When it comes to music services, I’ve always preferred the subscription-based to the pay-per-song model. I even prefer a decent subscription-based music service to downloading music for free — it’s way less hassle, and I don’t have to free up a bunch of disk space for a music collection that’s mostly full of stuff I don’t even like anymore.
I started around 2004 or 2005ish with Rhapsody (then Listen, now Real). Rhapsody was awesome, and I had an account for a year or two, but started to have some problems with it. First, I started using a Mac at home. As far as I know, Rhapsody is Windows-only software. It has a web interface, but it never worked well for me. Later, I began working at Microsoft, and wasn’t able to get Rhapsody working through their network without dropping out, so I decided to cancel the subscription.
Canceling Rhapsody was ridiculously frustrating — There’s no way to cancel online, and the phone number leads to something similar to the AOL fiasco from a while back. After months of lies from their representatives about my account being canceled and frustrating phone calls, a credit card chargeback was enough to get the service cancelled. Needless to say, even if they’re the only U.S. music service with an iPhone app, I still won’t do business with Real any longer. No wonder Rob Glaser is one of the most hated CEOs in America.
Spotify is what I started to use next. A native Mac app and free (with ads) music made it exactly what I was looking for. It’s still not available in the U.S., but there are ways around that. Even though the selection still isn’t fantastic, it was more than enough to keep me happy for a while. Unfortunately, the amount of baby-sitting Spotify took to keep it running in an unsupported country led me to give up on it.
I had seen Grooveshark mentioned as being pretty awesome a few times, but I never quite got it. I’m sure it’s great for people that listen to songs individually, but I usually listen to a CD at a time, and Grooveshark’s terrible de-duping and track ordering in their album view made it totally unusable to me. The old interface made it even worse. I’ve started trying to use it again, and the new interface is a lot better — I’ve discovered that the Playlist view is much better for finding full CDs than the Album view, even though most of them still take some fiddling to get right. The selection is illegally fantastic, and there’s not much I’ve looked for that I haven’t found. It’s still not great, but it’s the least annoying service I’ve found so far… at least, until something better comes along.