Steve Jobs in an interview with Reuters following Apple’s first quarter earnings call dismissed his company’s plans to offer a subscription music service, even though record labels have been putting pressure on Apple to launch a competitive offering to Rhapsody and Napster.
“Never say never, but customers don’t seem to be interested in it…The subscription model has failed so far…People want to own their music.”
Jobs’ position on subscription music notwithstanding, I have a new found appreciation for Real’s Rhapsody to go service, thanks to their efforts to extend their service to non-PC devices.
Some of the non-PC devices Rhapsody currently supports include Sonos Music System, Nokia N95 phone and the Nokia N800 Internet tablet. That might not be enough but it is a start, and if Real can get developer support for its “music everywhere” strategy, they have a fighting chance of becoming a solid #2 in the digital music business.
I say solid #2 because, Apple has pretty much won the download-and-own music game, and it is difficult to switch over, especially for someone like me who spends close to $100 a month buying music and baseball videos from the iTunes store.
The situation is not unlike the PC business, where Apple is the preferred option to Windows. Apple’s user experience is superior, and that’s precisely what Real should be going for – convenience and excellent user experience – especially on devices like mobile phones. (Blackberry 8800 should be next on their list, now that it can handle large capacity MicroSD cards.)
Is Real close to offering a compelling user experience? Not even close! Yet, there is a value proposition, that might appeal to some.
As part of my Nokia N95 review, I signed up for Real Rhapsody To Go service. The sign-up was the easy part, but trying to navigate the Rhapsody desktop software wasn’t as easy – I guess mostly because my brain has been programmed to use the iTunes store. There are quite a few options that are seriously confusing.
One of the challenges of using the Rhapsody to Go service was authorizing devices. Despite right clicking on the N95 as the software prompted me to, I found it nearly impossible to do so. A simple pop-up saying: “Do you want to add this N95 to your authorized device list?” would have been a much simpler solution. There are other usability challenges, which might prevent this service from becoming mainstream. It is a cumbersome process, and not as smooth (and simple) as iPod.
In fact, I am not alone in thinking along these lines. Ricky Cadden, a Symbian Guru of sorts, writes, “Syncing of music needs to improve, plain and simple, and capacity needs to improve as well.”
That said, once you are set-up, the service works flawlessly. I created a playlist of about 500 songs – mostly ChillOut music – and hit transfer and went to the Starbucks Office for an espresso, smoke and just some contemplation. I came back to find the music loaded into the phone, ready to rock. A great pair of headphones, such as Clear Harmony Noise Canceling Headphones from Able Planet, or Shure’s SE530 Sound Isolating Earphones is all you need to be-bop on your phone.
I probably will remain a Rhapsody subscriber – It’s cheap enough – using their music subscription service as a way to defray some of the music spending. (A statistical analysis shows that I listen to about 12% of the songs purchased on an ongoing basis, which means there is about 88% inefficiency in my buying behavior, which can be replaced by listen before buy strategy. Money saved is of course going to be spent on movie downloads. But Real needs to get real about Rhapsody. It needs to make it simple, and easier to use than the iTunes experience. Not easy, but not impossible, especially if they are betting the farm on Rhapsody everywhere. Read: Darla Mack’s How-to get N95 and Rhapsody playing nice with each other.
Read: The Reuters Report
11 thoughts on “N95 Chronicles: Real Rhapsody (almost) Rocks”
Thanks for the mention. I think the different services such as Rhapsody and others are finally beginning to notice that people are starting to use their mobile phones more and more, and that the disconnected MP3 player is becoming old and antiquated.
I think the big kicker will be whichever service is the first to let you refill over the air either via WiFi, WiMax, or even regular EDGE/3G (though the third would take FOREVER).
gracenote should provide all manufacturers a common sync platform and give it away for pennies per device. or maybe, free.
if there was common sync’ing for all non-apple devices, with a common adaptor, this could unseat apple.
Thanks for the mention to my blog. The Rhapsody trick works also with the Nokia N75 as well.
Its weird that you had issues authorizing your N95, because I in fact did get that pop up asking me if I wanted to authorize my device.
