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Stream music while you can

February 2016

The internet creates little that is genuinely new, it just alters the way we do some things so that they feel new.  Ordering a book online or going to a shop produces an identical outcome, only the mechanics have changed.  However, the music industry really is being challenged by of the way the internet allows us to listen to recorded music without owning it, delivered through cyberspace from lending libraries for sound.

Until now it was simple; we paid, and musicians gave us a copy of their work to keep.  The mechanics changed a bit: pianolas were overtaken by records, then tapes, then CDs and then downloading, but the principle was the same.

Then the internet intervened, in the disruptive way it has, and “streaming” websites started.  These sites have huge collections of music stored in their memories (often over 35 million songs) and which we can listen to through our computers, phones, iPads, TVs and so on.  Typically there’s a monthly fee, perhaps £10 or so.  We never own the music, and it’s only available to us whilst we carry on paying.

The economic case is fairly convincing, especially for active listeners.  You can play any of the music whenever or wherever you like, as often as you like, and new stuff is added all the time.  It’s very convenient; you can listen anywhere you can log on, without heaving CDs around.

You can build up lists of favourites and create playlists from them; some services also let you upload music from your own collection. This is especially handy with older and more obscure recordings that are not yet in their library, and also private recordings such as my son playing his tuba at school.

They will also recommend music based on your tastes, a very clever trick that has led me to some excellent discoveries.

It’s fairly early days, but after only four years or so, about 13% of people in the UK have already signed up to Spotify, the biggest service.  There seems to be some momentum to this industry.

So these services are popular, convenient, and cheap; where’s the catch?  I’ll tell you: they don’t make any money.  In order to be allowed to send us the music, the sites have to strike deals with the musicians, and pay something every time the music is “streamed”.  Even though these payments are very small, the current subscription fees are not meeting the costs.  One excellent service,, recently closed down amid rumours that it was losing $2.5m per month.

On top of this, some very big artists refuse to take part; the Beatles, for example, prefer the higher profit margins on CD sales. 

So, if streaming can’t make money as it stands, and if not all musicians co-operate, it will either become much more expensive or fade away.  This would be a shame, as I think it’s a tremendous invention, even though I wonder if the business model is sound.

So, if you like listening to music, I suggest that you get to know one of them whilst you can.  


A quick overview of some existing services


Note that this may already be out of date - it's a fast moving marketplace, and very competetive.  If you notice any real howlers, please contact me.  Also note that some services do not work in the UK (it's to do with paying the musicians) so, as I and  most of my readers are in the UK, I've only included those available here.


Apple Music

If you use iTunes to manage your music, you should probably consider this first.

Price: Apple Music costs £9.99 a month per user, but there is also a family plan is much cheaper.

Where does it work?: It runs on iOS, Mac, and PC Windows devices. An Android version is incoming.

Conclusion: Good if you are an Apple fan. Personally I think iTunes uses too much resource - it's up to you.



In brief: Spotify is biggest in the business, with probably more than 20 million users; as a result it has the muscle to do deals with all the major music publishers.  Like Apple Music, it will pick music for you if you want.

Price: SIt's free if you can stand the adverts (I can't) or £9.99 a month wiothout adverts. There is a much cheaper option for family members to join together. 

Where does it work? Pretty well on all the machines you are lilely to need it on. Even some cars can get it.

Conclusion: Spotify is the most widely available music system with, I think, the largest range of songs at a reasonable price, despite being more expensive than Apple Music. 


Google Play Music

In brief: Oves 35 million songs on its database and it allows you to add up to 50,000 of you own, locally stored music to stream from your device anywhere.

Price: At the moment there is a three month free trial. Then £9.99 a month; in USA there is a family deal - no doubt it will make it's way here soon.

Where does it work? Android, Windows and iOS (Apple).

Conclusion: This is what I am using at the moment, mainly becasue I can add my own music to it and hence backed up.



In brief:It claims 35 million tracks in its library, and also Deezer Elite that offers high-quality FLAC streaming. This streaming service has over 20,000 news and entertainment shows too, along with live football commentary for Premier League and FA Cup games thanks to a partnership with talkSport.

Price: Free if you acceot the adverts, or £9.99 a month otherwise.  for unlimited listening but there are deals for Orange and EE customers.  The Deezer Elite service is £14.99 per months; lots of variations with payment up front and so on.

Where does it work? On Windows PC and Mac and many other devices; even BMW cars and Parrot systems.

Conclusion: The extra quality sound available may make it attractive to many - but most won't notice the difference, I think.