Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Free Music - 100,000 artists

millions of tracks, over 100,00 artists and available in Australia for free...for one month anyway. That is the promise.

JB HiFi are launching a music subscription service in Australia. They are currently sending out invitations to people on thier mailing list with the URL for beta testing.

So if you follow this link you will be able to sign up for the one month free trial to see for yourself what subscription music is all about. One of the best things about this trial is you don't have to sign up for the paid version yet and don't have to give any credit card or payment details.

JB-HiFi Now beta

So what is subscription music and how does the JB-HiFi offering stack up?

The basic idea is that instead of purchasing CD's or even individual downloads and keeping them on your computer/iPod you subscribe to a music service by paying a monthly fee. In return for which you get access to the entire music library the service provides. JB-HiFi are claiming millions of tracks and over 100,00 artists.

You don't actually download the tracks you select, you have to use the application or web interface the service provides to stream the music as required. If you stop paying the monthly subscription then you stop having access to the music. Jb-HiFi are currently offering a web interface which allows you to search for and select music from the library and add it to your favorites or you playlist. There is the promise of a mobile app in the near future to make it easier to use the service from your android/iPhone.

Is it worth while? It was free so I signed up to find out. The first big advantage for me is that it is actually available in Australia. Most of the subscription services launched so far are not because of the antiquated mess that is copyright and licensing law.

I found the web interface a bit difficult to navigate at present but the system is still in beta. First up I tried searching for artists to put their claims to the test. A search for "Elvis Presley" produced a list of all of his released albums so our resident Elvis tragic will be catered for. Searching for my favorite Russian bluegrass band "Kukuraza" was not so successful with no results being displayed.

I then tried "The Beatles", a test that I knew was unlikely to succeed as the Beatles music has only just been licensed for iTunes and are probably not available elsewhere. No actual Beatles albums were displayed. There was a cover album from Finland which had some novelty value and an even more interesting album called "Butchering the Beatles" which was a collection of rock/metal artists giving their impression of Beatles classics. I have to admit that Alice Cooper's version of "Hey Bulldog" rocks.

It is in this area of finding new music that the service has some advantages. Apart from just searching for artists yourself you can search for and "follow" other users to see what they are listening to as well as searching for "Whats Hot" If you select and play some music you can see who else has played this track and look at their favourtites as well as having the service list similar artists.

If you want to find out what I'm listening to you can search for and follow "SJB" (at no charge) You can even view profile information other users have opted to share if you find a musical soul mate. You can add tracks to "Mixes" which serve as playlists for you to come back to whenever you log in.

I next checked out the "What's Hot" page looking for more current music. I was able to listen to Amy Winehouse on Lioness: Hidden Treasures and suddenly the service was looking good. I could play the entire album, add it to a mix and play it as many times as I want (for free in the next month)

The next album I checked out was by Reece Mastin. I had never heard of him before but I believe he was a contestant on one of the TV Talent shows and I thought I had seen a music video of his yesterday. Again I was able to listen to the whole album to make a judgement of what songs I wanted to hear again. Personally I enjoyed "Good Night" the single from the album but would not bother again with most of the covers. Still the service worked well and the quality of the streaming was more than acceptable. 

Currently for me this would serve as a way to find and try music before buying a copy for my collection because I have a whole ecosystem built up with a server and wireless players throughout the house and iPods and iPhones for each family member.

The prices listed at present are as low as $ 80 per year which is good value on a monthly basis if you buy more than 1 CD or download every two months. I would have to see and test the mobile app to see how that works and how much data that takes from my cap. I'm always concerned that the price will go up in future and having some gaps in the service (e.g. The Beatles) also makes it impractical for me as my only source of music. But for free, for one month...well worth giving it a try.

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