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Instant music

Instant music
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First Published: Tue, Aug 02 2011. 10 54 PM IST

 Imaging by: Raajan/Mint
Imaging by: Raajan/Mint
Updated: Tue, Aug 02 2011. 10 54 PM IST
Finding all the music you like—even if you’re talking about a few select tracks— can be a pretty arduous task. Considering that music stores aren’t well stocked, except probably with Bollywood soundtracks, and downloading online can be pretty difficult for someone without a credit card—well, we wouldn’t recommend piracy—music streaming is a viable alternative.
Music streaming from online sources is instant and available on a variety of devices, including the PC, smartphone and even certain HD media players. With so many sources available, there’s little chance of you not finding what you’re looking for. Here are some online services that are available in India:
Live365
Methods of access
• PC software (free for ad-supported accounts; five-day VIP trial included)
• PC Web browser (free)
• iPhone, BlackBerry, Windows Mobile platform (VIP subscription needed)
• Western Digital Live HD media player (VIP subscription needed)
Imaging by: Raajan/Mint
The online radio streaming website offers a wide variety of music genres on multiple platforms: Web browsers and dedicated applications for the PC, applications for iPhone, BlackBerry and Windows Mobile, widgets for your blog and Facebook page as well as a built-in app on the Western Digital Live HD Media Player (and now even on the WD Live Hub). The ad-supported “no subscription necessary” access version is available on the PC only (browser or app), without any time limitation. However, to access the service on any other device, there’s a VIP charge of $7.95 (Rs 353) per month.
Get connected
TuneIN
Methods of Access
• PC Web browser (free)
• Android, iPhone, iPod, iPad, BlackBerry, Symbian, Samsung Bada, Windows Phone (free)
• WD Live HD media player (free)
This is one service that seems to be available on almost every device. With more than 50,000 radio stations, catering to music, sports and talk shows, available for free, we’re sure you’ll find something to your liking here. It has more than 400 Indian radio stations as well.
Get connected
SHOUTcast
Methods of Access
• PC Web browser (free)
• Toolbar for Windows and Mac OS (free)
• iPhone (free)
• Winamp Media Player (free, from within app)
With around 40,000 free Internet radio stations on tap and counting, this service won’t disappoint you when you’re out searching for that one track that’s been playing in your head. Start listening to radio without signing up, but if you want to stream your own station, then signing up is necessary. The free service extends to the iPhone/iPod Touch platform with a dedicated app. Not only that, SHOUTcast is also integrated in the Winamp Media Player interface. And just to reiterate, this service can be accessed without any subscription payment.
Get connected
Deezer
Methods of access
• PC Web browser (free, Premium and Premium+ subscriptions)
This is one super-loaded platform, and the sheer variety of music on offer is just superb. Over 6.5 million tracks are available for your listening pleasure, and it’s highly unlikely that an artiste and the tracks won’t be there. However, we did manage to find some gaps. Search for Linkin Park, and only “Linkin Park tribute” tracks will be available, from other artistes. No original tracks from the band. Also, search for Johnny Cash, and you’ll find almost all of his tracks except Ain’t No Grave. This selective unavailability of tracks is the only niggle in an otherwise excellent package.
Signing up is free, and you get access to all the tracks available for simple streaming and listening. Apart from individual tracks, there are user playlists and Deezer Radio services. The Deezer radio stations are categorized by genres—which include music festivals—and you can listen to these with the free subscription.
However, when you pay for the Deezer subscription, there’s a lot more that falls on your plate. For €4.99 (approx. Rs 315) per month, the Premium subscription removes all adverts, both from the screen as well as the ones embedded in the audio stream. The audio quality gets a boost, from 96-128 kbps to 320 kbps.
Go a step further, and pay €9.99 (Rs 630) for Premium+. You can now download your favourite music and playlists on your PC or mobile device. These tracks will be available in online/offline mode, on the Deezer Desktop or Deezer Mobile application, through the duration of the active subscription.
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Grooveshark
Methods of Access
• PC Web browser (free “ad-supported” version or Grooveshark Plus subscription pack)
• BlackBerry and Palm (paid Grooveshark Anywhere subscription pack)
Another music streaming service which is available on the PC and the phone. The interface offered within the Web browser is quite funky, but does tend to lag a bit on slow broadband connections. Grooveshark will allow you to sign up for free and let you listen to an unlimited number of tunes. However, there are a couple of paid options as well. Upgrade to Grooveshark Plus for $6 (Rs 265) per month if you don’t want any ads with the service. Paying $9 (Rs 400) per month for Grooveshark Anywhere will give you access to the Plus features in addition to the service on BlackBerry and Palm.
The Grooveshark app was removed from the Apple App Store and the Android Market after the Recording Industry Association of America complained that Grooveshark had infringed on some artiste copyrights. While Grooveshark vows to fight back, the app isn’t available for iPhones and Android phones, at least officially. However, an “unofficial” Grooveshark app is now available for Android phones.
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Bandwidth hurdles
Poor connectivity and high data usage bill may be spoilers
The biggest limitation with online audio streaming is the bandwidth on offer, and the quality. If the Internet connection you’re using is 512 kbps or more, then you’ll be able to enjoy stutter-free online radio. Anything less than that, and you may become good friends with the term “buffering”! If you’re using broadband at home (DSL, etc.), the connection should be more stable. Wherever you access these services—PC, smartphone, or devices like an HD media player—the connectivity and load times will be seamless.
You’ll have a bigger connectivity problem if you’re on a data card or using the mobile network—3G data cards with sufficient speeds and signals at the time will work fine. However, the older-generation data cards with maximum speeds of 144 kbps won’t be the best tools for online streaming; neither would a GPRS/EDGE connection.
If you aren’t very finicky about having the ultimate package available, we suggest trying out the free options. Most home users may be on unlimited data usage plans, but be aware that most ISPs have a “fair usage policy” set. Crossing that will mean the speed will get affected quite a bit for the rest of the billing cycle. Those who have a data limited plan should keep a tab on usage, since streaming can eat up the MBs faster than you’d think. Avoid the trouble of a huge data usage bill at the end of the month.
We still haven’t seen any truly unlimited data usage plans on mobile networks such as EDGE, 3G for mobiles or even on data cards. Usually, mobile service providers charge around 10 paise/10 KB.
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Write to us at businessoflife@livemint.com
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First Published: Tue, Aug 02 2011. 10 54 PM IST
More Topics: Music | Online | Radio | Internet | Live365 |