Category Archives: Music
Okay, it’s time for me to finally say goodbye to my portable disc player, and join the online and portable music revolution. Okay, the revolution isn’t so new any more, nor is my computer, but as I wade through the sea of options for how to download music, listen to and buy online tracks, I grow more eager to get my feet wet and eventually suit up to take the plunge. But I happen to be a bit more practical than that. So, I’ve spent a considerable amount of time over the last few weeks trying to determine what’s best for my lifestyle, my wallet and my computer.
First thing I realized when searching all of the music services is that things seemed to work a lot smoother with a broadband connection (and most services seem to point that out from the get go). Just like my CD Walkman, the time had come for me to lose my ancient dial-up connection to the online experience. It actually turned out to work in my favor as my cable company gave me a good deal on high-speed, and also threw in a discount on my existing costs for cable TV.
Now that I was “connected” at an acceptable speed to the Web, I had to determine, what I was trying to get out of the online music experience. After some intense melodious soul searching, I realized that the only thing the separated me from the perpetually hip is perhaps the types of music I was searching for, and the amount of time I wanted to spend online searching for music.
The guy who sits next to me has a 60 GB iPod, and is complaining that it is almost full. That’s over seven thousand songs. I don’t know that I would even live long enough to listen to that many songs. My needs were simpler. I had an MP3 player still in the box from two Christmas’ ago, and it promised to hold over 500 songs. That would be perfect for me, at least in the short term.
Next, what was I looking for in my new online music experience? Did I want to listen to music on my PC, in my car or on my MP3 player? Yes to all three. Did I want to listen to the radio while I was on my PC? Again, yes. Did I want to trade music with others online in a peer-to-peer Napster-like environment? Eh, that one scared me a little, and I decided that opening up my files to strangers made me feel dirt, so I put that one on hold.
My next stop in determining how I would “music online” was price. I searched dozens of sites and services, but narrowed my sights to three of the big guys: AOL Music Now, iTunes and Rhapsody Music Service (provided by Real Networks).
I already had AOL, so I signed up for their Music Now product for $8.99/month (that’s in addition to their monthly fee as an ISP). I was able to download songs, listen to them while “offline” and burn them to CD or move them over to my MP3 player for an additional fee per song. That seemed to be standard across most of the services. Music Now was a follow up to the original AOL Music Net, which I actually liked better because it ran locally on machine and the new Web-based Music Now takes much longer. AOL also has a partnership with iTunes, so you can be on AOL, but iTunes will launch and then you’re actually in the iTunes application. It’s confusing. If I want to move my downloaded songs to my MP3 player, the monthly fee jumps to $14.95 per month, and if I want to put them on a CD, I pay and additional 99 cents per track. This is too much money for me. I typically buy one or two CD’s a month, and that would be cheaper than this online service. Not to mention you have to be an existing AOL member (more money per month) in order to even use the product. I’m passing on AOL Music Now.
On to iTunes. Okay, so there is no monthly fee for iTunes. Love that. And I can purchase songs for 99 cents per track. Love that too. But wait. I don’t have an iPod, and iTunes has songs in their proprietary MP4 format. Ugh. The cheapest iPod out there is around $99 (so much for no monthly fee), and it’s not the model I would select. I like my MP3 player. If I already had an iPod, this may be the route I would go, but Apple tends be very inflexible, and I hate to be tied to one provider, player and format. There is also a limit to how you can share the songs on your home network. I feel like even though I own the song, I’m being watched on what I do with it. Good bye big brother.
Rhapsody Music Service from Real Networks. So far they are the least expensive. $9.99 per month and that’s with unlimited access to over 1.3 million songs. I do have to have pay the additional 99 cent fee if I want to burn to CD or transfer to my MP3, but that is the industry standard for paying the artists, and the monthly fee is five dollars less per month than AOL. The music comes over in the more widely supported MP3 format and the songs are mine to rip transfer or share with my other computers on my home network. Like the other two, I can listen to live radio on my pc, but I like the freedom I get with Rhapsody Music Service. I’m not being watched, and the music is mine.
Now that I know how to download music and have chosen Rhapsody Music Service, I’m on my way to joining the new world of portable digital music. I’ve already burned several CD’s for my car, albeit with an older man’s twist on today’s favorites, and transferred those same songs over to my little antiquated MP3 player for those long weekend walks.
Microsoft is eyeing to provide music service in its Xbox Live platform. A report by CNET showed the technology giant is trying to find ways together with several major record labels to come up with an application that would offer similar service to Spotify, MOG, Pandora, Rdio and some other streaming music subscriptions.
This new plan by Microsoft came after its initial failed bid to win customers who like music through Zune Music Pass.
It is safe to bet Microsoft would provide an Xbox Live name to this planned new service instead of resurrecting the Zune brand. The new application would launch on the Xbox 360, upcoming revisions of the Windows operating system, and Windows smartphones. CNET’s sources did not confirm the details how exactly the service will be delivered and how much the music industry would get paid from subscription fees of the service. Microsoft simply provided a rough outline of the service that includes streaming music and downloads.
There was also a speculation that the company will team up with Nokia and HTC on proposed phones that can use the potential service.
It is expected that the record labels would work hard to make this deal happen. After all, Microsoft’s gigantic Xbox Live fan base is declared to be near 40 million worldwide. Record companies will definitely make more money by making higher profile in this huge market.
The move is definitely a strategic one for Microsoft to better compete against Google’s own with its Google Music and Android operating system. Many other major phone makers have also taken steps to strengthen their music features. A good example is HTC’s acquisition of a majority stake in Dr. Dre’s Beats to augment the company phones’ capabilities. Last August of 2011, Research in Motion also announced its plan to upgrade its Blackberry Instant Message service.
