Should you try Spotify? NZ music streaming services compared

Spotify launched yesterday in Australia and New Zealand. It's hugely popular overseas, but how does it compare to what else is on offer here in New Zealand? We took a look.

Rara.com

Rara.com is a relative newcomer to the New Zealand market, but because of its ability to cache music, it’s well worth a look. If you use Rara’s Android app, which costs a little extra, you can download songs over Wi-Fi and they’ll be cached on your phone. That means when you’re out and about roaming, you’ll be able to play back songs without downloading them again on 3G. You still get to listen to your music, and you save on mobile data costs.

Rara has millions of songs to choose from, but is missing a lot of key artists. One that particularly sticks out is Adele, who has been tearing up charts in New Zealand. Despite Rara being a New Zealand website, it’s also missing many local artists.

If you just want to listen to Rara music on the web, it’ll cost you $8 a month. But if you have an Android device, we recommend you add mobile functionality to your plan. It’ll cost you $14, but allow you to listen to your playlists when you’re on the go.

Music Unlimited

Music Unlimited is Sony’s music streaming service, available on the web, the PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita, and on Android devices. There’s plenty of music available – Sony just says it’s “millions and millions” – and it incorporates Sony’s massive music catalogue, as well as a host of other artists and songs. You can try it for 30 days for free, but after that it’ll cost US$6 (NZ$7) per month for a basic subscription, which allows you to listen to unlimited music on multiple devices and create customised channels, amongst other things. The premium subscription costs US$14 (NZ$17) a month and grants users the ability to create playlists and listen to radio stations reserved for premium users.

The web-based Music Unlimited app is a bit clunky and slow, but most in-browser music players are. There are also a few notable artists missing from the music catalogue -  The Beatles, for instance, are nowhere to be seen. That said, Music Unlimited’s catalogue is considerably better than most.

Music Unlimited, like other streaming services, can cache your playlists so you can play them when you’re offline.

Spotify

Spotify is new to the New Zealand market, but it has a massive following overseas. This is likely because Spotify has two important things - a massive music catalogue, and a free service. The free service is ad-supported and grants unlimited access to the catalogue, but there are two subscription tiers which give you access to different features.

The major difference between free Spotify and the basic paid service, called Spotify Unlimited, is the fact that the ads are gone. Both the Free and Unlimited tiers are only available from your computer. The Premium service, however, allows you to access Spotify from a variety of different devices, including your mobile phone and tablet. It also enables an offline mode, so you can cache music and listen to it offline. The Unlimited service costs $7.49/month and the Premium service costs $13/month.

Spotify has heavy Facebook integration, so you can sign in through Facebook, see what your friends are listening to, and share what you’re listening to with your friends. But this is also where things become problematic - you actually need to have a Facebook account to sign up for Spotify. If you, like many people, are concerned about the privacy issues related to Facebook sharing, you might want to choose a different service.

Rdio

Rdio, a music streaming service from the people who brought you Skype, is a subscription service that gives you all the music you want, via one of two monthly plans. For $9 per month you get the service via your web browser (Flash required), plus the Windows and Mac OS X desktop clients. $14 per month gives you all that, plus access via the Rdio apps available for iOS, Android, BlackBerry and Windows Phone 7. Unless you never leave your house or don’t own a compatible device, the extra $5 per month is a no-brainer.

Finding the music you’re after is a snap. Assuming, that is, you’re allowed to listen to it. Here is the only place Rdio fell flat on its face: thanks to the complexity of international music licensing, there is a tonne of content that we in New Zealand can see, but cannot play. In most of the other music streaming services, you simply can’t see the track in the music catalogue if it’s not available here.

Audio is heavily compressed over 3G to keep data costs down giving you something a little better than radio quality. You can also ‘sync’ music to the device, which gives you an offline copy you can listen to when you’re disconnected.

Grooveshark

Grooveshark has been available to New Zealanders for about three years now, and it's free to us. Just type a song or artist into the searchbox on the website using your desktop browser or the browser on your phone or tablet, then hit play. It really is that simple.

Grooveshark has a wide range of music, and there are no audio adverts to interrupt your tunes. Aside from simply searching for a song, you can also tune into to predefined stations, based around a music category.

The best part of Grooveshark is that you don't need an account to find music, listen to it, or even share it with your friends on Facebook. If you do create an account, however, you can favourite tracks, create playlists and get music recommended to you.

The two premium services - Grooveshark Plus (US$6 per month) and Grooveshark Anywhere ($9 per month) - allow you to download a desktop version of Grooveshark that lets you access playlists and favourites even if you're not on the internet, and gives you unlimited playlists and favourites.

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Tags musicstreamingRdioSpotifyGroovesharkraramusic unlimited

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PC World Staff

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