Having a compelling technology is one thing. Having good customer service is equally important and this is where Rhapsody clearly falls short. I tried their service for a while, but then decided to cancel when I found I wasn’t using it very much. So I logged into my Rhapsody account and clicked on a link that said “Cancel service”. Much to my surprise, the page that came up said I had to call them to cancel. IMHO, a service that you can sign up for online should have an option to cancel online. That just seems painfully obvious to me.
Anyway I called the (thankfully) toll-free number and was subjected to a few minutes of Jedi mind tricks by the CSR:
RHAPSODY: Can I help you?
ME: I want to cancel my service.
RHAPSODY: No, I don’t think you do.
ME: Ummm, yeah. I’m quite sure I do.
RHAPSODY: These are not the droids you’re looking for.
Finally I was offered a free month of service to give me time to “think it over”. My billing would resume after the free month, but I could send them an e-mail to cancel at any time. So I got off the phone and sent them an e-mail immediately to demand that they cancel my account. I got a response fairly quickly telling me that it was taken care of. Then two weeks later I got a notice that they were having trouble billing my card (I had changed banks). I’m not even going to bother contacting them again.
So when it comes to Rhapsody, buyer beware.
I’ve been a Rhapsody subscriber for 3 years now and I love it. I would argue that it’s ahead of it’s time. Having your music in portable device (iPod) is great but if I and when batteries and wireless internet improve, in other words when I could have it in my cell phone and access all 3 million songs anywhere then personally I’d chose a subscription service over owning my music.
I like having access to 3 million songs instantly. I want some new music, I get it. I hear something in a movie or on the radio it’s usually available along with that artists other music and their influences etc. It’s liberating to just click and listen and not have to think about purchasing every song. I can be frustrating sometimes when a specific song is not available but I just shrug it off and listen to something else in those cases.
I own approximately 1100 CDs but since I got Rhapsody 3 years ago I hardly by CDs at all. Maybe 5 a year now and they have to be really something special because I get all the variety I need already so I’m not always staving for something new like I used to.
Of course it fits my lifestyle. I’m a programmer and my company doesn’t mind that I have it installed at work so I can listen to it in the day. I also have my computer at home connected to my stereo so it’s fine for home. If your situation is similar I suggest you check it out.
Rhapsody is great. I was a monthly subscriber and just picked up the annual subscription for my Sonos. Everything is synced perfectly between all of my PCs, Sonos devices. I really love it.
To steal a quote from someone I can’t remember(?) that I think pretty much summarizes my own opinions on subscription services, and specifically Rhapsody…
I’m too cheap to buy music, and too lazy to steal it.
So the Subscription Model from Rhapsody is actually the first thing that got me to spend more that 98 cents on legal music. And they got me to the tune of $100+ annually. This is up from “ZERO” dollars.
Maybe I’m unique here, but I think Apple is missing an opportunity becuase I’d probably pay a bit more for the iTunes catalog and Apple like integration.
Om, if you like Chillout music, don’t forget that SomaFM.com streams to your 3GPP phone. And it’s free, as long as you have a data plan on your phone. Check it out at http://somafm.com/soma.xhtml
I love SomaFM and have been a long time fan forever. The tunes are just rocking…. and chilly at the same time. great dj whomever that is.
your blog post convinced me that this one was worth spending time on, so thank you for all your hard work and great writing.
you might be right. I think we should think of iphone less as a phone and more as a connected music player? what do you think? what do others think about it?
I have always been a huge fan of subscription in theory, but in reality, DRM is a heinous mess. I’ve tried yahoo, napster and rhapsody and they are all nightmares to use and forget about trying to color outside the lines (to-go).
As soon as the iphone was announced I went to see if Macs could run any of the subscription services, b/c if they did then there was a good chance that the iphone would be a de facto wireless subscription music player.
They didn’t at the time. Of course, now Apple will cripple the iphone so that it’s browser can’t run Rhapsody.
This was a brilliant move by the indefatigable Glaser.
Ricky, Sansa connect refills over the air (wifi) using Yahoo music subscription. I am using, but as always, reality doesn’t live up to hype- you’ve been warned.