Lately, I've been struggling with what to do about my digital media collection. The main reason is because I recently purchased a new car and no longer have my nice mp3/cd player deck. In my car, I rarely listen to actual CDs. Most of the time, I burn them to an mp3cd and use those. However, I'm not about to tear out the deck in my new car, so I was planning on getting a portable player and wiring it into the head unit.
The other day, my roommate got this month's PC Magazine and I was flipping through it and came across an article about using online music services and "renting" your music. The argument was say you buy 100 CDs, which could come to about $1500. The online services (mainly Napster and Rhapsody) are $10/mo, so you could easily have access to those CDs online for close to 9 years for the same cost, but you also get access to a multitude of other CDs. The concept sounds attractive.
So, I signed up for a 7 day trial with Napster (mainly because they support certain portable players). I was quickly disappointed, primarily with the software. Main issues:
1) Slow. There is always a delay between clicking on something, getting a list of tracks, and then getting details on the artist/album/track.
2) Jumpy interface. When viewing a list of albums by an artist, there is a list on the left of the albums, then a main content window with album information on top of a track list below it. This is separated by a moveable frame. Say you click on an album, and it brings up a list of the tracks. Then it goes to get the details on the album. You go to double click on a track to listen to, as you click, it loads the content and then moves the divider, moving the location of the item you were clicking on elsewhere, thus you load the wrong one. This happens so much it is instantly annoying.
3) Quirky searching. To find everything on a particular artist, need to do a search, which brings back tracks, right click on one of them, and go to Browse Artist. Sounds like a kind of roundabout way to just find an artist.
4) Lame "session state". It has happened a couple times where I would be playing something and go to play something else and it says "your session has expired due to inactivity". Hello? I've been browsing different albums and was just playing something else, I am not inactive.
5) Have to actually purchase tracks to put them on a portable player. So unless you only want access to a bunch of music on your PC, it is pointless.
6) Limited track availability. A lot of the most popular tracks by artists (mainly older songs) are not available to listen to online, only for purchase. What is the point of that? Pay to get access to "unlimited" music and many popular tracks require an extra fee. Last night, I was in the mood for Mr. Crowley by Ozzy. No available to listen to on any of the albums it was on, only a live version.
7) Prices. So, there is $9.95/mo fee for stuff, but to buy tracks, it is still $.99/track. That is the same fee as many other online stores, that don't require a monthly fee. Also, their prices for an entire album are often higher than others like iTunes Music Store. So to get to a portable player, I need to buy it. To get certain songs that aren't available, I need to buy it. And to get an entire album, it costs more than others. So what is the point of paying $9.95/mo?
Think I'll stick to my own personal collection and will probably end up getting an iPod and using either the iTunes Music Store or MSN Music. IMO, subscription based services still have a long way to go.