While Apple’s success as a music vendor seems assured, some new entrants in the world of online music have emerged equipped with multi-channel distribution that may challenge iTunes’ dominance in the medium term.
iPHONE / iPAD Free
Rdio is a social music service for iOS and provides access to over 18 million songs. When you subscribe ($21 via an in-app purchase or $13 per month via rdio.com) you can access the entire catalogue on any of your iOS devices and your Mac.
Because Rdio is a social service the idea is that you follow your friends (you can link your Rdio account to Facebook) and discover music that they like.
One great feature of Rdio is called Artist radio, in which the app puts together a playlist for you based on an artist you like.
At the cost of less than an album a month, Rdio is great value.
One downside to consider, however, is that as soon as you stop paying your membership fee you won’t have access to your music.
iPHONE / iPAD Free
Spotify is similar to Rdio in many ways. It’s another on-demand music service that provides access to a catalogue of millions of tracks whenever you want.
Spotify follows a similar model to Rdio where you can become a premium subscriber ($12 per month but no option to sign up via in-app purchase) but also offers a 30-day free trial of its premium service if you sign in with Facebook.
The social aspects of Spotify are similar to Rdio but Spotify extends a bit further. When your account is linked to Facebook you’ll notice a music tracker on Facebook. This lets you discover which tracks your friends have been listening to and what they’re playing right now.
Spotify also provides biographies on many artists, powered by the All Music Guide, one of the world’s most comprehensive music references. Biographies include lots of information including influences and recording history, plus details on band members.
iPHONE / iPAD / MAC $35 per year
iTunes Match is Apple’s half-answer to Spotify and Rdio. As an iTunes Match subscriber ($35 per year) all of the music you have in iTunes (whether you bought it through iTunes, ripped it from CD or got it some other way) is ‘matched’ to tracks in Apple’s catalogue.
All music is delivered as 256kbps high-quality AAC files. You can access them over the mobile-phone network and they stay on your device even when you’re not connected to a network.
For music that doesn’t exist in the iTunes catalogue, iTunes Match will automatically upload it so it’s available on all of your devices.
The service works very well and means you no longer need to sync your entire collection to your mobile device and worry about running out of room; you get access to your entire library à la carte.