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December 03, 2006

Be My Musical Guinea Pigs

I'm fiddling around with ways to legally share music with all y'all, and at the moment I'm looking at Rhapsody's playlist sharing feature. Rhapsody allows you 25 free listens a month (which could be one listen to 25 songs, or 25 listens to one song, or any inclusive combination of songs/listens equaling the number 25) and as far as I can see takes you to a relatively non-obtrusive landing site which will then open an anonymous-user flash player via your browser.

Both the landing site and the flash player are Rhapsody-branded, of course, and will exhort you to join Rhapsody. But at least as I'm using it doesn't require you to sign in to listen to the music, and the streams are high-quality, so you don't hear much degradation of the music (as in the case of Napster's free music set-up, in which you can listen to any track three times, but on a 32kbs stream,which is fairly crappy). This seems like the best compromise of sound quality/user ease/musician compensation that I can see out there at the moment -- but I'm interested in whether you think the same.

So: Here's a five-song playlist, featuring "Fidelity" by Regina Spektor, "Boy/Girl Song" by Aphex Twin, "Helpless" by kd lang, "Sweet Thing" by the Waterboys and "She Goes on" by Crowded House. Would you do me the favor of trying out the link above and seeing how it works for you. Is it a reasonable way to share music? Or too complicated/too much a pain in the ass? Let me know and I'll factor it in for further consideration. Non USians, be aware that you might not be able to listen to full song streams because of licensing issues in your own home country. Let me know if it does work for you in countries other than the US.

Now, if Rhapsody (or any other music service) were to come to me and ask me what I'd really want in order to share music on my site, I would tell them what I'd really like is the ability to get a widget that would allow me to make my own streaming music channel which I could program via Rhapsody's library of music, and through which they could track the number of streams played/songs streamed, the better to charge me monthly for the statutory licensing fees. That way I could set up a really excellent personalized music station without killing my own server and easily compensate the musicians I'm featuring, and Rhapsody would have a really excellent feature for subscriber retention/new customer advertising. Seriously, that would be an excellent thing, and I would love it to death. Someone needs to get on that.

Until then, let me know how the playlist works for you.

Posted by john at December 3, 2006 12:52 PM

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Mathieu Lavigne | December 3, 2006 01:24 PM

Hmmm... Is it just me or is Rhapsody really unavailable to Canadian (or any other non-American) users?

John Scalzi | December 3, 2006 01:26 PM

Not just you -- I updated the entry to note that.

Nathan | December 3, 2006 01:47 PM

On the plus side:

-Downloaded easy and quick (to Firefox)
-Sound quality is excellent.


-Don't know if it was related to Rhapsody, but Firefox froze and quit in the middle of my first listen.

-Music paused twice to show me the ad pimping Rhapsody.

hugh57 | December 3, 2006 01:53 PM

Not compatible with my browser (Opera 9.02).

Synedrian | December 3, 2006 01:57 PM

I'm in the UK; it doesn't like me.

PixelFish | December 3, 2006 02:01 PM

I think your playlist idea is a great one. (And nice choices this time. I even have that Aphex Twin album. The Regina Spektor is neefty--gonna have to grab that.)

And the little widget you describe would be fun. (Waaay back in 2000 I used to Shoutcast via Winamp with my friends up in Calgary, but we had listeners from all over. We had a little techno station, although I got to run the Goth/Industrial/80s hour.)

The little Rhapsody Online thing isn't too annoying. I just kinda feel itchy with yet another MP3 player sitting around on my system. (On the other hand, I'm kinda tired of Apple and iTunes music store shenanigans, and I'm delighted that there's one more place we can download songs legally. The competition should start heating up and giving them incentives to be nicer to us who have downloaded our music legally.)

Martin Wagner | December 3, 2006 02:18 PM

While I wasn't wild about having to download the application to my hard drive, it works fine for me on my Mac, and sounds pretty good.

Alice | December 3, 2006 02:19 PM

You like Regina Spektor too? Rock.

As a listening experience, it was fairly painless--one download and the music starts streaming immediately. It's very high-quality audio. I'm impressed.

