Napster has come a long way since its inception as a file-sharing service 10 years ago, and there is little doubt that without it, Rhapsody wouldn't exist--at least not in the form we enjoy today. Now, thanks largely to the fact that most competing services gave up on the game and passed their subscribers over to the two remaining companies, these music subscription companies are rulers of the roost when it comes to paid streaming. But who will come out on top when we pit Napster and Rhapsody against each other in five bone-shaking rounds? Read on for the … Read more
I know Kindles and e-books are all the rage, but if I'm being honest with myself, I'll take an audiobook over virtual ink. In fact, I've come to rely on audiobooks (and podcasts, of course) to ease the drudgery of my daily commute. I can download or rip audiobooks to my iPod, hit play, and take in a crime novel or autobiography that I would otherwise not have time or attention span to read. But as any audiobook fanatic will tell you, the habit can get very expensive. A typical audiobook from iTunes or Audible will set … Read more
Pandora's free, ad-supported Internet radio service has attracted millions of registered users, and spawned one of the more popular iPhone Apps. On Tuesday, May 19, Pandora announced the launch of Pandora One, a premium version of its popular, free, Internet radio service.
For a yearly fee of $36, Pandora's power users can upgrade to the Pandora One service, which offers ad-free playback, higher-quality audio (192Kbps), extended playback time, and a dedicated desktop player. The announcement of Pandora One comes hot on the heels of news that the company will soon add lyrics to its radio feeds using Gracenote … Read more
On the evening of May 18, the online music service Napster (a subsidiary of Best Buy) intends to drop the price of its least-expensive subscription music plan from $12.95 down to $5. The low-cost subscription plan allows users unrestricted streaming from a catalog of over 7 million songs, as well as a new offering of five DRM-free MP3 downloads per month. Although Napster's music service has an international reach, the new subscription plan is currently available only to U.S. customers.
If subscription music was a drug, I'd be one of its biggest pushers. I'm a huge proponent of paying a flat monthly fee in order to enjoy all the music I want at any time (and in any order...without commercials). It's even better if you can take as much of it as possible with you anywhere on an MP3 player. A handful of services and devices offer this option.
You can pair Zune Marketplace with the Zune player, or choose from a seemingly endless array of other non-iPod MP3 players and sync up with Napster To … Read more
Microsoft's latest anti-Apple campaign has set its sights on the iTunes music store. Using a 30-second video and an interactive calculator, Microsoft makes a case that their $15/month subscription music service is an awesome value compared to the $30,000 it would take to fill a 120GB Apple iPod Classic using iTunes.
Microsoft's argument is riddled with fallacies. For starters, it's naive to think that people are filling MP3 players with purchased music. I'm no pirate, but at least half (probably more) of my MP3 music library comes from friends, freebies, CDs, eMusic trials, and God-only-knows--which doesn't account for the movies, photos, and podcasts that make up a healthy chunk of my MP3 players.
Also, how many people completely fill their MP3 player (especially the 120GB iPod Classic used in the example). Or what about the fact that Microsoft's $15 monthly fee adds up to $180 a year? The reality is, the numbers don't matter. History has already played out this fight enough times to show the futility of Microsoft's economic pitch.
To refresh everyone's memory, here's a brief history of products and services that sought to unseat iTunes by appealing to consumers' wallets.
This week, Jasmine and Donald discuss a variety of music tech that's perfect for helping you motivate into summer swimsuit shape--there are even music gadgets for people who prefer cycling and swimming to jogging and gyming. Also, Donald's got some info that will help any digital audio newcomer understand formats, and Jasmine rants about Rhapsody irritants. Plus, we answer questions about subscription services and explain why they don't play nice with the iPod.Listen now: Download today's podcast | Subscribe in iTunes | Subscribe in RSS… Read more
What can I say: I'm a sucker for constructive feedback. Recently, I posted a piece about why I'm so infatuated with Rhapsody's subscription service, and I was pleased as punch to hear that the unconventional music model has some supporters aside from myself. The article also generated a fair amount of questions about the service and how exactly it works--understandable, what with the fact that the subscription music model is not exactly transparent. This week's MP3 Mailbox Monday addresses two aspects the model that I think will be particularly helpful for subscription music newcomers.
Q: I was told by a friend that once he declined the yearly service offered by Rhapsody, he was no longer able to play his MP3 songs already downloaded to his personal MP3 player. I do not know the maker of the personal player, but I know he had downloaded the files to his computer, and transferred them to the player, free MP3's, which were part of a trial offer from Rhapsody. What I would like to know: how can the player not function and play those MP3's once he no longer had an active account at the Rhapsody site? Thanks for your help. -- Richard, via e-mail.
A: I doubt that they were "free MP3s." If he signed up for a free trial of Rhapsody, he would have been able to download and stream any music from the Rhapsody catalog during that free trial, but after the trial was up, he would no longer be able to play the files (unless he continued the subscription by paying for it). The tracks themselves were not free--the subscription was during that time. Once the subscription is up, you no longer get access to the music.
Also, the files were likely not MP3s at all, but DRM-protected WMAs, which is what Rhapsody uses for its subscription catalog. The reason it uses this type of file is that WMA DRM10 tracks are capable of having a timer built in, which allows them to lock after a certain time period if a person does not continue paying for the subscription. (Likewise, in order for a device to support subscription music, it has to have a hardware clock built in that is compatible with this timer.)… Read more
On last week's MP3 Insider podcast, Senior MP3 Editor Donald Bell and I found ourselves wandering off on a tangent about cable television. Namely, I refuse to pay the astronomical fee Comcast insists on charging for even the most basic of packages. (Listen to the show.) Frankly, they're already siphoning off plenty of my hard-earned cash for the Internet service alone.
Personally, I'd rather fork over $15 each month to Rhapsody for all the music I can listen to than bleed out $60 to Comcast, especially considering the fact that almost every TV show I want to watch can be streamed free--and legally--from sites such as Hulu, Netflix, and Veoh...heck, even the network's own Web sites offer up recent programming for free. However, while I may be perfectly comfortable "renting" my music, Donald makes a fair point that many people still can't come to terms with the idea that they don't get to own the music outright, especially when they're getting yet another bill in the mail each month.
And so here we are...with me making yet another attempt to convince all you hold-outs that subscription music is great. I'm all about Rhapsody, and here's why:"Free" for all: Rhapsody is one of a handful of music services that let's you listen to any song you want, on demand, for free. Yes, there is a catch: you only get 25 free streams per month...but that's better than nothing! Because of this aspect, you can share songs and playlists--via e-mail, IM, or blog/Web site--with anyone, even if he or she is not a subscriber. (Another service worth checking out with a similar feature is La La, which gives you 50 free song credits for streaming.)… Read more
As fast-growing Facebook closes in on MySpace in the U.S. in terms of unique visitors later this year, it's burning through millions of dollars a month (some claim it's as high as $20 million), with no magic levers to reverse the trend in the short term.
In November 2007, when Facebook took a $240 million stake from Microsoft, the investment was at a $15 billion valuation. Now it's down to $4 billion and probably less. As Caroline McCarthy reported a few days ago, rumor has it that "one potential investor submitted a term sheet for … Read more