It has been more than a decade since iTunes revolutionised music with its online download model – but in 2014, it is music streaming which has become king.
But the move to playback without ownership has not been without controversy – after global pop superstar Taylor Swift pulled her entire back catalogue off streaming app Spotify in a spat over her latest hit album, 1989.
Tech Talk’s Alex Evans takes a look at the current music streaming market to work out where to get started with audio on the go.
Spotify – with 20 million subscribers – is by far the biggest service, with a deep catalogue including the likes of Led Zeppelin, Elvis and Eminem as well as most of the Top 40 and major releases.
Sign up is free with adverts – or £9.99 a month without.
The app lets you download playlists to listen to offline, in 320kbps MP3 quality. You can even team up a phone and a tablet on the same wi-fi network, so you can plug your iPad into a stereo, and use your phone as a remote to control what’s playing.
Deezer is Spotify’s main rival – priced £10 per month, or £5 for PC-only, the service boasts a larger 35 million tracks and also has a free, unlimited service with adverts. Like Spotify, it integrates Facebook to show what friends are listening to.
Google has launched its own music streaming, Google Play Music All Access. Its hook is that it lets you mix streamed songs with your own music collection – so you have the option to build a library using your MP3s, CD rips and online content. It, too, boasts offline listening and is £10 a month.
Xbox Music, at £9 per month, and Sony Music Unlimited, at £10, are also worth a trial even if they don’t really stand out from the crowd.
For audio nuts, there’s Qobuz, Tidal and Rara. The first two, at £20 per month, are more expensive, but stream in much higher quality than Spotify.
Finally, little-known Rara offers a high-end audio option at ‘near-CD’ quality with a geek-approved Dolby Pulse codec for the same price as Spotify, at £10 a month.
Whichever you go for, it’s clear music streaming is here to stay – get on the free trials and find which one hits the right note.