Rhapsody MP3 Store: Some Contrasts

Today’s story that Rhapsody is launching an MP3 store alongside its subscription service (which is still very much the focus of rhapsody.com) presents some interesting contrasts. The obvious contrast is the one between buying your music and subscribing to it. I suspect that the modes of accessing music are more complements than they are substitutes, but the question deserves its own post (and this isn’t it).

Although today’s Rhapsody news is similar to the Napster news of about 5 weeks ago, there is a key difference. Free is that key: Rhapsody are giving away a free album download to the first 100,000 to sign up. Yes that offer is available to people who already pay for Rhapsody’s subscription service: I got mine.

I first saw the news about the MP3 store and the introductory offer in a post by Mashable Kristen. There are a couple of contrasts with Kristen’s post. One is there was a timely post at Mashable, whereas there wasn’t at the Rhapsody blog.

last100 also carried a post, by Steve O’Hear, about the Rhapsody store. Steve himself focuses on some points of contrast, or differentiation, for the new store. I’ll point out a couple of contrasts between his post and Kristen’s.

The most obvious is that Kristen’s was hours earlier. Perhaps this is why it seemed hasty. I’m not just referring to typos, but to misleading things such as Rhapsody’s: (1) “newly established relationship with RealNetworks” and (2) “converting its entire catalog to DRM-free music.” (1) the relationship is far from new. (2) the first few times I looked in the new store for an artist I’ve enjoyed via subscription, I drew a blank. Some of the artists in question are: Laura Marling; Bon Iver; Fionn Regan.

While I’ve so far emphasized contrasts, there are some ways in which the song remains the same. The first comment on Kristen’s post is that the Rhapsody store is US-only. When it comes to music, it seems that the real world-wide web is BitTorrent.

Google Sites Revisited

Google Sites (previously) is now open for everyone (as Mashable Stan puts it). In other words, it’s available as just Google Sites, rather than as part of Google Apps.

My first thought was: can I stow MP3 files there and play them from this blog (which does not have the WordPress.com space upgrade and hence cannot host its own MP3s)? and if so what are the storage limits? (I sometimes have rather long thoughts. And I sometimes over-use parentheses.)

It turns out that Sites is a good home for MP3s, such as this track from the Barenaked Ladies rather charming kids album Snacktime. It’s topical, seasonal even, for many of us in the northern hemisphere.

Sites Help states that: Attached files and uploaded images are currently limited to 10 MB. Each domain is limited to 10 GB in total size. The 10 MB is more than enough for most tracks. The file embedded in this post isn’t a good example, since it’s less than two minutes, and encoded at 192 Kbps, but it takes about a quarter of the 10 MB limit. Nevertheless, the 10 GB limit means more than 1,000 tracks.

So I’m liking what I see of Google Sites. It’s likely to take over from Google Page Creator as my place to store the MP3s I embed here. I mean to spend some time making musicway a site worth visiting, rather than a warehouse, but there are many things higher on my to-do lists.

Frightened Rabbit For Sale

I noticed at Frightened Rabbit’s MySpace page that tracks are for sale there, via Snocap. That’s the first I’ve seen of the MySpace music store. It appears to offer music by the track only, as opposed to by the album. I tried to create an account there, but it’s rather slow, and I bought The Midnight Organ Fight from Amazon, which was fast and straightforward as usual.

You can also buy, or listen, a track at a time at Fat Cat Records’ page for the album. However, that page currently reveals that the album is out of stock – on MP3, as well as on CD and LP. The music industry never ceases to amaze…

Of MP3s

I continue to be happy with my cute little MP3 player. The fact that it’s “only” 1MB doesn’t bother me, although it might if I take it on a long trip. In fact, it’s fun to choose which stuff to take with me. That also means that good stuff has to come off to make room.

I’ve just removed Of Montreal’s Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer?. Perhaps the catchiest track is “Heimsdalgate Like a Promethean Curse,” which is about “chemicals” and includes lines such as “come on mood shift, shift back to good again.”

There’s a video. Here’s the audio. I found it particularly great to listen to on headphones while doing mundane shopping.

