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Achilles’ Heels: The greatest weakness(es) of each music service

There are several excellent choices for music subscription services in the US (and to a lesser extent in other countries as well.)  All cost about the same, offer similar features, and finding out which one is best for you can be a challenge.

Spotify’s entrance into the US market has made this somewhat easier by forcing most of the other services to offer a more robust no-cost service level to match the options it offers.  But it can still be difficult to make an informed decision because these free levels don’t always offer all that each service has in terms of features.

This is the first of two articles that will provide an overview of the weaknesses (this article) and then the strengths (the second article) for each of the major subscription services available in the US.  These will be fairly quick bullet-point lists, and can be elaborated upon in the comments (if any).

Slacker: library size

  • Up until recently Slacker was solely a “customized radio station” service ala Pandora, but a few months ago they branched out to offering a more traditional subscription service in addition to that which lets you listen to specific albums in their entirety, and craft custom playlists. Unfortunately Slacker’s library of songs available for anytime/offline listening is woefully small when compared to its competitors. It has many strengths and is an excellent customized radio service, but when it comes to number of songs you can make custom playlists for and/or download to your mobile devices it lags far behind the others

rdio: library size

  • rdio’s library used to be almost as woefully lacking as Slacker’s, but they’ve worked very hard at beefing it up, and the gap is much MUCH less than it used to be. It’s still on the smaller side compared to the other services, but not that much. It’s a testament to how good rdio is that even though the gap is a small one it still qualifies as their greatest weakness.

Napster: it’s going away

  • Napster’s subscribers will be merged w/Rhapsody next month (if all stays on schedule), so Napster is out of the picture. That’s a shame, because it had some unique strengths that may not be preserved in the upcoming merge.  (But, if they ARE preserved and added on top of Rhapsody’s formidable service things will get quite interesting!)

Rhapsody: cost / playlist generation

  • Rhapsody’s greatest weakness depends on your needs.  If you want to listen to it on one mobile device (i.e. smartphone, tablet, or iPod Touch) then it costs $10/month like its competitors.  BUT, if you want to listen on more than one mobile device then it costs $15/month, making it 50% more expensive than the other services which include 3 or more mobile devices in their $10/month offerings. 
  • If you don’t care about more than one mobile device, then Rhapsody’s greatest weakness is its ability to generate cohesive playlists.  Like MOG or rdio, Rhapsody lets you pick an artist as the basis for generating a playlist of music by related artists, but UNLIKE those two services which are adept at doing that, Rhapsody’s playlists are almost comically hamfisted most of the time. They seem to operate at the broadest levels of genre type. They do have some decent curated radio stations and playlists, but it’s much weaker than its competitors when it comes to artist-inspired stations.

Spotify: Mobile app feature set

  • Spotify has an excellent (albeit staid) desktop client with lots of solid features. Up until recently I would have said “playlist generation” is its greatest weakness as well, but the additions of the Artist Radio tab for (most) artists and the “Radio” option that lets you specify a mix of (still excessively broad) genres have helped address that.  BUT, the problem is that these features have not made it to their mobile clients yet.  In general Spotify’s mobile apps are quite stable and have a slick UI (especially the Android version), but there isn’t nearly as much feature consistency between their desktop feature set and their mobile apps feature sets as there needs to be and that inconsistency can be really annoying, for example when you want to listen to an artist radio station but can’t because you’re using your cell phone at the time.

Mog: Limited Feature Sets (both desktop and mobile)

  • Mog’s newly updated desktop client is slick but overly-minimalist. Their former site (which you can still get into in a “back door” sort of way) had lots of great content albeit in a rather scattered format.  The former site offered lots of excellent content reviews by both users and professional sources, and also a handy way to browse new releases by genre. None of that has yet made it to the new (web-based) interface. While I like the new web interface very much for what it currently does, adding some of the lost features back will make it top notch.  On the mobile client side they have astonishingly neglected to add the ability to add songs to your playlists.  As someone who is constantly creating/tweaking/growing his playlists this is incredibly annoying. True the mobile apps let you mark songs as “favorites”, but a large undifferentiated mass of great music just doesn’t cut it, and it’s very puzzling that MOG has yet to see fit to add playlist editing to its mobile clients, something ALL of its competitors have.

