Online music going backwards in Australia

by Stubborn Mule on 15 May 2011 · 31 comments

We have never been spoiled for choice when it comes to internet music providers in Australia, and things seem to be getting worse not better.

Five or six years ago, I first came across the intriguing internet radio service Pandora which drew upon the painstakingly assembled Music Genome Project to generate customised radio stations. Entering a track or artist on the web site would produce a playlist of “genetically” similar music and the results were impressive. Back then I was able to stream Pandora via my Squeezebox network music player. But it wasn’t long until the music copyright police got onto Pandora and Australians visiting the website would simply see a page explaining why the service was not available. I was lucky enough to still be able to play Pandora stations over the Squeezebox for another year until they discovered that loophole and shut it down.

The on-demand music streaming service Rhapsody has never been available in Australia. Rhapsody’s newer challenger Spotify is also unavailable here and I must admit to a little Schadenfreude when I learned that Spotify is yet to become available in the US. Although I am sure it will be available there before we get it.

With all of these services denied to music-lovers down-under, I had to make do with Last.fm which generated custom stations based on listening habits of other users whose tastes overlapped with your own. Founded almost 10 years ago in London, Last.fm was bought by CBS four years ago, which made me nervous for a while, but the service seemed to continue as usual. Until this February when Australian listeners, and listeners in many other countries around the world, found their Last.fm service abruptly discontinued.

Options for online music should be expanding, yet here in Australia we have fewer services available than we did five years ago.

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{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Thomas May 16, 2011 at 5:41 am

Unfortunately, it’s not just Australia. You could almost swap the word Australia with Canada without your post loosing accuracy (my experience is nearly identical to yours). I loved Pandora for as little as it lasted. I hear there are ways around it, but they tend to be expensive and definitely not suitable for an average user.

2 Mick May 16, 2011 at 9:06 am

Another that is worth looking at is Jango. It is an in the browser streaming site. It’s add supported but there are not any pop-ups or anything annoying like that. I’ve been using it for about 2 years it has a pretty good range of music. There is also a free iphone app but you need to be prepared to create a US iTunes account and download from there, then transfer to your phone then switch back to Aus, which is a pain, but I reckon it is worth it.

3 Simon Rumble May 16, 2011 at 9:24 am

Spotify have sniffed around the Australian market but you have to see it from their point of view: it’d take just as much work negotiating to launch here, with a population of 21 million, as to launch in the USA, population 309 million. No surprise, they’re focusing their efforts there.

If you have a friend with a European debit card willing to pay for you, and can briefly obtain a European IP address (or get your Euro friend to do it for you) you can set up a Spotify account. I’ve done just that and it’s _awesome_. The future of music. And the music industry is making much more money from me than they did previously.

4 Stubborn Mule May 16, 2011 at 10:58 am

Simon, I don’t really blame the providers of the services (although I am a bit perplexed as to why Last.fm cut off the service after so many years, particularly since it’s not actually on-demand so looser licensing rules should apply). I blame the likes of APRA who, thinking they’re protecting Australian artists, seem to have no interest in engaging with the reality of the internet. For example, they could make it easier for the likes of Spotify and Rhapsody to stream to Australia in exchange for increased promotion of and royalty capture for Australian artists. Just a thought!

5 Simon Rumble May 16, 2011 at 11:18 am

I’ve always put it this way (and I said this in 1999):
Imagine, Mr Record Company Executive, if you could get the price of an album every month from every household. That’s the brass ring and dwarfs the highest revenues you’ve ever made. $10/month for every household to have access to _everything_.

(Blog post from 1999: http://blog.rumble.net/archive/12/1999 )

6 The 327th Male May 16, 2011 at 12:56 pm

Cue grooveshark no longer working in australia in 3, 2, 1…

7 pfh007 May 16, 2011 at 2:10 pm

Pandora was great before it was blocked.

The recording industry, particularly in Australia, is slow to accept that increasingly, recorded music is little more than a promotional device to attract people to live performances.

The days of spending mega bucks to create the ‘ultimate’ recorded album (Michael Jackson’s – BAD etc) as a substitute for life performance are numbered.

Reasonable quality recordings, perhaps of just single tracks, given the widest possible distribution (eg free) and designed to secure an audience for life performance seems the most likely model.

Less recording studio perfection but more live performances by musicians.

I read some time ago that Elvis Costello was going to stop recording music for that reason – no one is buying albums anymore.

Of course it may take Sydney pubs a while (a decade or two) to catch on to the possibilities of live music.

8 Flare May 18, 2011 at 5:21 pm

Not too mention amazon mp3 service being usa centric as well. Plus the pricing disparity between usa itunes and the oz one. Yes Australia is not being well served

9 Marc Lehmann May 27, 2011 at 7:51 am

We just got Sonos in the office this week and it’s brilliant. HT to our chief happiness officer @hollingsworth for gifting a brand new one and setting it up which was plug and play. I was previously with Last.fm also, enjoyed it and sad to see it go.

10 Stubborn Mule May 27, 2011 at 8:01 am

So Marc, have you got a music streaming service on Sonos? Internationally I know Sonos can access Last.fm, Rhapsody, Pandora and (the new) Napster. I believe in the past there was a backdoor way to access Rhapsody. Is that still what the vendors are doing? If so, it could be a challenge if you ever need to update your billing info!

