets.

Best for: Nokia users.

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