Music can lift you up as easily as bring you down; take you back to a time and place in your past and flood your head with memories long forgotten.
Is it any wonder that the power of music is something we yearn to take with us everywhere we go?
Enter: digital streaming music.
With the advent of digital music streaming services, your humble portable music player has gone from a carry-your-library-in-your-pocket device into an access-any-music-anywhere powerhouse.
What is it?
In the course of the average month, more than 1.5 million Australians stream music from services like Spotify (57 per cent) or Pandora (32 per cent).
In 2014, revenue from streaming music services reached a staggering $860 million in the US alone, overtaking CD sales.
Streaming music involves accessing music on your chosen device via the internet.
Each streaming music service grants you access to a large library of music. From huge back catalogues to modern works, it’s all there.
Music is listened to by selecting a playlist, artist, album or song. Most services also operate using a ‘station’ system; where you chose a song, artist or genre, and the service then mixes together songs to create a personalised playlist.
This vast access to music and ease of use – thanks to a plethora of digital devices – has seen the popularity of streaming music rise dramatically in the last few years.
There are literally dozens of streaming media services out there, but here are our favourites.
Price: Free/$11.99 per month
When most people talk about streaming music, they’re talking about Spotify. And who can blame them?
It’s simple, easy to use and available on a large range of devices. Offering both free and premium subscriptions, Spotify is the Rolls Royce of services.
Boasting a library of 20 million songs (except Taylor Swift), the free subscription comes with ads, but a premium subscription can eliminate them.
The premium service also gives you access to music even when you don’t have an internet connection (music is kept on your device) and offers improved sound quality.
Price: Free/$7/$16 per month
What began as a great way for music makers to share music and podcasts has grown into quite the phenomenon.
Soundcloud features around 16 million songs, including user uploaded tracks, and is ad-free. Here you’ll find the cutting edge of hip hop, electronic dance music, R&B and more.
The premium services, Soundcloud Pro and Pro Unlimited, are actually aimed at uploaders, not listeners, so you don’t have to fork out cash to enjoy ad-free music on the basic service.
While it attracts a lot of people in the know, it is still a little niche. If you’re into remixes of electronic dance tracks, the latest R&B from little-known to established acts, or simply want to lose yourself in some fine electronica, this service is for you.
Available on all devices except Blackberry.
Price: Free/$34.99 per year
The new kid on the block, Apple’s iTunes Radio is a pretty solid offering, although brings nothing revolutionary to the table.
Alongside a host of premixed channels, users begin by selecting a genre of music, then fine-tune a station before letting iTunes take care of selecting subsequent tracks.
It’s a set-and-forget model that is simple enough to use, but neither incredibly nor confusingly comprehensive.
For iTunes Match subscribers, the service offers offline access to music across all your Apple devices, as well as ad-free radio.
Available via iTunes, iOS and Apple TV. Apple are sorry (not sorry) if you use anything else.
Price: Free/USD$4.99 per month
Pandora is the original seed. What started many years ago as the Music Genome Project is now one of the most powerful streaming services around.
After choosing your artist or song, music selection is based on between 150 to 450 elements from every song in the Pandora library. Vote a song up or down to fine-tune your station, and VOILA!
A premium subscription, Pandora One, gives you ad-free, high-quality audio.
The only drawback is the music library is not exactly extensive; around 800,000 songs. But once you experience the flawlessness in its station selections, you probably won’t care.
Price: Free/$4.99/$9.99/$14.99 per month
What happened, Rdio? You were on top of the world for a while, then you disappeared.
For a streaming music service with over 32 million tracks to listen from, you’d think it would be more popular.
But, no, Rdio is still languishing in a no-man’s land of management failures, unable to achieve cut-through in a crowded market.
With three levels of premium service available, starting at $4.99 for a web-only subscription, their ad-free music is still the cheapest around, even though the company’s CEO admits few people use the service.
On the plus side, Sonos and Chromecast users can also access Rdio via their respective devices, which is nice.
Price: Free/$9 per month
Really, Grooveshark, no iOS app? What is this, The Middle Ages? You have support for Blackberry, but not iPhone?
*Door slams, car tyres squeal*
Price: Free/$11.99 per month
Let’s start with the song library available from Deezer. Thirty-five million. Three-five. 35. Million.
That’s the most extensive library of any streaming media service available. No wonder it attracts more than 16 million active listeners (still only a quarter of Spotify’s), more than 5 million of which are on a premium subscription.
For $11.99 per month, a premium subscription will get you ad-free, high-quality music, all available offline when you’re sans internet.
With close to double the tracks available as Spotify, it might be worth trying a free month of premium Deezer to make sure you’re getting the best service.