If it's your first time using Urge, you have the option of signing up for a 14-day free trial to the service's All Access to Go package, which regularly runs $14.99 per month. This top-level subscription includes 128Kbps streams, 192Kbps WMA downloads, and transfers to up to two compatible portable devices, such as the iRiver Clix. Alternatively, you can pay $9.99 for the All Access program, which doesn't allow for transfers to portable devices. If a subscription isn't your cup of tea, you can go à la carte and purchase individual tracks for 99 cents each. Purchased tracks can be authorized on up to five PCs, while subscription downloads are limited to three.
Navigating around Urge is as simple as clicking your desired option on the main screen or by using the nav tree in the left-hand pane of WMP. Just as you would in your own library, you can view music by artist, album, songs, genre, year, or rating. Unfortunately, there's no podcast section, though MTV reps assert one is in the works. There is, however, a charts section that includes Billboard's top tracks from every year since 1946, as well as Urge's own charts, with others to be added later. Once you get to an artist page, you're rewarded with a plethora of editorial content. Many pages include detailed biographies, links to related artists, and a handy Auto-Mix feature that creates a playlist of the artist's and related artists' songs. All the artist pages we looked at included links to the playlists and radio stations that contained songs by the artist.
In our opinion, Urge shines in programmed content, which includes hundreds of handcrafted playlists (including Auto-Mixes) and more than a hundred dynamic radio stations, about 20 of which are free. The latter is arranged conveniently by genre, while the former is separated by type of playlist. There are celebrity playlists, Must Haves, On TV (based on MTV Networks shows such as TRL and I Love the 80's), mood-based lists, and 100-track-plus Super Playlists based on genres. We found the Informer and Feed playlists the most compelling. The former are by several music bloggers hired by MTV to write genre-based blogs, which are then paired with a related playlist. Constantly updated, Feed playlists are a great time-saver for people who use a portable device. If you transfer a feed to your player, Urge automatically updates it each time the device is connected. We think this is just fabulous--it's an effortless way to discover new music.
The only thing that sullied our experience with Urge was the lackluster performance. Many times, as we navigated between options, we had to wait several seconds for the new page to load. A few times, the software froze for several minutes. However, these glitches are understandable as Urge is still in beta; plus, MTV was continuously updating the service before it launched, which was when we tested it. We also noticed that the help section wasn't populated, but this will likely change once Urge goes public and MTV starts getting user questions and feedback. On the plus side, the service worked flawlessly with our iRiver Clix, syncing music without a hitch--it even transferred subscription-content album art, which we've yet to see from any other service.
All in all, MTV Urge is a fantastic service that we recommend trying, even for just the 14-day free trial. It could be just the thing to shove subscription music into the mainstream, and who better to do it than MTV?