Hands on: Sky Songs review

Sky Songs takes on iTunes and Spotify - and it rocks

Sky Songs   new music streaming and download service launches on 19 October

The Sky Songs beta launches on PC and Mac this month, with TechRadar being treated to a first-look preview of Sky's new subscription-based music streaming and download service.

First impressions? It seriously rocks.

The service is very much based on the Spotify-model of offering instant access to stream or download DRM-free MP3s from a library of over 4,000,000 tunes (and growing).

Firstly, the really interesting news about Sky Songs is the fact that Sky has decided to partner with respected pop music blog Popjustice and the UK's leading online celeb gossip destination Holy Moly! to provide editorial for the site, meaning it's not just a place to get music, but to read about it too.

And while the service will only be available via PC and Mac initially, Sky Song's General Manager Justin Moodie informed us that the editorial features on Sky Songs that provide "useful information on music and artists and so on... is really something different from what other sites are offering."

"It's quite irreverent, quite light-hearted, giving you recommendations of what's going on... and this is obviously on top of the recommendation engine built into the service."

If you wish to stream your music, then tunes play instantly through Sky Song's web-based player – providing of course you are logged-in to your account. Or if you wish to download your MP3s, the service will automatically open up your default media player – iTunes, Windows Media Player and so on.

"The majority of the tunes on there are 320Kbps MP3s," says Moodie. "We've asked for the highest bit-rate the labels can provide."

Easy to play and share

The service also allows you to share your playlists with friends, as well as posting links to your favourite tunes and playlists via all the major social-networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace.

So why the urge to make it a paid-for subscription model and not follow the Spotify model of offering an option of a 'free-to-end-user' streaming and download service funded by advertising?

"It is who Sky are. What we do is we offer subscription services to customers and try to make them easy to use and great value. So we have followed that model from our existing businesses with Sky Songs.

Sky songs

"Also, our rates are very competitive," adds the Sky Songs boss. "On the other side, you can choose to dip in and dip out. You can try out one month's session then choose to leave us for a month or two and then come back if you like. That's fine with us."