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Other subscription services
squiggleslash
Just to make sure I've done my due-diligence, I've looked at a few other "subscription" services to see what they offer.

The name Napster has been bought by a pay service, currently owned by Best  Buy. They're cheaper, at as little as $8 per month for a service supporting mobile devices, but from what I can determine they have no reliable off-line service - the system will cache some of your music, but you can't say "I want to download this playlist or this album", and the only supported portable devices are smartphones and tablet/PDAs - ie devices you can upload apps to that have permanent internet access. On the other hand, if all you want to do is streaming, they seem like a fairly good option, as streaming-only to any web browser costs around $5 per month. I can't comment on the quality, but this seems like a pretty decent deal.

Another option is iMesh. Unlike Napster, iMesh really is a P2P service that negotiated with the record labels to find a way to go legal while remaining P2P and continuing to have a complete music library, and in some ways it's as close as you'll get to the "Pay a subscription every month to download as much music as you want" model advocated during the RIAA lawsuits. iMesh is free for freely distributable content, or $15 per month for content that has been identified, using audio signatures, as music controlled by the major labels. In that case, there's some DRM involved.

iMesh's major issue, for me, is that it goes back to the proprietary software chain that makes DRM unusable to me. There's no GNU/Linux client, and you have to use the official client to transfer DRM-ridden audio to the finite range of supported MP3 players. On top of this, you also have the major problem associated with user uploaded content - finding what you want, and making sure it really is what you want. iMesh also put my back up by having a website that's almost entirely content free. Finding pricing, for example, involved me googling (using Bing, of course) , until I found a recent forum post with the information.

(For much the same reason, eMusic also pissed me off by having no information on actual real world costs. eMusic uses some kind of hybrid pricing model that's not all-you-can-eat and thus isn't a Rhapsody alternative, but I'm somewhat amazed these companies are going out of their way to hide the prices. Why would I sign up to something when I don't know anything about it beyond "It sells music"?)

For now, with all the mobile phone companies placing very hard limits on the amount of data you can transfer (even T-Mobile cuts your connection to 56kbps if you download more than 5G per month) that are somewhat low, I'm inclined to prefer Rhapsody over Napster - but if I worked at home, I might have a different view of that. The major issue I have with Rhapsody is the price, it's not a bad deal, but it's not trivial either.

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I don't know if you've heard, but eMusic recently changed their pricing structure so that there can now be variable track pricing. I am still going to use their service, but maybe on a cheaper plan. Still waiting to see what effect this will have on their catalogue.

Over here we also have Spotify, which I was lukewarm towards at first, but am now finding to be actually rather good.


Well, like I said one problem I had with eMusic is that there's virtually no pricing information on their site - you can't even find out what the pricing structure is until you sign up. I'm kind of baffled to be honest.

I don't have a problem with variable pricing, it seems logical to me - who on Earth thinks I'd consider the Birdie Song to be worth as Another Brick in the Wall.. I understand it means there's the potential for labels to "over-charge", but if they try nobody's going to buy the songs they overcharge on anyway. Or so I think. Maybe.

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