On a lark, I subscribed to the Rhapsody Unlimited music subscription service, lured in the by their 14-day free trial ($10/month after that). I had fun with Pandora, but wanted to try something that gave me more control over what I listened to. In this case, complete control. Rhapsody has over 1.3M songs, and gives you the power to listen to any of them in any order. That sounds like a lot, and it is, but you’ll still run across missing albums, and occasionally missing artists. At least they have a button that reveals all of an artist’s missing albums.
Listening on the go
One of the benefits of the Unlimited service is Rhapsody To Go, which allows you to download tracks to a compatible portable device (the ones that say Subscription). There are 3 catches in that statement: 1) you are a current Rhapsody Unlimited subscriber, 2) your MP3 player is Janus/PlaysForSure compatible (iPods aren’t), and 3) you’re using Windows XP. And 4 catches if you include the fact that not all Rhapsody tracks are Subscription tracks, but in my experience almost all are. The quality of purchased and downloaded tracks is 128K, in WMA, AAC, or MP3.
Since I don’t see myself dropping the service anytime soon, I’m highly motivated to get a Subscription compatible player. Because I’d like an expandable player, I’m leaning towards the Sandisk e200 with a microSD slot, removable recharbable battery, FM tuner, and voice recorder, due out in March (happy birthday to me). [Attention Sandisk: when your marketing dept. launches a product at CES, without so much as a press release on your website, it’s time to fire them.]
Listening at home
You can listen two ways, through their web interface or their dedicated client. I usually use the client/jukebox software for its interface and convenience features. If you add a track to your library, it can download it so you can listen to it even when the site is down (which happens occasionally). Assuming you’re a current subscriber, of course, and are using Windows XP (I’m guessing it’s a DRM issue). You can purchase tracks for $.89 and albums for $7.99.
I don’t know how much music I listened to before, but I find with Rhapsody I listen to about 3 albums a night. It allows me to more thoroughly explore artists and genres. I find I’ll listen to classic rock musicians from past to present, until they start sucking (which happens pretty consistently as they approach the 1980s), and indie musicians from present to past, for pretty much the same reasons. I’m generalizing, but there’s definitely a pattern there, and it’s cool to see how the artists evolve (or devolve).
They also have several pre-programmed radio stations to help you explore new stuff, and allow you to create a station based on your tastes, like Pandora. I haven’t tried the custom station feature, and would be impressed if it was as good as Pandora, but I’ve been too busy albums to check.