Okay, music lovers. I’m readying a report on the major subscription services for Windows users. (Napster, Yahoo! Unlimited, Rhapsody) The concept is terrific, and much as I love iTunes and the iPod, the ability to have unfettered free access to music is great. Unfortunately, the service I really love is Yahoo, because of its player’s support for FLAC, OGG, and AAC, and the subscription service’s use of high-quality 192 kbps WMA files. (The others use 128 kbps, which sounds like crap.) Why unfortunately? Because Yahoo’s player is buggy and ugly. Anyone else had this problem? I know there are Windows users out there.

By the way, just because I say the Yahoo engine is worst doesn’t mean the other ones are a whole lot better. All of the player apps and stores are clunky compared to iTunes, and audio quality suffers on Rhapsody and Napster. Add to that a confusing tangle of players, few of which actually support the subscriptions, and you’ve got yourself a recipe for continued Apple dominance.

Still, if you have given these a try, let me know how it’s going for you; drop me a line. Full report coming in the next couple of weeks with a final verdict. And yes, there are other services for independent and experimental music; we’ll look at more of those soon (like Warp’s great Bleep service). I just want my commercial CDs without having to go into so much debt. When you guys release a CD, tell me, and I’ll go and actually buy it. 🙂

  • Guest

    I really enjoyed eMusic for a while especially when it was unlimited download. it is still a good deal but they don't always have new stuff. So once you've gotten a bunch of tracks, unsubscribe. they'll send you a free tracks offer for a month.

  • Guest

    I use Yahoo Music and here's a tip – you can play the tracks using Windows Media Player or even WinAMP. I play them all in WinAMP and only use YME when I'm downloading new stuff.

  • Guest

    The way I see it, those services are not "unfettered free access to music" at all. If you stop paying the monthly fee, all the songs you've downloaded go away. Sure, it may seem like a good deal initially, but I think if you do the math, the iTunes model will save you money in the long run because you only pay for what you what you want, and once you've got it, it's pretty much yours.

  • admin

    Yeah, the subscription deal definitely doesn't stack up to Napster's math. You can't burn CDs, you don't keep the music without the subscription fee. But at the Yahoo rate of a few dollars a month, you can save on casual listening — CDs you might want to listen to just once or twice. I've been using it to audition CDs. The ones I love, I buy on iTunes . . . or better yet, on CDs. (Remember those great lossless storage media?)

    The big downside of all these services is they still pale in comparison to the *selection* of what's available on CD . . . maybe not at your local record store, but certainly via the Web.

    And iTunes being "pretty much yours" is a big restriction, thanks to DRM, same as these other services. The best services are the ones that offer high-quality DRM-free downloads or old-fashioned CDs. If I'm purchasing music, that's what I'd rather do. Having to regularly replace your iPod isn't a very reasonable subscription fee, either.


  • atomic_afro

    Peter man, as an electronic musician I'm surprised that you would even consider buying into the failed experiment that is DRM. Realize that when you give money to a music service that uses DRM, you're not buying the music, but rather licensing it and are thus under the whims of the recording industry that would rather see creativity stifled rather than promoted.

    Of course some might say that it's okay because it's a subscription service, and it's not really buying music anyway. I say that why bother when one could just opt out of the system entirely, just buy good, cheap indie music until the time that the industry catches a clue and we get a industry-wide music store/file sharing service worth a damn.


    PS, try http://www.beatport.com. NO DRM, Great choons (as them Brits would say), slightly more expensive but they give YOU the power to control YOUR music.

  • admin

    Yeah, absolutely terrific stuff on Beatport and Bleep. And you're right, the industry doesn't have a clue.

    Anyway, I decided to form an opinion, I'd go ahead and expose myself to these things, and see what's out there. There are artists on labels whose music I care about . . . I can spare $6 a month to get them on Yahoo. Less evil than, oh, my local electric company, which I spend a LOT more on so they can burn fossil fuels. 😉

    And I might add, CDs = no DRM, bless them. (Not for long, I know.)

  • rolandreinke

    I second what the previous poster have said…. Bleep I've tried several times and it's actually very conventient and optically nice to use as well. They've now added Scape to their impressive list of labels.
    Beatport has been recommended, but I've never tried it. Also I wouldn't buy from iTUnes ever, because of the DRM restricitions.

  • Guest

    don't forget Magnatune.

    They give great opportunities to bands, as well as CD Baby, who will get your music on the iTunes Music Store if it sells a bit.

    WMA is a curse, a pox on the audio community. It shouldn't even be considered a legitimate format for any self-respecting musician. It sounds terrible at any bitrate.

    The fact that there isn't even a question of ownership (unless you choose to ugh.. purchase WMA) with the other services is a good reason to look at anything but Yahoo, MSN Music (shudder at the contract), or Napster.

    Remember, kids, stay non-exclusive and you should be alright.

    Discover new bands on both sites listed above as well as MySpace

  • Guest

    It's a little cumbersome, but at least with the ITMS you archive the songs on a standard audio CD. The audio CD can then be ripped into the format of the the player of your choice… DRM free.