Dave Garrett | December 3, 2006 02:53 PM

It does not like AOL, says need to update browser. Does play fine on Firefox though.

Jason M. Robertson | December 3, 2006 03:14 PM

Works without fuss here. One minor stutter at the beginning, but nothing since.

KevinQ | December 3, 2006 03:26 PM

I have the hate for Real, going way back, so I refuse to install their plugins. It's probably a bit irrational of me, but there you have it.

I'm with you on the widget thing, though, as long as the user doesn't need to install a new plugin to listen to it.


Colin F | December 3, 2006 03:32 PM

U.S. Only
We're sorry. We have detected that you are outside of the United States.


Please don't feel the need to apologise. I'm quite happy to be living here!

hobbyns | December 3, 2006 03:50 PM

Ah... Crowded House! As an expatriat Aussie it's always nice to see them appreciated outside my native land. Getting all homesick now.

emeraldcite | December 3, 2006 04:53 PM

Worked for me. I'm running Windows ME on a five year old laptop.

J | December 3, 2006 05:37 PM

Worked fine. The problem is I've already used almost all of my free plays.

Kate Baker | December 3, 2006 05:43 PM

Love the Regina Spektor song! The rhapsody service works just fine. This is really neat idea, actually! ( I might just have to steal the idea and use it on my blog too!)

Crowded House has always been one of my favorites. Love 'Into Temptation' and "Weather with you."

*Grooves in her comfy compooter chair*

Alex S. | December 3, 2006 06:27 PM

John, have you looked into last.fm? Looks like just the thing you're looking for.

John Scalzi | December 3, 2006 06:39 PM

Alex S:

It's not. I want to actively program a music channel, not have a site attempt to build a music channel with music its AI thinks I might like.

Soni | December 3, 2006 06:56 PM

For free streaming music, consider Blogmusik.net.

It's a French-based streaming jukebox thingy that's free. The selection is pretty good, although occasionally puzzling in it's inclusions and exclusions (hey, it's France - they thrive on inscrutability)

I know that if you opt for the free membership (which I am too lazy to sign up for) you can create your own playlist. They might have some sort of playlist sharing function available as well, but I don't know.

Alex S. | December 3, 2006 07:01 PM

Ah, gotcha. I don't use the big online music sites, personally. I'm one of those weirdos that prefers to rip my own mp3s from purchased cds, and when I can't (like with independents), I usually download directly from the artists' websites. I got the last.fm recommendation from a friend's blog.

Cassie | December 3, 2006 07:33 PM

If you want to program a music channel, look into Live365.com and check out their set up. There are others, but I don't know their names and I do listen to Live365 stations more than anything else.

John Scalzi | December 3, 2006 07:37 PM

Live365 isn't bad but I think it's overly expensive; given the amount of traffic this site gets on a daily basis if I even a reasonably small percentage listened to the station I would have to shell out for a pro-level account. I'd like to stream music, but my desire isn't at the level of a couple hundred bucks a month.

Thomas Nixon | December 3, 2006 08:19 PM

I'd like to stream music, but my desire isn't at the level of a couple hundred bucks a month.

Particularly since music listeners is a decided sub-set of the folks who come here to read, I expect.

Mule Face | December 3, 2006 08:55 PM

You might want to check out Pandora. You create radio stations by inputing artists/songs you like & it searches for similar music. I like it because the software always finds interesting music I haven't heard before or hadn't thought of. And it's free.

Ted | December 3, 2006 08:56 PM

I have aol but the playlist worked fine, doubtless because I subscribe to Rhapsody and had the player ready and waiting. Thanks.

John Scalzi | December 3, 2006 09:06 PM

Mule Face:

"You might want to check out Pandora."

You know, I appreciate the suggestions, but you can assume that unless it does exactly what I've described wanting, I'm going to find it an unsatisfactory solution.

Political.Asylum | December 3, 2006 09:16 PM

LOL! We at the Sarcastic Idiocy Forum are STILL having fun taping bacon to our pets. Sorry to be off topic...


John Scalzi | December 3, 2006 09:28 PM

Sadly, your site requires a log-in, so none of the rest of us can enjoy your taping behaviors.

