[Smt-talk] online music (audio) service comparison

Victor grauer victorag at verizon.net
Sun Nov 8 08:46:03 PST 2009

At 09:33 AM 11/6/2009, David K Feurzeig wrote:
>I'm interested in SMT-listers' experience with various online audio
>libraries, such as Naxos, The Classical Music Library, eMusic, etc.

I subscribed to eMusic for a long time and really liked it, 
especially because really long tracks counted as one track, so a 
classical music lover got a good deal. Also because of their wide 
range of off-beat recordings, including lots of stuff only an 
ethnomusicologist (like me) would be interested in. But then they 
changed the rules, making it much more expensive to download longer 
tracks, so I quit.

After looking around for a while, I discovered Rhapsody. They have a 
free trial which I tried and I discovered that for me it was perfect. 
In fact it's more than perfect, it's changed my life!

You can subscribe for about $15.00 a month and for that you get 
unlimited access to their library, which includes just about 
everything out there. But it's important to understand exactly what 
that means. You can listen to any CD or selected tracks from any CD, 
more or less as though it was a radio broadcast, i.e., you are only 
listening, NOT downloading music you can keep. The $15 a month plan 
also includes unlimited free downloads to an approved MP3 player. 
However these downloads automatically erase themselves after a month 
or so. If you want to download mp3's to keep on a permanent basis, 
there is a charge for each track, usually about a dollar.  The only 
thing I don't like is the user interface, which makes it much harder 
to browse around in their (huge) collection. You have to know what 
you are looking for and do a specific search. eMusic makes it really 
easy to browse around in the various categories and also easy to find 
what's new in each.

Here's how I'd rate Rhapsody for each of your criteria:

>*breadth and depth of repertoire
>   (including whether it includes classicalmusic, modern "art music",
>world music, etc.)

They have literally everything, as far as I can tell.

>*file formats & quality

Downloaded format is mp3. Quality on my fairly decent system is excellent.

>*ease of use; interface quality

Interface is adequate but browsing around can be tedious.

>*platform & browser compatibilities

I think they're compatible with both PC and Mac. Works on Firefox and 
Explorer for sure.

>*streaming or downloadable files

Streaming is great, with excellent quality and no interruptions, 
though track changes can be a nuisance -- especially when a track 
change occurs during a continuos performance, as in opera.

>*search functionality

Searching is excellent and you can usually find what you want easily, 
if you know what you want.

>*pricing, individual and institutional

$15 bucks a month for the version with mp3 downloading. If you're not 
interested in that you can save maybe 2 bucks a month.


Everything is licensed, as far as I know.

Rhapsody, like certain drugs advertised on TV, "may not be for 
everyone." But for me it's great, because I can listen to just about 
anything available for a low monthly fee. I know this sounds like an 
ad, but it's not, I have no interest in the company, I just love what it does.

Victor Grauer
Pgh. PA

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