The past couple of months has seen an explosion in services that offer streaming and stored music access for a set monthly fee. Sony’s got its Qriocity service, Samsung offers up its Music Hub, JB Hi-Fi offers its NOW service, and the latest service to launch is Rdio, another streaming service that’s been available internationally for some time now.
Despite the (slightly) differing pricing, the core of all these services is basically the same. You pay a set monthly fee, with cheaper subscriptions offering a smaller subset of either features or methods of access, build up playlists of artists and then have your subscription period to listen to “your” music as much as you’d like. Some services are more closely tied to specific technology platforms — so it’s no shock that there’s a Qriocity client for the Playstation 3, or for that matter a Music Hub application for the Galaxy SII and Galaxy Tab — but it’s still music. The hook for all of them is the breadth of the offering; for around ten dollars a month you’re getting much more than the equivalent amount would buy you in cold hard compact discs.
Well, sort of. The big and most obvious difference between buying a CD and these kinds of services is that you never actually own the music you’re paying for. Buy a CD and you own it; you can listen to it endlessly, quite legally transfer it to other devices for your own personal listening pleasure or use it as a shiny coaster if you have a sudden epiphany and decide that, say, Romanian trumpet sonatas aren’t actually all that thrilling after all. Whereas with a subscription, all you’ve got is the time you’ve paid for, and that’s all.
In case you’re concerned about the absolute value of a service, it’s worth noting that most of them offer some kind of limited time trial period for you to peruse their archives and make sure that their musical selection matches yours. Everyone’s tastes are different, and there’s bound to be some obscure tracks that are missed over; most of these services do cater to the mainstream.
In one sense, streaming music isn’t all that different from the way that many people enjoy video entertainment; while many folks own impressive DVD or Blu-Ray collections, there’s plenty more who plunk down a set number of dollars each month for a Foxtel or Austar subscription, and that’s entertainment that’s solidly there while it’s being watched and then gone.