Spotify for desktop and mobile.
Australians are spoiled for choice when it comes to subscription music services but JB Hi-Fi NOW and Spotify are the pick of the bunch, according to Choice.
For about $10 per month a subscription music service puts millions of tracks at your fingertips, making it easy to listen to new music or revisit the classics. For a few dollars more you can also listen on your mobile devices and often cache tracks for offline access while you're on the road. If it means you buy fewer albums every year then a subscription music service might make a lot of sense, but of course you don't own anything. If you stop paying your subscription you're left with nothing.
Consumer advocate group Choice recently looked at 10 subscription music services: Spotify, JB Hi-Fi NOW, Sony Music Unlimited, Deezer, Samsung Music Hub, MOG, Xbox Music, Rara, Grooveshark and Guvera. A panel of judges declared Spotify and JB Hi-Fi NOW the best, based on value for money, sound quality, data consumption, music range, ease of use and other features. Spotify was declared the best in terms of sound quality, but it also chews through the second-highest amount of data. If you balance data consumption against sound quality, JB Hi-Fi NOW is the pick of the bunch –although it's worth noting that MOG is unmetered for Bigpond and Telstra mobile users.
You can read more over at the Choice website, although the full report is only available to subscribers. The great thing about subscription music services is they almost all offer a free trial period so you can test them out and decide for yourself. If something better comes along, there's no contract lock-in so there's nothing stopping you switching to another service.
Some streaming music services also offer a free ad-supported version, although you can't always access the highest sound quality on these free plans. I also find the ad-supported services really annoying, especially because they tend to play the same few irritating ads over and over. I'm happy to pay a few dollars to get rid of those ads, which I suspect is exactly why they're so annoying.
There are other subscription music contenders worth considering which didn't make it into Choice's list of 10. Personally I would have ditched Grooveshark and Guvera in favour of Rdio and Songl. I might have also made room for Google's new service. I've been an Rdio subscriber for a few years, after weighing it up against Spotify. At the time I favoured Rdio because it offered browser-based playback and AirPlay support in the iOS app. Spofity now offers browser-based playback and is working on an AirPlay rival called Spotify Connect.
Are you a music buyer or a music subscriber? Or do you still have a foot in each camp? Which subscription service do you prefer and why?