Do you listen to music while you work on your websites or surf online? I am not able to work in silence very well. And since our office and home are fairly rural, traditional radio reception is spotty at best.
Rhapsody has a selection of 393,297+ tracks. You can pick out your tunes, organize into custom playlists, and listen to them as much as you want on their server (no downloading necessary) for a monthly fee of $9.95 a month or $24.95 per quarter.
If you want to take the tunes with you (download & burn to CD) then you can download for 79 cents per track. The selection, from what I’ve seen so far is very good with some older, out of print albums up to and including newer release CDs. They offer a 14 day free trial of their service so folks can check them out. Users download the interface through one of many different possible partners.
I’ve mentioned at my blog before listening to Radio @ AOL a lot, but Rhapsody is better, IMO, because of the custom playlists, good selection and the ability to play songs over and over again. Other services like EMusic lack the selection and the quality of buymusic.com is inferior (128k).
Rhapsody has some radio stations too, but I haven’t gotten to there yet. It’s like being let loose in a music warehouse to pick out all your favorite tunes!
Now, for those who love Apple’s iTunes service, let me add why I think Rhapsody is better than iTunes for Windows users.
I think iTunes is a very capable forerunner in legal online music services (they all are services, BTW, because they provide a conduit to accessing music from the labels), but IMO Rhapsody is better for me — for you or maybe others it might be different. Stay with me as I elaborate below..
One complaint about Rhapsody is that many of the tracks aren’t burnable. I don’t know how long ago folks who make this complaint tried Rhapsody out, but these days I’d say it’s something like 90% of the tracks are burnable. I didn’t run a precise test or look around for other independent verification so that number is simply my best guess by navigating around and examining the burn icons next to tracks. So, if we can use this best guess, that part of the service seems to have improved greatly since those with this complaint last perused their service. If we knock off 10% of the songs they still have a larger library of burnable songs than iTunes. Heck, knock off 25% and they still have a larger music selection.
Another complaint: the cost of one track is nearly $10. The cost of a single track over the period of one month can be misleading. Ok, if someone is only going to burn *ONE* track (see comment #7) and no more for that particular month (who is going to do that?) then the cost, rounded up, would be this, yes. That could become expensive to buy music that way, so I’d say if one is that type of online music listener/purchaser than iTunes would be better for them.
And what about Rhapsody’s subscription fee? A monthly subscription fee to be able to legally listen to any and/or all of 375,000+ songs in high quality streams (they don’t have cut out problems on my broadband connection) without any additional fees?
If I want to get the best deal on audiobooks, as posted by a blogcritic in another article, I should sign up for audible.com and get the best deal, that is something Rhapsody does not have, that iTunes has working for them — access to audiobooks at higher prices than available on the source site with separate subscription.
Another objection: comparing Rhapsody to satellite radio. The satellite radio comparison is totally flawed.
I cannot listen to the songs I want on satellite radio. I can’t listen to the same album or even the same song 10 or more times in a row if I want. I can’t blog the songs directly from any satellite radio station. I can’t build my own playlists (my own radio station) on satellite radio. Radio is very much about the track programmer, not the listener. They take you where they want to go with radio, which can be a great way to listen and explore new artists and tracks one wouldn’t have explored otherwise but IMO that is the only upside to radio, any radio.
I’ve been a DirecTV subscriber for years and haven’t listened to more than 30 minutes of their preprogrammed stations. I’ve considered satellite radio service from providers like XMradio but I’d rather be able to access something like Rhapsody via my car stereo than satellite. I think that is coming, and I think I’m going to hold out for that. The days of internet access in cars have already begun.
For those who mostly do not want to burn tracks and take them with them, and especially those like me who use many different computers then Rhapsody is a great service. Is it without flaws or perfect? No. Sure, I could spend hundreds of dollars downloading and burning the tracks we don’t already own (we own some 250 or so CDs), but I already have setup playlists through Rhapsody and the songs or albums that I really, really listen to I will buy individually (I might pay to download a few of them instead of buying the CDs if the quality turns out to be comparable, if not then I’ll pay the extra few bucks and get the CD and burn it). The Rhapsody service saves me money by allowing me to preview — not just 30 seconds — but the entire song. And who chooses the 30 seconds to listen to anyway? Not me, they do. There are 30 second snippets of songs I like that I don’t like so that’s a lousy way to preview music. As I talked with another blogcritic, music tends to need seasoning and listening over and over to a 30 second clip that I didn’t choose isn’t going to season anything but that 30 second portion of the song.
For example: I wouldn’t have dropped $13 on the new Iron Maiden CD (it’s available in its entirety on Rhapsody) if I had been subscribed to Rhapsody. I would have still had to buy Bush Machinehead though because that isn’t available — at least from my searching as of this writing — at either iTunes or Rhapsody or buymusic.com (the three legal music download services I’m using).
So how many tracks have I purchased from Rhapsody to date? The answer is zero. So my cost thus far has been the 10 bones (rounded, if you want to be precise). Burn one album a month from iTunes or any other download service and you’ve eaten up the Rhapsody monthly subscription fee and haven’t had the ability to listen to even a tiny fraction of the music Rhapsody subscribers can listen to. Now, if the internet access isn’t there, neither is the library, so that is a possible downside, but we also have 3 different ISP providers with multiple ways to connect to the internet (before asking why, remember that I work online), so the chance of being cutoff from the web for an extended period of time is small.
Objection: Rhapsody isn’t portable because you don’t physically own the music. You can still burn the songs you want, assuming they are available of course, and at a lower cost (after the monthly fee) than any other current music service and they are pushing to get that cost reduced to 50 cents or so a track. Rhapsody is also currently working on a way to add the ability to listen to playlists from wireless devices, so that will take care of the portable issue. If they can get something into a wireless device I am sure folks can figure out (Radio Shack, the ultimate McGuiver outlet) to get the sound to pipe through their car stereo CD-in jacks.
If — or maybe I should say when — car stereos come internet enabled, I’ll probably get nearly all my music this way. No need to carry around a bunch of CDs (or spend time burning playlists to a few CDs) just to say I “own” the music. Again, this is me, and there is no debating what online music service works best for moi.
iTunes seems better than Winamp and Musicmatch as far as GUI goes although I don’t know why they make the power search a two click process to get to (and not make it available for default option), but it doesn’t have nearly the skins and plugins available that Winamp does.
I think for organizing and collecting MP3 one has already burned iTunes could be worthwhile, I didn’t uninstall it as some have blogged about, so that says I think it’s worth keeping, but if one doesn’t have a lot of MP3 then it isn’t that big of a deal. It’s not like Apple has done anything revolutionary in their Windows version of this product. Why are they are boasting that this is the best application for Windows?
With all that said, I still don’t think iTunes is all that spectacular. They have a couple cool features like the allowance option to keep kids from burning up your credit card bill and the alliance with audible.com for audiobooks. Other than that, I’m failing to see what the big deal is with iTunes. Kudos to Apple for bringing a model that encourages consumers to pay for music, but if I were them, I’d get some sort of comparable subscription fee deal that allows for access to any song in their database like Rhapsody does.
Because of the choice it gives it’s customers, and extra features and flexibility, I think Rhapsody is the overall music distribution model to watch in the coming years. Apple, yet once again, brings a quality product, but as fellow Blogcritic Ken Edwards also writes: it’s too little, too late. Rhapsody grade: A
This review originally appeared at makeyougohmm.com You can find TDavid there writing about a wide variety of topics, mostly dealing with new and existing technology on the web.