Cassie | December 3, 2006 09:57 PM

In consultation with a friend who does this, he recommends http://www.shoutcast.com/ as a cheaper and better alternative to Live365.

I found a few more hits by googling "internet radio" but I didn't bother to follow them up, as I don't know your level of interest or financial commitment.

I want to encourage you, however. My family was bopping around the house to "I Feel Fantastic" by Johnathon Coulton (my 10 year old daughter finally said "He's singing about drugs, Mom!" which led to a lot of laughter and a bit of discussion.) We wouldn't have found him without your rec, so I'm curious to know what else you'll be suggesting.

John Scalzi | December 3, 2006 10:11 PM

The problem with Shoutcast is that it's tied to personal bandwidth and it doesn't have a turnkey solution for compensating artists. So again, not optimal for me.

Again, the reason I went with the Rhapsody playlist is that it's very low cost for me (it's part of my $15/month Rhapsody subscription) not dependent on my own bandwidth, it's not overly invasive for the people listening, it's easy for me to use, and the artists are compensated. Most of the solutions out there at the moment fall down on at least one of these things (and usually more than one).

Nancy | December 3, 2006 11:07 PM

I'm in Australia and it worked for me.

CartoonCoyote | December 4, 2006 12:32 AM

Speaking of Crowded House, Mr. S., have you gotten the CD or DVD of 'Farewell To The World' released this past Tuesday? I had a massive lump in my throat when Paul Hester made his first on-screen appearance.

Dan | December 4, 2006 01:25 AM

"You know, I appreciate the suggestions, but you can assume that unless it does exactly what I've described wanting, I'm going to find it an unsatisfactory solution."

Is the description of what you are looking for in this post or is there another post of yore which contains exactly what you are looking for? I might be able to find something that exactly fits what you are looking to do.


Karen | December 4, 2006 04:11 AM

Yeah, it doesn't like Denmark.

I'm an American, I swear!

Alex | December 4, 2006 05:05 AM

Couldn't download from Prague, but I got Rhapsody elsewhere and it connects and plays just fine. Thanks for the music.

Chang, who gets nothing done without BRAINZ | December 4, 2006 09:20 AM

Wow! Holy Easy Installs, Bacon-taping-flavor-man!

WOrks for me. Regina has me enthralled until she does that ah-ah-ah thing in the chorus and it makes me want to crush skulls. KRUSCH SKULLZ!!!

Aphex Twin, huh? Cool.

I think Rhapsody has some of my music in there somewhere. Cursed internetz!

Chang, who gets nothing done without BRAINZ | December 4, 2006 09:22 AM

Holy Katz with Flavuh! Here's one of my songs.

Sadly it's not one of my best. But it does contain an illegal sample of "Rebel Rebel" by Bowie Bowie, soo woot woot on me I'm stinking it to the man.

Chang, who gets nothing done without BRAINZ | December 4, 2006 09:24 AM

"Boy/Girl Song" always reminds me of a little girls ballet class wherein the girls are each given a box of giant pixel sticks beforehand and run around during the ensuing sugar high, gleefully dancing, crying and laughing all at once.

I need a vacation.

RichardP | December 4, 2006 09:48 AM

Doesn't work for me using Safari 2.0.4, despite being located in the US. I get the following error:

We're sorry. We're unable to find the content you've requested. This can happen if the URL entered is missing some information or the IDs provided don't match what's in our system. Please check out our homepage to browse our extensive catalog of music.

Lance | December 4, 2006 01:08 PM

Crowded House! Whoo-hoo!

The most under-appreciated band to come out of the 80's, in my opinion.

I have always loved "She Goes On", from the very first listen.

You have good taste my man. Any chance you like The Tragically Hip?


Garth | December 4, 2006 11:47 PM

You might look into the music genome project. its at Pandora.com

good way to find new things as well

Andreas | December 5, 2006 08:03 AM

It did not work in Sweden.

Josh Jasper | December 5, 2006 05:06 PM

Broadcast licenses are not too super expensive. Paying royalties is a bit steep.

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