The size of the music catalog isn't all that matters--preprogrammed content can save you time as well as provide entertainment.
In the previous section, we touched on the scope of the music content represented in each service's catalog. Essentially, since the two entities all have deals with the Big 4 major labels, you can count on finding almost anything mainstream no matter which service you choose. If you have a particular artist, album, or track in mind, both Rhapsody and Napster offer such fields. While you're checking out Rhapsody, sign up for a free account to get 25 free radio stations and 25 free full-song streams per month (free accounts work through Web browsers, even with Macs). You can also download Napster software to check out the interface and some features for free. Both applications make excellent standalone audio jukebox, although we prefer Rhapsody. Music selection isn't the only facet of content in these programs, however. You may also want to consider preprogrammed content such as radio stations and playlists as well as editorial content.
Rhapsody offers more than 100,000 artist-based stations and more than 100 preprogrammed radio stations--called Channels--which can be browsed by genre or via the complete All Stations list. You can also create as many custom radio stations as you like by inputting up to 10 artists for each. Rhapsody seems to do the best job of incorporating indie music into its stations. The radio isn't very interactive; you can skip songs but you can't pause or go back. You cannot save radio stations as playlists or download the content, though you can save stations to My Channels for easy access. Also, if you happen to have a device running the Rhapsody DNA
platform, you can transfer Channels to it. Each time you connect that device, you have the option of updating the Channels--it's a nice way to get fresh, themed content without putting in too much effort. Rhapsody provides a good list of DNA players here
Napster has a more fully interactive radio. Not only can you pause, skip, and reverse tracks, but you can also save stations as playlists with the Save button on the bottom right of the interface. Playlists can then be transferred to your MP3 player. Napster offers more than 70 radio stations and lets you create a custom radio station based on your entire library or by selecting one to three songs from your library. Since custom stations can be saved as playlists, you can make as many as you want.
Napster To Go also has the biggest and best dedicated section of playlists, which are compiled by editors and ready for easy downloading. A Take To Go button allows for one-click transferring, where tracks are downloaded first, then automatically transferred to your portable. Napster continually adds new playlists, basing them on music styles, current events (song award nominees, music festivals), or clever themes (superhero songs, Bollywood film hits). Rhapsody also offers preprogrammed playlists, but the most exciting aspect of Rhapsody's Playlist Central is its community function. Read more on this in the Community Features
Editorial content probably isn't high on most people's lists when choosing a music service, but it may be something to consider. While both services present biographies and discographies of artists, Rhapsody offers the wittiest array of editorial commentary. There's a section of staff picks that has a variety of albums, each with its own blurb. But our favorite observations are the rotating artist tidbits that fade in and out of the playback bar while you're listening; check out the image on the right for some examples.