Hits the Right Notes
Review of the RealRhapsody Music Service
may not fully realize it now, but we've been living through an unprecedented
revolution in music. As part of the "Download Generation,"
we've seen music transform from a music industry-controlled packaged
commodity to a listener-controlled experience. A decade ago, the
thought of being able to hear any song anytime was a ridiculous
notion. Even the geekiest of us scoffed when the first digital music
formats came out. I specifically remember my brother telling me
about some thing called A2B that allowed you to put music on your
PC as a file. I thought it was silly. I knew how large sound files
were and couldn't think of any reason why I'd want music on my PC
anyway. I think I investigated it halfheartedly and moved on.
I was wrong and probably should have quit my job and started a digital
music service. If I had, I doubt I would have come up with anything
as good as RealRhapsody.
heard some people balk at the notion of spending $9.99 a month for
a music service. However, these same people don't balk at the idea
of paying anywhere from $12-$17 for a CD that they may listen to
a few times and realize half of the songs are terrible. RealRhapsody
ensures that will never happen again.
$9.99/month, RealRhapsody allows you to listen to any song in its
huge catalog (500,000 and counting) as many times as you want. If
you decide you want to download the song, you can burn it to a CD
for 79 cents. That makes the average album price about $8-$9 which
is a ittle more than half of what it costs to buy them retail.
at it this way. Assume the average cost of a CD is $15 (which is
what Amazon charges) and the average album has 12 songs. For Rhapsody
a 12-song album is $9.50, but you have to add $10.00 for the monthly
subscription. Here's how a likely scenario breaks down:
granted, you can find CDs cheaper at some places and some albums
have more than 12 songs, making the Rhapsody CD incrementally more,
but you can see that for the average music purchaser, a monthly
fee should not be a hindrance. However, lower cost is only part
of the RealRhapsody equation.
work in an office and, like many people who work in offices, I need
music to keep my spirits up and shut out the insanity around me.
With Rhapsody I can listen to almost anything I want all day. I
can create a huge playlist
of random favorite songs or just listen to the entire collection
of one of my favorite artists. If I get tired of picking my own
music I can turn on one of the many existing radio
stations or create my own. Even if I never bought another CD
(not likely) through RealRhapsody, that's worth $9.99 a month.
Finding music is simple, just type in a search term and then select
Artist, Track, Album, or Composer. You'll be presented with a list
of matches or possible matches. If it's an exact artist match it
will simply open the artist's home page. The
artist's home page itself is a shining example of great interface
the left side of the Artist's home page you see all
the albums that Rhapsody has for the artist including compilations
on which they've appeared. On the top center is a photo of the artist
and a summary about them. Below that is a sample list of their most
popular songs. Below that is a list of the genres to which the artist
belongs. On the top right is a list of music videos for the artist
and a radio station that plays the artist's genre of music. Below
that is my favorite feature, the Similar
Artists list. Once you start using the Similar Artists list
you'll want to play with it all day, finding new music and reminding
yourself of artists you've forgotten.
can also use the Browse
Genres feature off the Rhapsody Home page to find more music
that might interest you. The home page itself features different
artists and usually does a fine job of helping you discover new
area lets you know the latest albums that have been added to the
RealRhapsody library. It's a welcome peek "behind the scenes"
and is a good indication of how the library grows every day.
to the Band
Each song listed has three relevant icons next to it: Save to Library,
Play Now, and a little flame symbol that means the song can be burned
to CD. Most songs can be burned, but you will occasionally run into
a song that can't. What about downloading the song to your hard
drive? Well, you can't. Not directly anyway. You can only burn the
song to CD. Sure, you can burn a CD and then rip the songs to whatever
format you want, but it's a definite tradeoff compared to the other
music download services.
weakness that will hopefully be rectified in the next version is
the Playlist system. It's a bit awkward to manage playlists. It's
easy to build onejust click on the "Play Now" icon
and the song is added to the current playlist. But editing and organizing
playlists is no treat. There's a lot of reopening and resaving and
nothing is as simple as drag-and-drop.
If you decide to burn a CD you will be pleasantly surprised at the
process. RealRhapsody recognizes most CD burners easily and the
burning process is quite fast. I was able to burn a 15 song CD to
my 48X CD burner in about 12 minutes. There's some time buffering
and whatnot but the whole process is very straightforward and quick.
If you want to play songs from RealRhapsody on a portable MP3
player you'll have to rip the CDs you create. Hopefully, Real will
realize this functional awkwardness and make it possible to download
directly to MP3 players at some point.
Rhapsody is a true marvel of the music download generation.
It's not perfect, but the selection is large, the interface is fantastic,
and the features are exceptional. Things to fix? Allow downloads
and overhaul the Playlist feature. It's almost scary to think how
addictive it will become.
Tech Scores scores (1-5):
have it on 24X7
the game. Music is ours again.
don't get it until they use it. Then look out.