Cloud music: top 3 music streaming services

Still buying CDs out of casual interest? Oh dear. The future is in streaming music services. Okay, you can keep CDs of your most precious and favourite music, but when it comes to new bands you’re vaguely interested in, not sure about, or a quick dip into cheesy oldies, why buy? You can get access to tens of millions of tracks right now for less than the cost of a single old-style album, per month.

Streaming services like Spotify, MOG and Rdio – as well as a huge host of hardware or retailer specific options – have recently made it to Australia after several years success overseas. Essentially, artists receive broadcast royalties for the music you listen to: it’s like high-quality, on-demand radio, customised to the individual listener. Isn’t technology wonderful?

While there are free options for most streaming services, they include ads or limit your usage of the music. Premium services have hit a universal price-point of $12–13 a month, and let you listen to music on a mobile device or using home AV equipment, such as the Sonos player or Apple’s AirPlay.

So which one to use? They all cost the same and all offer similar breadth of music to choose from. Well, first you can eliminate all the hardware-specific services and those from local retailers. They do the job, but unless you have a coupon or some other way to get the service for free, they offer less overall than the bigger services.

Hardware and retail specific services typically don't offer the value of larger music streaming providers.

The possible exception to this is Apple’s soon-to-be-announced service. Watch this space for more info.

That leaves a number of different options, but we’ve narrowed it down to three main picks. Essentially, they’re as good as each other, but each has its quirks that might make it just right for you.

What your service must offer

Ignore our advice if you want, but to choose a service make sure it ticks the following boxes.

1. Big (and constantly updated) library; tens of millions of songs. This is self-explanatory!

2. Premium, ad-free option that costs around $12–13 a month. That’s the competitive price right now.

3. A mobile app for iOS and Android. This lets you listen to music on the move.

4. Offline listening mode. This allows you to download tracks and albums for listening when you don’t have an internet connection.