What is music streaming?
Music streaming is listening to music from a separate source to your music device (player) in real time. You could be streaming from a hard disk drive on your computer, a local network attached hard drive or someone elses storage out there in "the Cloud" (that's the internet to you and us).
Nowadays (we've been streaming music for well over a decade now) it's more common for the term "music streaming" to refer to online music streaming services.
With online services, instead of playing music from your own library, the music files are streamed straight from the internet. So a reliable connection is a must. It's a bit like a mains water connection versus a water tank in the attic.
With internet streaming services, there is no file to download and store, just a continuous stream of digital data that your player converts via something called a DAC (Digital to Analogue Converter) into music.
What are the benefits of online streaming?
Online music streaming services typically charge a monthly fee, although some are free if you are prepared to be interrupted from time to time with advertisements.
The main benefits are that you do not have to waste time digitising your CDs or downloading your favourite tracks - although you never own any of the music you stream. With the right service you can simply browse, search and create your own personal library of favourites as well as creating playlists.
With most premium services, providing you maintain an up to date subscription, you can even selectively download your library/playlists to your portable device for playing offline or when travelling. The time saved in managing your music libary is enormous and is the main benefit.
However, your available music libary becomes truly enormous. There are tens of millions of tracks at your fingertips, so you can search and browse new music with ease - all included in your subscription - and discover a whole new world of entertainment.
Creating playlists for parties is a cinch. Email your friends with an invite and ask them to nominate a favourite track or two for the occasion. Add them to your playlist and your guests will think you've got a cool DJ spinning some vinyl somewhere in your house. When used with Sonos or other multi-room systems, you can, of course stream multiple tracks at the same time to different rooms of the house.
Click here for a more comprehensive list of available streaming services and their current prices.
Systems such as Sonos integrate with a wide (and growing) variety of online services although you will need to be using the premium versions of the service to benefit from the integration into Sonos system. We believe it's worth the money and don't forget that Simply Sound and Vision are here to help you navigate the choices to integrate all this into your home.
What are the different types of online streaming services?
There are broadly three different categories:
- Those that let you browse, search and play selected music as well as play by genre and style. (Examples include: Napster, Deezer and Spotify)
- Those that stream non-specific music (e.g based on just a genre or artist style). (Examples include: Aupeo, Last.FM and Pandora (not available in the UK))
- Those that stream radio programs (both live and on-demand replays)
Learn more about some specific services available in the UK here.
to Stream or not to Stream?
- Online services require a good broadband connection (it does not need to be fast, just consistent and reliable)
- An unreliable connection may affect your friends enjoyment at your party.
- If you want to listen to music whilst travelling and offline (e.g on a plane), a premium service will be required.
- Streaming to a mobile may incur data charges and so a premium (offline capable service) is likely to be cost justified.
- Some (very few) established older artists have not yet released their back catalogues to streaming services
Learn more about online streaming services available in the UK here