11 Marc Lehmann May 27, 2011 at 9:15 am

I can actually still use Last.fm interestingly but maybe they are seeing me as a UK user as when i signed up i was paying in GBP via a PayPal account.

We have Sony Anubis.fm on the Sonos plus anyone who has shared their itunes library in the network shows up in the list also.

12 Indulis July 10, 2011 at 9:39 pm

emusic has also changed its policy, hooked up with some of the “big players” in the USA, no more access to music. Also, previously they kept a track (no pun intended) on what you had paid for, and if you re-downloaded it for any reason it was free. First, emusic started going downhill with “this album unavailable for download in your county”, now they’ve closed the doors to anyone outside the USA. It is pretty bad when someone that had a regular monthly subscription- that is, was paying for music LEGALLY downloaded is stopped from doing so. Restriction in International Free Trade? The music industry is locked into a geographic distribution model and doesn’t want to be competitive, or promote sensible practices like emusic’s re-download policy. So I wonder why torrent sharing is so popular? I, for one will NOT be signing up to iTunes and its “lock you and your revenue stream into Apple forever” model thanks. I hope I find some other way to get a large selection of music easily and legally, otherwise it will be back to buying CDs (2nd hand preferable so no additional $ to the music industry) and ripping them, or just not spending anything at all on music, and living with what I’ve got. I’m not going to do any illegal downloads but I can see why people in Australia do!

13 Stubborn Mule July 15, 2011 at 6:45 am

Just got an email with the subject “Spotify is here!”. Turns out it’s now available in the US. Needless to say it’s still not available in Australia.

14 Shane August 28, 2011 at 10:38 am

I’ve had Rhapsody in Australia for the past 5 years without any additional software or anything needed to bypass just had to have an American credit card but just yesterday I get the error this service has been blocked by your ISP :(

15 Indulis August 29, 2011 at 5:04 pm

Try AlwaysVPN. This installs on your PC, intercepts your network and your network connections “pop out” in the USA. Small charge but well worth it (also good behind other official very very big f walls if you know who I mean).

16 Stubborn Mule August 31, 2011 at 10:07 pm

@Indulis: unfortunately solutions like AlwaysVPN won’t work for me as I use a network music player (Squeezebox) which streams directly via the router, so having a VPN redirect on a PC doesn’t help.

17 Indulis September 1, 2011 at 12:57 am

You can route via your PC, add a static route (in your router) that points to the PC with OpenVPN/AlwaysVPN, or some routers may support a VPN.

Boy, you have to wonder why people turn to piracy right, when legally paying for music is SOOOOO easy! Gotta love the music industry- hard on the pirates, and harder on its paying customers.

18 Ash September 14, 2011 at 10:00 pm

Shane – same issues here with Rhapsody. I was a long standing customer, I also had the iPhone app and had downloaded many tracks. Then the desktop client stopped and now the iPhone app has stopped. They are still happy to take my money though :/

I have just setup anubis.fm on my sonos and so far it works great. They didn’t appear to have an iPhone app yet, but has been ‘on it’s way soon’ since the start of the year.

19 Stubborn Mule September 18, 2011 at 8:38 pm

@Ash @Indulis I have now found a very easy VPN/proxy solution that can get Rhapsody up and running again: UnblockUs. Pop their DNS servers into your router and you’ll also get access to Hulu, BBC iPlayer and more…

20 Antonio October 2, 2011 at 9:05 pm

Hey Stubborn Mule,

I actually got streaming to work on my Squeezebox again using Globalpandora. It was pretty easy compared to the rest of methods I tried in the past (without success).

BR,

A.

21 Stubborn Mule October 3, 2011 at 11:37 am

@Antonio glad to hear you’re up and running again. I hadn’t heard of Globalpandora before. It looks similar to Unblock Us, (although Unblock Us has the advantage of working for other services as well as Pandora).

22 Michael December 6, 2011 at 10:59 am

Rhapsody works for me through Sonos, here in Sydney. When I bought the Sonos system Rhapsody worked for one month for free, simply by putting in a US zip code. After that I had to make a phone call to the Sonos agents (in Melbourne if I recall correctly), and they set up the account using my Australian credit card. I assume I’ll have to make the call again when the credit card details expire.

23 Stubborn Mule December 6, 2011 at 1:44 pm

I am very curious to know what the Sonos guys are doing to circumvent the geographic restrictions.

24 Indulis December 6, 2011 at 2:08 pm

The Sonos guys are probably just “skirting around” the geographic restrictions and the legalities of it, otherwise it would be generally available to everyone in Australia. Does anyone else remember the fanfare years ago when the government announced “parallel imports” of CDs and books to give Australians competitive pricing? i.e. no more geographic restrictions would be allowed. CDs rule, downloadable music sucks.

25 streamer December 16, 2011 at 9:15 am

music issue for Aussie streaming online is just a royalties issue. Greedy record companies not willing to share royalties. If you want Rhapsody just contact the guys at http://www.platinumav.com.au . The got mine working and I love it. Works great on my Sonos gear & thru my PC

26 Peter B January 18, 2012 at 9:50 pm

Hey Streamer, thanks for the tip! i contacted http://www.platinumav.com.au and YES i now have Rhapsody.

27 Terry February 14, 2012 at 6:24 pm

Rhapsody is no longer accessible from Australia.

28 Chai Lee March 31, 2012 at 6:06 pm

Rdio seems to be a viable alternative.

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