Google jumped into the music subscription market last week with Google Music All Access, escalating the competition in a crowded market.
Although Google brings the biggest name to the market, many others already have large followings. Spotify stands out as the leader of the pack. Waiting in the wings may be Apple, which is rumored to be looking at a subscription service as well.
With so many choices, it can be hard to figure out which service to subscribe to. Here’s a quick guide that might help.
The British-based service stands as the leader of the pack with its large following and large music catalog. Spotify isn’t perfect, but there is a lot to like.
Songs: More than 20 million.
Social scene: More than 24 million monthly active users, with 6 million of them as paying customers. This matters because you can follow others to see what they’re listening to as well as subscribe to playlists they create. With so many users, many of your friends are likely to be on Spotify.
Platforms: The primary way to access Spotify is through its desktop app, which works with both Windows and Mac computers.
Users can also access Spotify through its Web player, but this version of Spotify is still in Beta mode and is far more limited than the desktop version.
As for mobile, Spotify is available for the iPhone, iPad and Android smartphones. It also has an app for Windows Phone devices. There is no BlackBerry support.
Sound quality: Non-paying customers can stream their songs at as high as 160 kilobits per second, while Spotify Premium subscribers can stream at 320 kbps. Users can also choose to stream lower than that.
Offline: Spotify Premium customers can listen to music offline on their computers as well as on their iOS or Android mobile devices by building playlists and choosing to make them Available Offline.
Users can have up to 3,333 songs offline on up to three devices. Users can keep their songs offline for up to 30 days. After that, they must reconnect to verify that they are still paying for the premium service.
Price: Anyone can use Spotify for free to play an unlimited amount of songs on their computer with ads thrown in. For $4.99, users can get rid of ads, and for $9.99 users can also get unlimited song playing on their mobile devices as well as the ability to download music and listen offline.
Spotify also offers users a 30-day free trial of its $9.99 premium service.
Google Music All Access
Google is the new kid on the block when it comes to music subscription services, and although there’s a lot to like, there are also some flaws -- namely the lack of social features and no support for the iPhone or iPad.
Songs: Google has been vague about how many tunes it has, but it says All Access has “millions.”
Social scene: Since All Access is new, there’s really no information about how many users are on it, but it really wouldn’t matter since the service’s social capabilities are basically nonexistent. You can’t see what others are playing or follow their playlists.
Platforms: Google Music All Access can be accessed via the Web or from Android devices by way of the Google Music app.
Sound quality: The Google service will stream music at up to 320 kbps, but it may move the quality down depending on your Internet connection.
Offline: Users can easily listen offline on their Android devices by “pinging” albums or playlists to the Google Music app. There is no offline listening for the Web version of All Access.
Price: Google Music All Access normally costs $9.99 per month, but Google is letting users receive a special price of $7.99 if they decide to subscribe before June 30.
Anyone interested in checking the service out can do so free for 30 days.
Rdio, pronounced like are-dee-oh, is another popular subscription service that is lauded for its clean design.
Songs: More than 20 million.
Social scene: Rdio doesn’t disclose how many users it has, but the service is filled with social features. You’ll be able to see your friends, check out what they’re listening to and see what songs they have in their collections.
Platforms: The service is primarily accessed through its Web app, but computer users can also use Rdio through its apps for Mac and Windows computers.
On mobile, Rdio will work with the iPhone and Android smartphones as well as Windows Phone devices. Rdio will also work with some BlackBerry devices. The service also has an iPad app.
Sound quality: Rdio will always try to stream at the highest quality possible, depending on your Internet connection.
Offline: Users can listen to songs offline on their mobile devices by selecting songs and choosing the Sync to Mobile option. The only limit is the storage on users’ smartphones.
Price: Rdio can be subscribed to for $4.99 per month to listen to songs through the Web or on the desktop apps. For mobile usage, users must pay $9.99. Families can pay $17.99 in order to receive two subscriptions or $22.99 for three subscriptions.
Users can go to Rdio’s mobile apps to activate free two week trials and listen to an unlimited amount of music. They can also head to the website and try a six-month trial there that will let them listen to a limited number of songs each month.
MOG, the Beats by Dre-owned service, is expected to be revamped later this year so its features may change, but that doesn’t mean you can’t sign up now and enjoy what it has to offer.
Songs: More than 16 million.
Social scene: Beats by Dre hasn’t announced how many users MOG has, but just like with Google Music All Access, that doesn’t matter too much since there is a limited number of social features.
Platforms: MOG can be accessed on the Web or through mobile apps. The MOG app is available for Apple and Android devices.
Sound quality: MOG streams at 320 kbps.
Offline: Users can listen to as much music as their smartphones can hold offline, but there is no way to listen offline on a computer.
Price: MOG can be accessed for free on the Web. Users can listen to a limited amount of songs with ads included. For $4.99 per month, users can listen to an unlimited amount of music with no ads on the Web. For $9.99 per month, users get mobile access.
Rounding out our list is Rhapsody, one of the original music subscription services. It has been around since the early 2000s.
Songs: More than 16 million.
Social scene: More than 1 million subscribers, and like on Spotify and Rdio, users can also see what their friends are listening to and choose to follow others’ playlists.
Platforms: On computers, Rhapsody can be accessed through its Web player. Rhapsody can also be used on the iPhone, iPad and Android devices. BlackBerry and Windows Phone users will also be happy to know that Rhapsody has apps for their devices.
Sound quality: Users can stream songs at up to 160 kbps, which are in AAC format. If users download the songs, they can play the AAC files at 192 kbps, which Rhapsody says is more detailed than a 320 kbps MP3 file.
Offline: Users can download songs for offline listening for their mobile devices. Rhapsody doesn’t limit how many songs you download, so the only limit is your phone’s storage. However, you cannot download songs to your computer.
Price: Rhapsody’s payment options are much different than its rivals. Users can pay $9.99 per month to use Rhapsody Premier, which lets them use the service online and with one mobile device. They can also pay $14.99 to get Rhapsody Premier Plus, which lets them use the service on up to three mobile devices.
Users can also pay on a quarterly basis to save money. They can pay $27.99 every four months for Rhapsody Premier or $39.99 for Rhapsody Premier Plus.
If users subscribe for a full year, they’ll save even more. For $109.99, they can use Rhapsody Premier, or they can pay $149.99 for Rhapsody Premier Plus.
Users can try out Rhapsody Premier free for two weeks or they can try Rhapsody Premier Plus for 30 days.