18. January 2012–
The day the music died. Or at least stopped for a little bit in the Venture Village office, as Grooveshark announced that it would be stopping its service in Germany.
The same prohibitive GEMA licensing charges that have also seen Spotify shirk Germany and why YouTube often offers up disappointment here have put paid to Germany’s favourite music streaming site.
We’ve tested out their catalogues by searches for obscure archive tracks (Captain Beefheart), indie darlings (The Shivers), ridiculous hipster (Skrillex) and bombastic Berlin rap (SIDO).
The lowdown French service Deezer claims to have 20 million users, and there are 13 million songs with all the major labels represented.
The cost The desktop player costs €4.99 per month, and you can power-up to add your smartphone for €9.99.
Pros Deezer returned great, comprehensive results for all our searches. We can then load them into a personal music library or playlists and share easily with our Facebook friends.
Cons It looks as if it’s been designed by an severely troubled blind man. Who was high. Pages look like an explosion in a widget factory, while the fonts and interface make us want to lie down in a darkened room. The What’s Hot section is pretty off the mark, unless you love Sean Paul and David Guetta. Which we don’t.
The lowdown Cologne-based streaming service Simfy offers a Spotify-style subscription service – there are 16 million songs from the big four record labels.
The cost You can sign up for free, ad-supported tunes or pay €4.99 pm for Premium desktop player or €9.99 to add smartphone support and offline listening.
Pros As the name (sort of) suggests, Simfy is both simple and friendly – the interface is great, all our searches yielded returns and added smarts such as social networking and recommendations are integrated with panache.
Cons The free version limits you to a stingy five hours per month, as well as limiting some “premium” tracks to 30-second previews, which is doubly mean. But if you’re willing to part with your cash, this is definitely one to watch.
The lowdown Rara has positioned itself as a service for users who are not so digitally literate and aims to simplify the entire process.
The cost As now seems to be the norm, there’s a €4.99 Premium desktop offer, plus €9.99 for Premium plus mobile
Pros The sign-on process is easy and reassuring – and there’s a special 99c per month introductory offer on at present. It’s also super-easy to unsubscribe.
Cons There’s no free service on offer, so you have to commit to a subscription. The odd horizontal scrolling, busy design and array of popups belies the claims of simplicity. And one of our test artists (The Shivers) were missing.
Created by Skype founders Niklas Zennström and Janus Friis, Rdio has its emphasis on music as social media. There are over five million tracks on offer.
The cost Again, a €4.99 Premium desktop offer, plus €9.99 for Premium plus mobile.
Pros Like Twitter for your ears, Rdio is fantastic for discovering new music. You can see what Rdio users from your Facebook and Twitter contacts are listening to and it’ll suggest cool influencers for you to follow. The whole experience feels very slick and Web 2.0.
Cons Free accounts are limited, but it’s unclear by how much – there’s a usage meter, but no steadfast rules to your usage limits. If you’re not a rabid social networker, you might find all the bells and whistles distracting.
The lowdown Another German-based service, Juke has over 15 million tracks from the big four record companies on offer.
The cost There’s simply one flatrate of €9.99, which covers desktop usage and apps for iPhone and Android.
Pros Incredibly simple and frill-free – search is solid (and yielded all our returns) and there’s a great drag-and-drop to playlist feature. Tracks are also available in the new Dolby Pulse format.
Cons At present, Juke is only available in German, but thanks to Google Translate and a dose of common sense, this isn’t really a problem. The flatrate subscription may put off the cash-strapped.
The lowdown The site that’s responsible for all this P2P fuss in the first place, Napster made a successful transition from naughty file-sharing site to legitimate streaming service. There are over 15 million songs on offer and options to download for keepsies.
The cost You can subscribe monthly for Flatrate or Flatrate plus Mobile (€7.95 and €12.95) or shell out in advance for a yearly subscription (€79.95 and €129.95). This includes monthly MP3 download credits.
Pros Napster’s time on the market is apparent by its raft of features and slick, professional look. There’s a great bespoke music player, full-length track preview and multi-device support.
Cons The installation of the music player is a bit fiddly and your MP3 credits don’t roll over if unused, which seems mean.
The lowdown A slightly different take on music services, Last.fm offers users the chance to create bespoke radio station-like streams, plus sophisticated music recommendations via AudioScrobbler software.
The cost It’s free to add tracks to your playlist, and there are links to music retailers such as iTunes and Amazon if you want to buy MP3s.
Pros It’s free. That’s a massive plus compared to every other service on offer here. And it’s a great way to network with like-minded musos.
Cons You can’t choose individual tracks for your playlists, instead filling your stream with artists. There are only seven million tracks, which is comparatively low and it takes a bit of cultivation in order to reap returns on the recommendation engine.
One to watch
Currently in beta testing, Berlin’s own wahwah.fm offers users a new way to discover and share tunes. It’s an iPhone app that syncs up with your iTunes and allows you to broadcast streamed playlists to followers – essentially transforming you into a one-man radio station. We’re promised a release in “early 2012”, so watch this space…
What do you think? Have we missed a service out? What do you use? Let us know below…