I’ve always been a fan of subscription music and started years ago with Rhapsody using their service to fill my Creative Zen MP3 players. I switched to Napster a few years ago because I preferred their use of WMA files as opposed to Rhapsody’s real file format (Rhapsody now does WMA too :-). Napster (now owned by Best Buy) has recently abandoned the DRM’d device support (via Microsoft’s PlaysForSure) for new accounts. Now, you can stream all the music you want and are allowed to download a certain number of MP3s depending on the plan you sign up for.
For some reason, it’s hard to find their pricing on the site, but Napster has monthly ($7), 3-month ($15) and annual plans ($60). The monthly gives you credit for 5 songs, the 3-month gives 15 and the annual 60. Why go for the annual with no apparent price advantage? Well, the credits are only good during the plan period, so with the 3-month plan, after 3 months you lose any unused song credits and start over with 15. With the annual, you get a whole year to use the credit for 60 songs. Keep in mind that the songs are unDRM’d MP3s so you can keep them even if you stop using the service.
Rhapsody is $10 per month with no credits, but you can download songs, albeit DRM’d, to multiple devices, like the iPhone or a PC. MOG has no downloading features and costs $10/mo. Downloading is nice because you can play the songs without being connected to the Internet. (FYI, to download to an iPhone using Rhapsody you must create a playlist first.)
I recently tried the 4-day trial of MOG.com, but hate the way it’s implemented. Napster and Rhapsody both have the concept of a personal Library. You load your library up with all your favorite music. This is nice because you can quickly select from just the music you like. MOG makes you browse through everything to choose what to play. Sure, there are playlists and suggestions, but I can’t remember all the artists I like. This analogy should put it in perspective: With Rhapsody and Napster, it’s like searching through your CDs or MP3 collection to find something to listen to. You can always go the “store” and add things to your collection or just listen to stuff at the “store.” With MOG, you generally have to select from the entire “store’s” inventory.
Another thing that irritated me with MOG is that it has no ability to treat an album as a single unit, so to add an entire album to, say, a playlist, you have to add each individual song one at a time!
Rhapsody has a great iPhone app that will play music in the background. It’s nice because your Library and playlists are automatically synced between your devices. The MOG app doesn’t do background playing and Napster doesn’t even have an app.
Now, no subscription service will have every single artist, album or song you want, but I’d say they hit 99%. Now and then there’s that aggravating one song that is not streamable or downloadable. Of course, with Napster you’ve got the ability to your your credits which is pretty cool. The real benefit of these services in my opinion is the older stuff you wouldn’t normally have on your MP3 player. You know, you hear a snippet or some oddball song just comes to mind. More often than not, it’s right at my finger tips. You never know when you’ll get the itch to hear “Too Shy” by Kajagoogoo!
There are definitely significant differences between these three services. I’d recommend testing them out. All have free trials, although MOG is the only one that doesn’t require a credit card.
Anyways, right now I have both Napster and Rhapsody. I let my daughter use Napster and I use Rhapsody. It’s nice having separate accounts because we can have separate libraries.
I just discovered that the new Napster plans do not let you download DRM’d songs to your PC. For this you need the old Napster to Go plan which is $15 per month. They don’t seem to be pushing this plan very hard and it’s not even listed when you try to sign up. Now the benefit is that you can download DRM’d songs to a PlaysForSure mobile device–assuming you could find one. They used to have a $10 plan that only allowed you to download to a PC, but not a mobile device, but apparently that doesn’t exist anymore. Anyways, I may switch my daughter to Rhapsody to save $5 a month since I no longer use any PlaysForSure devices. This is crazy!