Thursday, 18 October 2012

Streamed Music Services

Best In Show

The Register Hardware today published a snapshot comparison table showing how a dozen streaming music services compare to each other. Now, a table is a very fine thing indeed, and a reliable statistician's friend. But you and I prefer pictures, right? So I decided to analyse the data provided, using my own personal and completely arbitrary criteria for preferences and priorities. The aim was to reduce each service evaluation to a single number, and so rank them to help decide which I should select - when the day arrives, and I step over my own cold corpse, to sign and pay up for online music. Spoiler: Deezer wins.

Explanatory note: I do pay for music: offline music. Physical media, which I then own, and don't lease from anyone.

How They're Ranked

Okay, so you're a typical streaming music box. How do you earn my favour?

Well, you start from your base score, which is just the number of tracks offered by your service, in millions. So for example at today's levels, Xbox Music leads the field at this stage with 30, while Spotify and currently trail on 18 and 12 respectively. Then, you try to earn bonuses.

The first available bonus, 10%, is for services supported on both web and desktop app platforms. If you have only an app, or only web support, you get zut.

Secondly, we look at mobile support. Almost everyone supports Android and iOS. But Rara is Android only, while the iOS offering by Grooveshark requires a jailbreak, and those by Samsung and Xbox are not quite ready yet, so they lose 10%. Conversely, services offering additional mobile coverage, such as BlackBerry, Palm, Symbian, WebOS and/or Windows Phone, get a token 5% bonus for trying a little harder. Similarly for those with additional, non-mobile platforms such as smart TVs, cable, or non-native game consoles.

You don't have an offline mode? Sorry, that's a 10% tax. My advice to you would be shut up and accept this, the appeal court will only double it to punish your insolence. Why shouldn't I be able to hear the music I've paid for, it will say, on my frequent hiking trips to Dunnet Head?

Finally, there's your price. I regard a standard (non-premium) monthly subscription of £5 as quite reasonable for an unlimited, on-demand, streamed music service. If you disagree (Samsung, Xbox) then help yourself to a 50% kick in the nuts. If on the other hand you think £5 is too much (Deezer, Grooveshark, here's a free cuddly toy and a 25% boost for your awesomeness.

For future reference: I'm likely to introduce a massive penalty for Facebook buy-in. Please, just stop it, all of you.

The Results
La France-based Deezer is my surprise winner, scoring over 26; Spotify the more predictable second, at just shy of 19. Then there's little to choose between Grooveshark, Napster, Pure Music, Rdio and Sony. And, it has to be said, what a thoroughly unimpressive lot they all are!

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