Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Rhapsody -- No Demand Music Streaming?

I have long been a fan of on demand music subscription streaming services like Rhapsody -- have been a paying customer for years, in fact (first with Musicmatch -- bought by Yahoo! -- service shut down and transferred to Yahoo! -- whose service was shut down and transferred to Rhapsody). Rhapsody gives its paying customers (monthly cost is roughly the same as buying one CD, which no one does anymore) the ability to stream any song, any album, any playlist from over 8 million tracks.

Contrast that with other music streaming services like Pandora, which doesn't give you your music on demand. Instead, it gives you more of a radio/random music listening experience -- although not completely random, because users can hone in on more relevant music by typing in favorite songs and bands. Pandora and others of that ilk can be "free", but are not really free because you must listen to ads -- frequently have monthly streaming limits -- and frequently have lower sound quality. To get rid of these "costs" of free, Pandora requires users to pay $36 per year ($3/month).

So, Rhapsody is far more powerful in many ways -- but, apparently requires too much work for most. Seems like most simply like to pick a few music parameters and have the service do the rest -- pick the songs -- rather than require you to actually pick the songs, the albums, the artists. This has always surprised me a bit, but I too have jumped on the Pandora bandwagon of late -- and now pay for both Rhapsody and Pandora.

And, while Pandora continues to gain momentum -- although I highly doubt the service is anything close to being profitable -- Rhapsody continues to lose converts, lose demand, and shed employees. TechCrunch reports that the joint venture (Real & MTV) just recently laid off nearly 10% of its employees and lost 50,000 subscribers (it now apparently has 750,000 paid subs).