I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. In some ways, I’m an old-fashioned guy. I prefer real books to Kindles. I enjoy black and white movies. I listen to old-timey radio shows instead of podcasts. I light my chambers by candleight. I treat my ailments by leech. I send faxes.
Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating a little bit (faxes? Ha!). But I have long been a purist when it comes to music. I mean I have a vintage tube amplifier in my living room and I listen to vinyl.
So I surprised even myself when I decided to try Mog, a music-streaming service which allows me to listen to a vast library of music wherever and whenever I want: through my computer, iPhone or internet connected TV. I will never stop buying physical records, but I am now convinced by all the hype about music moving to the cloud.
The times they are a-becoming different.
Let me start by explaining that I’ve never understood the appeal of iTunes. I mean, if I am going to shell out twelve bucks or more for an album, I want to physically own that album: to be able to look through the book, hold the disc, file the album neatly on my shelf or even use it as a frisbee if I so please. Sorry, paying to own a collection of digital files just holds no appeal to me.
But music subscription services make sense: you rent, not buy. With the best of these services, you can listen to almost any song imaginable wherever and whenever you want, all for one monthly fee, like Netflix.
You can be on a bus and hear someone rave about the newest Beach House album, and next thing you know you’re listening to it. And if you think it’s pretentious, hipster crap (FYI: it’s not), you’re in luck because you haven’t bought it.
Here are some of the best options:
If you read tech blogs, you’ve heard about Spotify. This is the service that got me interested in the whole idea of streaming music. It features highest quality streaming and a vast catalog.
Unfortunately, it’s only available in the UK and parts of western Europe. I thought they’d let me sign up since my name is Gareth McGahey Wilson. But, alas, they check your IP address, not just how Anglo your name sounds.
What makes the service unique is that users can stream songs in the catalog on demand for free, with periodic advertisements interspersed in your play list.
However, in what must be a major disappointment to our European brethren, starting May 1 of this year, there are some pretty hefty restrictions on how much content a non-paying user can stream without ponying up some pounds or euros.
Even before these changes, users had to pay a subscription fee to listen on mobile devices. But I still wish we had this available stateside.
Grooveshark is the closest service to Spotify available in the US. Users can listen to a very impressive selection of music for free through a web browser.
The catch is that the legality of the site is in dispute. EMI sued them in 2009. The label ended up settling and granted Grooveshark the rights to stream their catalog legally. But Grooveshark has no such deal with other labels.
Grooveshark has been sued by Universal and even by Pink Floyd. And if they’re pissing off the Floyd, they’re probably doing something wrong. (UPDATE: Ok, ok, actually PF sued EMI and EMI subsequently deleted all PF songs from Grooveshark. Still, no Atom Heart Mother?).
A $10 subscription fee allows users to listen on mobile devices. But there is no iPhone app and even Google recently removed the app from it’s Android store recently. So, unless you’re rocking Symbian, this is not really a viable option.
As I have already gushed, I love this service and am seriously considering forking over 9.99 a month to continue using it. The catalog is vast. New music is uploaded as it comes out. The iPhone app has a beautiful interface and the steaming is high quality.
Also, you can download music for offline listening through the app. The only downside is that all these files are lost if you cancel your subscription.
There are many other options out there, too. Rhapsody pioneered the music subscription service, but their library is light on more obscure stuff and their app seems a lot clunkier than Mog. Sony just released a service called Qriocity, but there are no mobile apps available. There is also Rdio which seem pretty good. But as far as I’m concerned, for us Yankees, Mog is the clear winner.
All in all, I am not ready to throw away my record collection. But I am definitely ready to ditch iTunes. At least until they get their act together and take a stairway to heaven…uh, the cloud, that is.