Three Music Models

Three music business models are in the tech news. Mashable lashed out at two different models, albeit via two different writers.

Qtrax is a free and legal way of getting (via P2P) music, and it has the support of the major labels. The bad news is that it requires an ad-inflicting proprietary player, uses DRM, and is not iPod-compatible. Why are people going to want to clutter up their systems with yet another proprietary system that is filled with DRMed music that they can’t put on the most popular digital music player in the world?

So, if that’s not the way to go, let’s consider music dialtone. But the attempt to work a one-price-have-all system successfully has several fatal flaws that will most likely allow it never to draw a lucrative existence in the era of the digital download.

The Mashable curmudgeons have yet to comment on the news that Amazon just announced the international rollout of Amazon MP3. Engadget sees this as the biggest threat yet to Apple’s dominance of digital music.

I actually like music dialtone. I don’t see it as a problem that I lose access to the music if I stop paying the monthly bucks. I’ll (almost) always be able to buy, or otherwise acquire, the music that I really really want to listen to.

Good for Amazon, and for Sony

Yes, Sony. A few days ago, it seemed that in order to download DRM-free MP3s of music on the Sony BMG label, you had first to go to a store.

But Sony will start selling DRM-free music on AmazonMP3 at the end of the month. This is good news for those of us who see shopping as an expensive form of surfing, rather than as a reason to leave the house.

It’s also good news for Amazon. AmazonMP3, unlike iTunes, will offer DRM-free music from all four major record labels.

MP3 Player From Yahoo, Broadcasts From Austin

Yahoo has just released a new version of its browser-based MP3 player. Here’s how Mike Arrington described it: this is a very simple solution… it does not require any software on the PC beyond a browser. That’s a good thing.

It’s also very simple to put a playlist in a post: you just link to the MP3 files, include a very simple snippet of javascript, and when someone visits, they see the player. Since it does require javascript, I can’t use it here at WordPress.com, but you can hop over to my self-hosted WordPress blog to see a post using the Yahoo player.

The playlist comprises four of my favorite tracks from the second volume of KGSR’s Broadcasts CDs. KGSR is a radio station in Austin, Texas; it gets some great musicians into its studios, and the proceeds from the CDs go to great causes. The CDs sell out. I’m not sure when volume 2 did so, but I suspect that it was a long time ago, given that it came out in 1994.

The playlist starts with my favorite track from volume 2: Freedy Johnston doing “Bad Reputation” solo acoustic. It was the first version of the song I heard, and it spoiled me for the studio version. Then there’s a track each from Kirsty MacColl, Alejandro Escovedo, and Crowded House.

Music: 14 Rules, Starting With Disruption

Seth Godin lays out some lessons for the music industry. The first of them is so basic, it’s rule zero.

The new thing is never as good as the old thing, at least right now.
Soon, the new thing will be better than the old thing will be. But if you wait until then, it’s going to be too late.

The obvious new thing, in the context of music, is MP3: the file format, which is compressed, and players such as my new toy. It’s technically inferior to the combination of a CD and a decent stereo. But MP3 is cheaper (even when obtained legally), more portable, and it’s likely that MP3 and similar technologies will get better.

So, although Seth doesn’t come out and say it, his lessons are founded on a disruptive technology argument. Incumbents don’t usually cope well with such disruptions; the big record labels certainly aren’t coping well with MP3.

Therefore, I’m not convinced by Seth’s 6th lesson, which seems to imply that it’s easy for record labels to change business model. I don’t think that it will be.

There is, however, at least one big music incumbent that has adapted superbly to the disruption: Radiohead. I feel yet another Radiohead post coming on soon…

This Year’s MP3 Player

I just got a Sansa Clip 1 GB MP3 Player. To give an idea of how endearingly little the player is, here’s a picture of it next to a CD booklet. The album in question will be 30 this year, by the way, and is probably my second-favorite Costello album (after King of America).

There are of course lots of reviews of the Clip online, mostly very positive. For example, the wonderfully-named anythingbutipod praises its unique form factor and surprisingly good sound quality. I am happy with my purchase, particularly at less than $40 at Amazon, including shipping and a $5 credit at the MP3 store.