The arrival in Ireland last week of music streaming service Spotify wasn't greeted with Netflix levels of enthusiasm but neither did it come with much publicity. One morning it was just there and musos did rejoice. This is not before time. Spotify has been a mainstay of audiophiles across Europe and the US, garnering 15 million users (4 million of which are paid subscribers parting with up to €9.99 a month to strip out advertising and add mobile functionality) in only four years, and is often used as a means of sharing playlists by mainstream media publications. If you don't like the look of it, however, there are plenty of alternatives for you to try.
Last.fm made its name as a music discovery service based on users' existing music libraries. Users can opt to have their libraries 'scrobbled' and this data is sent to the website to construct a profile and present you with a selection of artists you might like. You can also share for radio stations based on artists you already like. Available as a limited free trial of 50 songs followed by a monthly subscription of €3 with unlimited radio streaming, ad-free browsing, access to site metrics and previews of coming developments to the service.
Probably the closest thing to Spotify already available over here, Deezer has a bigger following of 22 million users, 1.5 million of which pay up to €9.99 a month. As with Spotify, Deezer uses a tiered membership that removes streaming ads and adds mobile functionality depending on how much you want to part with each month. Offline access is another welcome addition.
This attractive 'personal DJ' service presents artist catalogues and radio stations in a tabbed format. Co-founded by Peter Gabriel and largely ad-free registered users get 50 'requests' a month to look up artists and songs. Subscribers to the premium package (£5.99 a month) get access to editorial content and mobile access.
Available as a website and free app, AccuRadio splits up music by genre and presents songs at random interspersed with some audio advertisements. For the open-minded looking for a pure music discovery service this can be a worthy avenue but you won't get full streaming albums and the catalogue can feel limited. Its seasonal stations are always worth a punt.
Currently dealing with some legal issues surrounding artist royalties, Grooveshark may not be around for much longer but it is a reasonable service with a good user submitted catalogue. Users upload their own music to a central catalogue for use and sharing. While you will more than likely find what you're looking for, the quality of audio varies significantly. A premium $5 a month package gives customisable skins, priority customer support, previews of new features and mobile applications for Android and jailbroken iOS devices.
Free to eircom customers, Music Hub offers unlimited streaming and whole albums as well as custom radio stations. Not the most comprehensive catalogue we've come across but it is easy to navigate.
You could opt to bypass pure audio altogether and try using a video sharing website. Vevo's app will be familiar to Xbox LIVE users but we'd go with Muzu.tv for its superior catalogue. Based in Dublin, Muzu.tv makes the most of its catalogue by adding additional content like 'Video Fight Club', news, charts, interviews and the ability to construct and share playlists.
Sony Music Unlimited
Sony’s Music Unlimited service promises just that for a monthly fee of €5 without ads. It’s a good price for access to a massive catalogue of songs - although the amount of content varies according to territory. Recent history of poor information security and the leaking of millions of user account details by hackers might put some potential listeners off. If you’re going to subscribe best do it with a pre-paid credit card and don’t reuse a password.
A totally free Internet radio service, Jango boasts 150 genre-based channels. Through a simple interface users can endorse what they listen to and skip tracks they don’t like. Unfortunately you can’t repeat tracks.
Not a good resource for mainstream pop, Epitonic has plenty to offer those with left-of-centre taste. You can download entire playlists for free and the site even hosts its own selection of specially recorded live sessions. When we logged on we were greeted with John Cale’s famous 4’33”. It’s that kind of place.
Niall Kitson is editor of TechCentral.ie