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March 20th, 2005

Paul Tries Rhapsody

As some Pingers may know, I’m a Mac person (“Oh, one of those“) and as a bonus I use and actually like the iTunes Music Store. I realize that copy protection (or Digital Rights Management – DRM) is necessary in this day and age to get the record companies out of the past, but Apple’s implementation isn’t bad and has never gotten in my way.

That said, I use a PC at work and normally listen to my trusty iPod. But in order to help Ryan out with a super-secret project, I signed up for a free trial of Rhapsody. After a day of using it, my opinion is that it’s quite good – but there’s no way I would pay money for it.

The whole concept is just like a music store, but there’s no purchasing music involved. You pay a monthly fee, and get access to all the music on it. When you choose to listen to music, it goes into your Library – which is a little sidebar on the left side of the terribly-cluttered Rhapsody window. In the main section of the window are links to artists, albums, etc. with a search engine. It was pretty good: almost everything I searched for was found, and I was able to add stuff to my Library.

A weird convention was this: instead of simply playing albums and artists in my Library, I had to add them to a Playlist. Huh? Every time I clicked “Listen” for a song or an album, it added it to my Playlist. So if I was mid-album and added a new, whole album it showed up… right in the middle of the album I was listening to. Whoops.

Then there’s the Radio feature, which is like a shuffle on, uh, steroids. (That phrase is going to lose lustre soon.) You type in up to 10 (why just 10?) artists and get a streaming shuffle of their music – plus “similar” artists. In my experience with it the station I created was fine when it played stuff I knew, but the “similar” artists were pretty bad.

Other than the stupid Library/Playlist thing, I felt a weird sense of disconnect with the thing. Yeah, I know I’m just doing the free trial, but it felt like I couldn’t do anything with this music. I’d have to pay to burn it to CD. I couldn’t just listen to something… I had to make it part of a Playlist. And the whole application, of course, looks like some 133T crap from 1998. (Come on, black backgrounds in the music store? What is that about?)

Now, people will argue that one doesn’t own the music with iTunes Music Store either and that’s true. But there’s a way better sense of what’s “yours” than with Rhapsody. It felt like everything was owned by them and I was, really, just renting it. Psychological hangup or not, it’d be one thing that would stop me from subscribing. The other of course is that it doesn’t work on Macs, and Real even shuts out the Rhapsody website from Macs. Jerks.

Frankly, I see Rhapsody as a way for me to sample whole albums before buying them on iTunes. Real is lacking the slick execution of iTunes, and the interface is a stupid mess. I’m also opposed to the subscription idea – it’s just not for me. If Rhapsody was free, I’d be all for it. But any price is too much.

Posted in Technology

FROM: Chris
DATE: Sunday March 20, 2005 -- 3:46:01 pm
Actually, I do own the music I buy from Itunes. The Apple DRM can be worked around.



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