Now that we’ve reviewed the most important deficiencies in each service, keep an eye out for the next post (coming in a few days) that’ll outline what is best about each of them.  The good news is that all of these services are surprisingly good, and in each case the good definitely outweighs the bad.  The bad news is it makes deciding between them more difficult, but that’s a good problem to have!

Filed under slacker rhapsody napster rdio mog spotify

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2 notes &

rdio iPad app now available

Great news for fans of rdio, they know have a version of their app that is optimized for the iPad!  While other services’ apps (such as Mog) work reasonably well on the iPad and other tablets, this is the first tablet-specific version of an app to come along since Slacker released theirs.

iPad owners who have rdio should run, not walk, to get this installed and check it out!

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Rdio Hits 10 Million Songs

Rdio continues to address one of its major weaknesses: a smaller music library than it’s competitors.  This is great news because it keeps them in the running as a viable music subscription service to consider.

Much as I admire Slacker’s extensive station crafting features, their “premium” feature’s extremely limited song catalog makes it unacceptable to me.  At first I had relegated rdio to the “also ran” pile, but with their recent strides they have shown they’re able to address this, and I hope they continue closing the gap.  

Good job, rdio!

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17 notes &

Public beta launch of

The new service has just launched their public beta.  Their basic description of their service:

Radical.FM combines user tailored music stations (like Pandora™ and Slacker™) with on-demand playlist functionality (like Rhapsody™ and Spotify™), and adds unique social networking and powerful personal broadcasting capabilities. Please be advised that this is a free beta site and you may experience bugs. The service works best in Chrome.

Probably the easiest thing is to head over there and check it out for yourself with a free account!  Please leave comments with any thoughts on their service: how does it stack up vs. the competition?  

I’ll post first impressions in a couple days.

Filed under radicalfm radical fm rhapsody spotify pandora slacker rdio mog napster

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Radical New Social Music Service Gives the Listener Complete Control

This new “social” cloud music service will eventually offer an on-demand subscription option too, and they’re saying it’ll have a 12 million+ song library when it comes out.

That makes this a service worth watching for us subscription/cloud music service fans!  It’s just in private beta right now, although you can be put on a mailing list to be notified when it becomes more generally available.

Filed under radical fm new cloud music subscription service personal radio pandora slacker

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15 notes &

Qriocity now on Android

Sony’s “Qriocity” music subscription service is now available on Android phones as well as via the web, PS3, or other Sony devices.

I’d be interested in trying it out, but they claim a library of only 7 million songs, which is unfortunately anemic compared to the competition.  If I’m going to go with a service with a smaller library my first choice would be Slacker, which has great metadata, station creation tools, and a very robust UI.

But, if anyone uses Qriocity I’d love to hear what it’s like.  Despite the library size concerns I’ll probably give their free trial a shot soon to see if there’s any interesting features.

Filed under sony qriocity slacker new service subscription

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Slacker on-demand: a quick take

After a really quick first look at Slacker’s new On Demand service, here are the highlights for me:

  • Small music selection: As I feared their 8 million track library just isn’t stacking up compared to some of their more established competitors in terms of selection
  • EXCELLENT metadata: As with their other services, the metadata provided in terms of artist bios, album reviews & release dates, etc. is superb
  • An iPad app!  An article in Technologizer mentions they have an iPad app.This is the first music subscription service to take advantage of the iPads generous real estate, and I’ll be eagerly checking that app out later tonight.
  • No ability to fast forward/reverse in a song still
  • Ability to create/modify playlists looks substantial. 

As mentioned in the previous post, I’ll have a more complete overview in a week or so.  (I’ll also put out my overview of Mog next too, since that’s the last of the other major subscription services I haven’t given an overview of yet.)

Filed under slacker premium subscription service first impression impressions

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Slacker Gets a Big Push From Verizon

It looks like Slacker just got a big leg up from Verizon: The latest Android update Verizon has pushed out to their Droid Incredible owners includes an automatic install of the latest version of Slacker.  While some phone owners will probably be annoyed at the lack of choice on the install, I’m sure most will check it out and be intrigued.

It’ll be interesting to see how much this increases Slacker’s user base.  With them preparing to roll out a more fully featured subscription service in the near-future it seems they have a significant advantage over the competition because they are being automatically installed, and don’t have to wait for the typical Incredible user to find out about them and choose to download. 

Filed under slacker verizon droid android incredible install update

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