Not the Lala: Grooveshark and Rhapsody

I miss Lala,and its extensive music library, more and more as I try other music services. Yes I am using the “does this service give me what I liked about Lala” test.

That test may be particularly unfair on Grooveshark, which has a music library comprising stuff that users have uploaded and labels haven’t demanded be taken down. Basic Grooveshark is free. VIP includes ad-free service and access to mobile clients. It usually costs $3 a month, but the first month is free for Lala refugees (thanks to Mashable for the heads-up).

Rhapsody provides a more direct comparison with Lala, and suffers for it. It has a smaller music library, is far less exciting on new release Tuesdays, insists that you download an app, wants that app to be the default player for all sorts of things, and… I think there are other things I’ve forgotten.

In sum, there is still an opening for Andrew’s favorite music service. If you have suggestions, particularly if you are a USA-based Lalagee (Lala refugee) and have found a new promised land, I’d love to read.

Rhapsody Goes Solo

I used to use Rhapsody almost every day, considering the monthly fee reasonable for music stream it bought me. About a year and a half ago, Lala became my main music service, and has remained so ever since.

Rhapsody logoToday’s news from Rhapsody was almost enough to make me try the service again. Rhapsody is more independent, more mobile, and less expensive. To quote from Evelyn Rusli at TechCrunch:

The digital music service is spinning off from its parent companies, MTV/Viacom and RealNetworks. The newly independent company is called Rhapsody International. In honor of its new status, the company is also releasing an Android app and dropping its premier monthly subscription fee by a third to $9.99 a month, from $14.99.

“We are free to move forward and chart our own market course,” says Rhapsody’s President Jon Irwin.

Congratulations and all the best to Rhapsody as it goes solo. I would have tried the free 14-day trial of the service, but for the likelihood that it wouldn’t be free for me. Signup for the free trial requires a credit card. To me, that’s like saying: you won’t just pay if you like the service, you’ll pay if you’re forgetful enough that you won’t cancel in time to avoid a charge – and you are that forgetful.

That reminds me: maybe there should be a service that cancels a service on a specified date unless you cancel the cancellation. I see that the domain is available. That in turn reminds me of Blippr, a service so annoying that it rendered today’s Mashable post on Rhapsody almost unreadable to me.

Changing Music Services

It is indeed a time of changes. There was that election thing, and now I’m changing music services. I’m moving to Lala. A previous post explains what I like about the service. I’ve used it, and have been happy with it, during the subsequent couple of weeks.

That’s not to say that I’ve been unhappy with Rhapsody Unlimited. It offers music dial tone on very reasonable terms: a 14-Day free trial, then only $12.99 per month. I’ve had to call support a couple of times, and it was pretty good each time.

I’ve dabbled in other services, such as eMusic. But I prefer dialtone for most of my music.

Having said that, the metaphor that works best for LaLa’s model is perhaps one of… computing. The music is on a server farm, where I can sample it for free. To bring a track on to my own personal virtual music server, I pay a dime, and I can then listen to it as often as I want. If I want to cache that track, so that I can put it on my MP3 player, burn it to a CD for the car, etc., I buy the MP3, and pay about the same or a little less than I’d expect to pay elsewhere.

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 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.

Momofuku de Mayo

Yes, it’s Momofuku day for those Elvis Costello fans who don’t own a turntable. By the way, I suspect that many of us in that category wish we still did own a turntable.

I’m on my second listen to the album right now. The first was via Rhapsody at work, through PC speakers. The current listen is at home, streaming from Lost Highway Records and coming out through semi-real speakers. On the basis of those listens, and some earlier listens to other versions of Momofuku tracks, I’m pleased.

I’m not sure how long the album will stream from the record label’s site. I thank Stereogum for telling me about the stream. By the way, it was at another post at the same site that I saw the wonderful quote from the wonderfully quotable Lou Reed: I can’t wear the sunglasses now because I’d fall over a cable.

Juliana Hatfield Blogs About My So-Called Life

That’s My So-Called Life the TV show, which would be on any top 10 TV list I made. It starred a young Claire Danes. There was only one series.

The Christmas episode featured Juliana Hatfield, who is still making music. She’s also blogging, and recently wrote a very interesting post about her MSCL appearance (link via Stereogum).

She was originally approached to write a song for the episode. This, by the way, was back in the day when TV and indie music didn’t know each other well.

The song would need to be mournful but also kind of uplifting, somehow; to express the angel character’s tragic circumstances and ultimate end, but also the spirit of Christmas — rebirth, hope, love, compassion and all that jazz… Did I think I could give them something like that? Something that was mine — my own distinctive voice — but composed using their guidelines.

I was game. I thought it would be a fun exercise. To be given a task with a blueprint was, for me, exciting and challenging, and also a bit of a relief. Having rules or limitations can be very liberating just as having total freedom to do whatever you want, however you want, can be sort of paralyzing.

I like the way that Juliana embraces the constraints as helpful. I also like her realism about being a musician these days.

So don’t give me any grief if you ever hear a song of mine in a car/shampoo/steakhouse commercial, okay? Not very many people buy music anymore so I might have to find other ways to pay for the making and promotion of my future albums.

As I write this, I’m enjoying Accelerate, which sounds on first listening to be more interesting than REM have been in a while. Did I buy it? Sort of, I’m streaming it on Rhapsody. I’ll probably check out some recent Juliana Hatfield next…

Yottapology to Rhapsody

I am one of several who may have been too critical of Rhapsody over the Yottamusic shutdown. I once again follow Fred Wilson, who wrote yesterday that: I owe Rhapsody an apology here. It’s not entirely their fault. They are not luddites. They are in bed with luddites.

I should add that it’s impossible to do what Rhapsody (or any remotely similar music service) is doing without being in bed with some rather large luddites. Apparently Rhapsody could not, under the terms of its contracts with the record labels, allow Yottamusic to carry on doing what it was doing.

Yottamusic Gone, at Rhapsody’s Request

One of the best things about web services is that they can be combined. This makes the web a richer place for us users. It also makes the web a better place to do business. Your service becomes better when other organizations provide complements to it.

For example, Yottamusic was a complement to Rhapsody. Rhapsody provides “music dial tone,” and also provides a couple of interfaces to that dial tone: its web site, and a downloadable client. I use the web site.

Yottamusic provided a different interface. I tried it and quite liked it, but not enough to use it regularly. Others liked and used it more: good for them, for Yottamusic, and for Rhapsody, I thought.

It seems that Rhapsody didn’t see Yottamusic as good. According to Bijan Sabet (a fellow Bostonian, I see), Yottamusic recently closed at the request of Rhapsody.

That’s really awful and poor judgement on Rhapsody’s part. The Rhapsody web site is quite unusable and YottaMusic is like a breath of fresh air. But for some reason they were considered some sort of threat. Blech.

Please join me and let’s together ask the Rhapsody team to let Luke [Matkins, Yottamusic founder] & YottaMusic live.

Fred Wilson seems to consider “poor judgement on Rhapsody’s part” to be an understatement. The fact that they’ve shut down yotta shows that they are old school luddites without a clue.

I have to agree. If Rhapsody treats providers of complements to its service like this, it’s in severe and well-deserved danger of joining the major record labels: on the critical list due to festering self-inflicted gunshot wounds to the foot.