Lala and Rhapsody and Napster, oh my(space)!

22 10 2008

If there’s one certainty in the music industry right now, it’s that no one is certain where the future of the music industry really lies.  After the explosion and subsequent downfall of Napster, it became pretty clear that the music industry needs to learn how to dominate the digital world, before it is destroyed by it.  However, exactly what kind of digital world that is, still remains unclear.

Being a leader in the technology realm, Apple initially monopolized on digital downloads.  Though from the beginning there were a lot of criticisms.  I mean, DRM protected music is just a pain in the butt and now digital distribution and sharing is easier and easier, so $.99 a song seems pretty steep.  But the music industry has been stuck in a very old model, and until the digital explosion really started hitting their bottom lines, they weren’t really interested in discussing new business models…until now.  I think it’s pretty clear that iTunes-as it stands now-is not the future.  People will not pay $.99/song for every song they want to listen to, and only be able to listen to 30 second samples. I love you Apple, but unless you have a new digital music model up your sleeve, the iTunes music store is going to sit in music history along with the tape.

So here come the next big players.  Originally there was Napster, and then soon afterwards Rhapsody, and now there’s even a re-emerging Lala (couldn’t have been that popular the first time as I’ve just heard of it.  I’m sure there are more, but they obviously aren’t doing much).  Each has their own sort of unlimited digital listening coupled with DRM free MP3 buyable downloads.  And what’s the newest one to enter into the game?  Well if you haven’t heard, it’s ever so popular MySpace with MySpace Music…like we couldn’t see that one coming.  MySpace pages to bands are like breasts to Jessica Simpson…they just wouldn’t get anywhere without them.  So it’s no wonder that they’ve decided to enter into the digital music world, and like they did with MySpace, do it in their own way.

What I’m wondering is…what the heck differentiates one site from another?  And what’s going to make MySpace different? Well, I’ve done a little researching…and here’s what I’ve picked up…

How do their libraries compare?
I think Napster, Rhapsody, and Lala are all going to be pretty much comparable on this one. Myspace Music, as it stands wins on variety of bands, but loses in full length albums and digital downloads.

What can you get for free?
Napster:  7 day trial, 30 second clips
Rhapsody:  7 day trial, or 25 full song listens/month, then 30 second clips
Lala:  25 free web songs, listen to each song once for free, then  30 second clips,
MySpace:  listen to everything for free, all the time, ad supported

Online listening charges:
Napster:  $12.95/month – unlimited online listening, build & save playlists
Rhapsody:  $12.99/month – unlimited online listening, build & save playlists
Lala:  no monthly charge for single listens, $.10/web download (to add to web library that you can listen to unlimited), which is about 130 songs at the price of the other two.  But…Lala has a feature where you can “upload” your current library to your web library which means all your music online, all the time…. I like this…I really like this, and it’s free.
Myspace Music:  Free unlimited; supported by pop up ads.

MP3 downloads (some albums vary):
Napster:  $.99/song, $9.95/album
Rhapsody:  $.99/song, $9.99/album
Lala:  $.79-$.99/song, $7.49/album…sounds like they win, but the MP3 store doesn’t seem to be complete yet so that’s a setback.
MySpace Music:  have to buy from Amazon, so in my opinion, this feature doesn’t really belong to myspace.  It’s like Rhapsody sending you to iTunes.

Portability:
Napster: $14.95 on compatible players: Windows only…that’s just terrible
Rhapsody: $14.99 on compatible players: Windows only…seriously?  Do you know how popular macs are getting?
LaLa:  None as of yet.  Have to buy the mp3s.  Guess us Mac users have to stick to our iPods & MP3s
Myspace Music:  None as of yet

Playlists:
Napster:  Build from anything in their library, or browse others, I think you can share it, but I can’t really figure much out on this site as it doesn’t seem very user-friendly
Rhapsody: Build from anything in their library, or browse others, share yours with friends and the Rhapsody community.  Has a built in Facebook app.
Lala:  Build from anything in their library that you’ve purchased as a web download, or your own that you’ve uploaded.  Share via email/facebook or embed on websites.
Myspace:  Build from anything in their library, browse others, and share via your profile, but not anywhere else online.  The good news is you can build playlists from your local unknown bands that may not be on the other sites.  The bad news is they don’t have many full albums.

Online Radio:
This is not really a feature in my mind. With so many other choices out there for online radio like iChannel, Pandora, Last.fm, Yahoo, AOL, Slacker…just to name a few, why would you ever choose based on this?

So there’s a brief list of some differences in the music subscription services.  I would still rely on iLike for concert notifications and such, but when it comes to paying for a music subscription, I think the choice is still somewhat unclear and constantly changing so it could still be anyone’s game, although I’m opting for Lala, because of my fear of commitment…and because they’ll work with my existing library.

MySpace Music has a lot of potential but it is still to early to see how it’s business plan will really pan out, I mean, the ink hasn’t even dried on the deals with the music labels.  One thing is for sure, it will be interesting for my music-nerd side to see how the site evolves. You can’t argue that they have the right idea…I mean making advertisers pay for me to listen to free music?  I’ll take it.  And you have to love their ambition and ideal of making a music world that really gives all artists a strong platform to not only network, but make money off of music, concerts sales, and merchandise all in one place (and do so with cute little bulletin notifications).  MySpace will win in the networking sense of it all (as it has already), but as far as managing my music online, MySpace Music has a long way to go before their plans come to fruition and it’s unclear to me how I’ll be able to have a consistent library online that is also on my computer, that I can also take with me in a portable player, and listen to in my car…because whoever can do that, and do it for the cheapest, will be the winner in my eyes.

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2 responses

23 10 2008
Nancy

Amen sister … Id be in the world of the musically challenged if it weren’t for myspace music. Where else do I turn to look up these random bands you are always talking about?!

26 10 2008
Jess

I’m all about looking into Lala now. Thanks for the info!

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