ST Guide to buying and listening to music online: Let the music flow any time, anywhere

Streaming and download services host millions of songs to suit every listening ear

These are heady days for music fans. The universal jukebox scenario, in which you can listen to any song that you can think of at any time and anywhere, has for the most part become reality. With a variety of streaming services available for free, the question you might have is - why pay for music?

The short answer is that music, like other creative works, has value. The money you pay for recorded music on digital and physical formats, or streaming subscriptions, helps to compensate for the time and effort put in by singers, songwriters, musicians, composers and many others responsible for the songs that you listen to.

If you spend a lot of time online, whether on a computer or your mobile devices, there are plenty of streaming and download services to choose from, each with their own strengths and weaknesses.

Find one that suits your needs with our guide.



For those whose music taste veers away from the usual Top 40 hits and who are looking for fresh sounds, there's Bandcamp. Many popular Singapore acts like grindcore band Wormrot, singer-songwriter Charlie Lim (above) and rapper Shigga Shay sell their music on the streaming service. ST FILE PHOTO

Spotify is available on all major platforms. A premium subscription costs $9.90 per month after a 30- day free trial. Unlike the free service, you do not have to put up with advertisements in between songs, you can skip songs that you do not want to hear, and you can access higher-quality audio.

More importantly, you can listen to the songs offline when you are not connected to the Internet. Do note that the offline songs are available only if you continue paying for the premium subscription.

The service offers more than 30 million songs, although users in Singapore might not have access to all due to reasons such as regional copyright restrictions.

According to Spotify, two in five Singaporeans with Internet access use its services.



It has about the same number of songs as Spotify, but its advantage is that Apple Music has many exclusive releases not available on other streaming services.

For example, if you want to stream Britney Spears' new album, Glory, which was released yesterday, you can do so only through Apple Music. Drake's highly anticipated album Views was a similar exclusive when it launched in April.

The premium service costs $9.98 a month, with the first three months free. What you get are extras like offline listening and access to Apple Music radio stations. Like Spotify, it is also available on many platforms.



Aside from 30-day trials, Tidal does not offer free streaming. The most compelling reason to subscribe to the service owned by music stars like Jay Z, Beyonce and Kanye West is the quality exclusive releases.

Some of the more high-profile releases this year could be found only on Tidal when they launched, including Beyonce's "visual album" Lemonade and Kanye West's The Life Of Pablo. Tidal also has more songs than Spotify and Apple Music - 40 million - as well as 130,000 music videos.

Subscribers pay $9.99 per month, or, for audiophiles who prefer higher-quality sound, $19.99.



Like Tidal, Deezer has over 40 million songs, but it offers a free service. Premium subscription is $9.90 a month after a 30-day trial and, unlike the free tier, features no ads, offline access and high-quality audio. It is available on various mobile platforms.



What sets KKBOX apart from other music streaming services here is its extensive Asian music selection. It has more than 30 million songs, including the latest releases by Taiwanese girl group S.H.E and K-pop singer HyunA.

KKBOX's premium service is $9.90 a month after a free seven-day trial and features ad-free and offline listening.

It is available on Apple, Android and Windows mobile devices as well as on the computer.



If you prefer to keep a digital copy of your music instead of just streaming them, Apple's iTunes store is the way to go. It has over 43 million songs that cost 98 cents, $1.28 or $1.48 each. The audio files are of high quality and are DRM-free, so you can back them up and transfer them to other devices.

If you have multiple devices linked with the same Apple account, the songs you buy from the iTunes store are available on all of them.

If you want to consolidate all the digital copies of your music library online, whether they are from the iTunes store, any other music services or even ripped from CDs, Apple has a service called iTunes Match. For $31.98 a year, all these songs will be stored on online storage iCloud , and can be streamed or downloaded on up to 10 different devices.



If you stream a lot of music on your mobile devices and do not want to end up incurring extra data charges, telco Singtel has a music service, Singtel Music.

It allows customers to stream music from either Spotify, KKBOX or AMPed, as well as free-to-air radio stations from Mediacorp, without being charged for data. The service cost starts from $7.90 a month.



This online music platform is a boon for independent and new artists, as well as fans whose music tastes veer away from Top 40 and mainstream music.

Depending on the artists, most songs can be streamed for free. Listeners can also pay a set price, or as much as they want for the songs, and most of the money goes directly to the artists themselves.

Many popular Singapore acts like grindcore band Wormrot, singer-songwriter Charlie Lim and rapper Shigga Shay sell their music on Bandcamp.


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 27, 2016, with the headline 'Let the music flow any time, anywhere'. Print Edition | Subscribe