Retailer JB Hi-Fi has recently released a streaming facility called JB Hi-Fi NOW. While currently in beta at time of writing, they display pricing at $25/month, $50/6 months and $80/year.
What does it get you? For this amount you’ll have access to over 100,000 artists, and millions of songs, that you can organise into playlists, albums or individual songs. Currently you can only play it on PC, but there are plans for mobile access in the works which may interest more people.
There are a bunch of networks offering something similar, though many are US-centric which means you can't play them unless you've access to a VPN or an anonymiser tool. Sony, Samsung, Blackberry and Zune all offer services for Australia. There are others in the planning stages such as Spotify.
Each offers different subscription models, number of tracks, artists and methods to play the music.
JB Hi-Fi is the first I've taken a look at. Well known for their retail business, JB have started branching out into other areas, most recently grey imports of cameras, and now subscription-model music.
This is my first experience of a music subscription business, though I've heard of them before. I thought I would finally take advantage of both a local retailer branching out, plus the fact that I like music of all sorts.
I’ve always been the type of person who would watch the charts and pay attention to the Saturday paper reviews because I don't have the time to dedicate to researching music as I once did. The disadvantage of doing things this way is that if I want a convenient taste of music, I go to iTunes but only get a 90 second clip of music, or to YouTube and watch the video of the single if it’s there. Neither gives me a real idea of whether I will like an entire album. And while critics have their place, their taste may not be mine.
JB Hi-Fi NOW lets me listen to an entire album, as many times as I like. Now I realise it’s only free for a month, but if I want to put together playlists for various occasions, try out the critics’ picks or cherry pick others best of playlists, this is one way I can do it.
Signing on was a simple process; phone number and password and a few personal details like name and email. Once you enter the SMS security password sent to you to confirm the mobile, I started listening to, well, virtually everything I wanted. A consequence of this is that I went out and bought some of the albums I listened to, though maybe that’s just me.
You have a profile that is searchable through the service, which means people can see your playlists and the albums that you listen to, or you can make this information private. I enjoyed seeing other people’s playlists and it gave me a real joy to find other artists both through other users’ playlists and suggestions on artists that are similar to what I put in my playlists.
The navigation format is simple and focuses on what matters - browsing and sorting through songs into what you want to listen to. Search is simple and you can use artist or album names. You can also search via genre and sub-genre but I've never really paid much attention to genre. There are JB Hi-Fi recommendations, but of more interest is the section that lets you see what people are listening to right now, or most popular, an excellent way of branching out into new music.
The downside is that you can only do so through a PC at the moment, though there are many ways to stream from your PC to the stereo using a variety of gadgets or just some simple auxiliary cords. Shuffle, repeat and favourites are all options, just as you would find on many music players.
JB Hi-Fi say they plan on releasing a music service for your smartphone in 2012. In the meantime, I'll be trying out the site for the rest of the month and will make my decision at the end based on whether I can listen on my smartphone and import my playlist to it.
Have you ever tried out subscription model music listening? Did you like it? Why would it interest, or not interest you?