Music subscription services

I’d like to do an update of this thread.

I have a Creative Zen Micro 5GB player and have been using Yahoo Unlimited subscription service for about a month. I’m paying monthly, $7 per month for the service. I’d like to list the good and the bad.

The good:

  1. High quality downloads (192 KBps WMA files)

  2. A pretty comprehensive selection of files (Over 1 million). I’m impressed with it. Some newer albums are available for streaming, but not for downloading. But it might not be that bad. Last week, I could only stream the new White Stripes album. Tonight, it was available for download.

  3. I have about 1200 songs downloaded on my PC, all for $7. That 0.58 cents per song per month. I’d have to own the song for 14 years to come out ahead if I bought it for 99 cents. In addition, I can add more songs at no additional cost. Hey, I might not feel like paying $7 or so for Van Halen’s ‘Diver Down’, but if I can download it as part of the subscription, why not? (BTW, it’s a pretty fun album to listen to.)

  4. Unlike files I pay for at 99 cents per track, if I lose a subscription file for any reason, I simply download it again. If it was a file I owned, I’d have to pay 99 cents for it again if I lost it to a hard drive failure.

The bad:

  1. DRM (Digital Rights Management, basically the license) protected files take longer to transfer from the PC to the player. Not bad for a song or two, but a real downer when you are transfering 2 or 3 gigabytes of data.

  2. Yahoo support sucks.

  3. DRM protected file take longer for the player to start playing. My Zen will play a unprotected file within a second or two. A DRM protected file takes about 10 seconds to start (although subsequent song play right away. I usually play entire albums at a time, because it doesn’t cost anymore to do so).

  4. The Yahoo program is Beta. Expect some hassles. I have to deal with 3 entities, Yahoo, Creative, and Microsoft (because Windows Media Player 10 is used for the DRM licensing). In this respect, Apple and itunes probably has an advantage over the subscription service, but I suspect that will change (at least, I hope so.)

  5. License updates are supposed to be automatic, but I just found out that it doesn’t seem to work for me. However, the latest update of Windows Media player is supposed to address this (See? Expect some hassles.)

So there it is. For the cost of about 6 CD’s a year I have access to pretty much all the music I want, and I can explore new artists without having to pay more money. When I first heard about the subscription services, I though it was a dumb idea. Now that I’ve used it, I’m sold. It’s a much better deal than buying individual songs at 99 cents (or even 79 cents, which is the Yahoo price for individual tracks. Yahoo does offer both the subscription service and the pay per song service).

I’ve tried Rhapsody also. Unfortunately, The latest version does not load on my PC (I still use the earlier version, but it only supports streaming). Too bad, because I like the Rhapsody interface better than the Yahoo interface (it’s easier to explore new music). The Rhapsody subscription service is $15 per month. If it worked on my PC, I’d use it, because the ease of use is worth it. But I’m very happy with the Yahoo sevice.

Has anyone else tried the subscription services?