The current Microsoft’s Zune Music Pass priced at $9.99 a month no longer allows 10 music downloads a month although subscribers can still opt to pay the more expensive $14.99/month that allows downloads of up to 10 songs. Using the Zune Music Pass on Xbox 360 also requires a Gold Xbox Live subscription.
Every music listerner has different needs. What are yours?
There are online music services – from the casual pop lover to the audiobook listener. Which one would you choose?
Some quick Tips:
Mac user or PC user?
Any products by Apple, including the iPod line, are usually solely compatible with the iTunes Music Store, which is available on both Macs and PCs.
Other devices with the “Plays for Sure” logo work well with Windows Media Player – based download services and are PC-only. Check your favorite devices for compatibility before you buy. Like Apple, Sony players will only work with the Sony Connect music service.
iTunes Music Store:
Home of the 99-cent download, the iTunes Music Store (ITMS) features over 1 million songs. Entire albums are available for download but the ITMS only supports iPod devices. The system allows you to burn your tracks to CD for low-tech consumption. Most major labels are represented and ITMS tends to get newer music even before some of the other major players. A partnership with Audible.com also allows you to download audiobooks, allowing you to while away the road miles with a good book.
MusicMatch’s On Demand subscription service makes this system stand out. Instead of purchasing individual songs, you pay $5.95 to listen to a selection of songs for a certain period of time. Once you cancel your subscription, however, the music disappears. MusicMatch also offers 99-cent tracks. A special music suggestion engine makes short work of figuring out what you’d like to listen to next.
eMusic is a pioneering MP3 service that offers a number of downloads for a set price. The most expensive offer, for example, costs $19.99 and entitles you to 90 song downloads per month. The tracks will play on any MP3 player in the world and are completely unprotected by any digital rights management. The music is skewed towards the alternative and unknowns but there are thousands of gems in eMusic’s extensive library, from the Pixies to Bloc Party.
The original music service has gone legit. Individual tracks are 99 cents and Napster To Go offers unlimited downloads to any MP3 player for $14.95. The To Go service, like MusicMatch’s service, expires once your subscription lapses. You can only burn purchased tracks to CDs, but the catalog is wide and Napster features all of the latest from artists in all genres.
Rhapsody offers free downloadable music in trial mode as well as a $9.95 all-you-can eat subscription with 99-cent downloads and Rhapsody To Go which allows you to download content to your MP3 player. Like other Microsoft DRM-based services, music you didn’t pay for is erased when your subscription lapses.
Similar to the iTunes Music Store, Sony’s store will only work with Sony players, which use the proprietary ATRAC format for music files. But one of those players is the very hot Play Station Portable game, video and music device. Sony’s store includes music from all the major labels, not just the Sony catalog. Like other music stores you can also burn downloaded music to CDs.
A latecomer to the party, the MSN Music Store supports Microsoft’s Janus DRM system, which is bundled with most copies of Windows. Tracks are 99 cents and the service is compatible with most non-Apple MP3 players. Major labels are well represented, but the featured music skews towards less alternative acts.
It’s the age of freebies. These days, we can download e-books, stream movies, and listen to music, all for free – and legally! It’s just a question of where to find these goodies.
So as far as music is concerned, where can we get them for free? Here are some sites you would want to check out:
- Grooveshark (grooveshark.com).Grooveshark is one of the largest music streaming services in the world. This site allows you to find and listen to your favourite music, make your own personalized playlist, browse for new songs, and share them on social networking and bookmarking sites with just one click.
You can listen to free unlimited radio on your Android, Blackberry, Nokia, Jailbroken iPhone, or HP Web OS smartphone by simply downloading the Grooveshark app.
It also has features such as the video mode, which lets you watch YouTube videos of your favourite songs; the Power Hour mode, which automatically moves you to a new song every 60 seconds; and the visualizer, which adds a visual element to accompany your music.
- Spotify (spotify.com). The Spotify free account gives you instant access to millions of tracks for your streaming pleasure. You can play and organize your own MP3s, and you can share them with your friends, as well as get your friends’ recommendations, and listen to them instantly with just a click of a Facebook button.
If you want to listen to music offline on your desktop or mobile, though, you’ll need to get the paid Premium account.
- We7 (we7.com).We7 is a free music-streaming service available to users from Ireland and the UK. It has more than 6.8 million tracks from four major record labels and a huge number of independent labels. If you wish to purchase the tracks, you can do so from the in-site store.
- Last.fm (last.fm).If you like listening to music but are too lazy to search for the music you like, try Last.fm, a music recommendation service. Just sign up, download the Scrobbler software, and let that little tool deliver personalised recommendations based on what songs or artists you listen to most often.
- Soundclick (soundclick.com).This site has been around since 1997, so it must be good, right? To date, its catalogue holds over 2.5 million tracks that you can listen to through live streaming. Some of the music is available for free and legal download.
- Audio Archive (archive.org/details/audio).If you’re looking for free songs, poetry readings, audio books, old-time radio shows, and even alternative news programs, you can find over 200,000 of those from Audio Archives’ MP3 and audio library.
7. ArtistServer (artistserver.com).People looking for non-mainstream artists and their music can find them at ArtistServer. Choose from over 8,000 free and legally downloadable songs from this website. There is a full range of genres to choose from – country, rock, jazz, metal, blues, classical, hip-hop, folk, and many others – all recorded by unsigned artists, who use the site to promote their work.