Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Rhapsody - first impressions

Ok, so I've spent a day exploring some music with Rhapsody. I'm even more in love with the ability to listen just about anything I can think of. In the past day I've listened to a lot of stuff I've been meaning to spin, like Dizzee Rascal (Boy in Da Corner), Frou Frou (Details), Black Eyed Peas (Elephunk), and Modest Mouse (Good News For People Who Love Bad News). I've also discovered The Streets (A Grand Don't Come for Free), another UK Garage band. Being able to listen to an entire album rather than just a song or two really helps me appreciate the music.

But enough with the concept of on-demand songs. More about the Rhapsody application itself. To say the least, the application is really lacking. So here's a rundown:


  • Great breakdown of various genres. Here's a small list of some of the Hip Hop genres they list:
    Foreign Rap/Hip-Hop
    Gangsta Rap
    Hardcore Rap/Hip-Hop
    Jazz Rap/Hip-Hop
    Latin Rap/Hip-Hop
    Miami Bass

    Not that these genres are ground-breaking. The good thing is that they're acknowledging that so many sub-genres of hip-hop exist. It's not just Top40 Hip-hop, Underground, and Gangsta.
  • They have samplers for each genre or artist. So if you're not sure if you'll like the genre or artist, you can give a 10 minute listen to a good variety of songs and then listen to more if you like it. Either way, it's a good way to try something out without devoting too much time. Best thing is that the sampler is truly a varied sampling, not just a couple of the more popular songs.
  • Really fast start-up. So this may not seem like a big deal, but on-demand really should mean just that. Click on it and start listening! Rhapsody does a good job with this since songs seem to start within a second.

Bad or Lacking:

  • No user reviews or ratings. This is the most glaring missed capability. If I've gone through the trouble of writing all this, don't you think I'd want to rate the stuff I've heard? Even if they don't want me write reviews, they should let me give 1-10 ratings, just like every other music app out there (including Real's own RealPlayer).
  • More information about the artist, album, genre, and song. As it is, they provide very little info about what you're listening to. That's ok when you just want to give things a try, but if you want more info, you've gotta load up your browser with your favorite page to do research. Normally, for music I'll use Amazon since they have a lot of information including guest appearances. Right now, I've gotta guess who the guess rapper is on a song or go to Amazon to find out the correct info. Again, glaring omission.
  • A Robust Recommendation engine. What I can only point to is Amazon. I'm always quite impressed with how well Amazon seems to be able to recommend things to me. Whether it's books or music, I've always got tons of things to try out at Amazon. There are several levels of recommendations at Amazon. They makes specific recommendations based on your previous likes and dislikes. This is perhaps the most robust piece of their engine. THey also recommend other similar artists when you're viewing a specific album or artist. And finally, they list what other people (who have bought the item) have liked. Rhapsody should have all of these, but right now there are only limited recommendations. I don't know if these are automated or not, but they seem of the "hey, here's a few artists from this genre" type rather than really smart recs like Amazon provides. On-demand songs is perhaps the best way to explore new music and Rhapsody should have all of these tools to assist users. It may cost a lot to implement these things in the way that Amazon has so deftly been able to, but it can only help get more word-of-mouth about the service. There's a reason I always go to Amazon to get an idea of how good or bad a movie or album is :) So until Rhapsody adds these sorts of things, I'll still be going to Amazon and entering ratings for all the music I listen to...and hopefully get some great recs.
  • "Wish List" - I don't have a better term for this, but basically, in looking around for music, I'd like to queue up stuff to listen to later, but right now, there's no really simple way of doing this. I can save stuff off as a playlist, but then I've gotta manage that whole thing. It would be nice to simply store things in a "pending/need to listen to" folder or list and look through it when I've got time.

Anyways, this is just my first impression. And I've only spent 24 hours with this thing! I can only imagine other companies will begin offering similar services. If Rhapsody doesn't take these suggestions to heart, I'm sure some other company will do so. At least, let's hope so!

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