Pros fun and cool music research capabilities
Cons the whole rental thing
Summary Yahoo’s Y!Unlimited music browse/rent/buy service is a mix of good and bad. The free music engine has some interesting integration features that make the whole music experience interesting and kinda fun. However, certain other features, or lack thereof, make the service’s significance questionable. Although I have only tested this service for a short time and have not tested any other service, I will share a little bit of my experience.
While playing with the radio feature (there are dozens of different types of “stations,” I recognized a particular reggae song which I hadn’t heard for years. I clicked on the artist, Shabba Ranks, and I was “transferred” to the Y!Unlimited page, which showed me several of the artist’s albums. I clicked on the “play” button of one of the albums and liked what I heard. So I started downloading the songs to my hd, in my special folder that has all my other downloaded or ripped songs, legal or otherwise. As the songs from the Shabba Ranks album were downloading, I clicked on the “Create playlist of similar artists” buttons. Instantly, I had a playlist that I could save, entitled “like Shabba Ranks.” The songs and artists were actually closely related although I couldn’t figure out how a few, like Quincy Jones and LL Cool J, made it to the list. [I think that the first 50 songs on the list are related, then after that they seem pretty disconnected.] On any song on the list you can right click and it gives you about 10 options for that particular song. For me, both the streaming and the downloading of the music were fairly quick (I have about 1.3K mbps DSL service). One can keep exploring in such a way, or of course perform a search for an artist, song, or album. These are only a couple (of many) features that are way cool about the service.
The rental process seems weird though. If I download all these songs, albums, etc., I can only play them on my computer (or I guess have them shared by other people who also have the subscription?), or upload them onto a relatively few mp3 players (it requires special software to read the copy-protected songs). I cannot, however, burn them onto a CD to play in my car or my living room. Also, if I quit the service, the songs become unplayable after a short time. [This is not noticeably written anywhere in Yahoo’s literature. I heard about it from some of the reviews I’ve read.] So is it worth $7 a month? Maybe. For a very cool way of browsing for songs that you might eventually buy for $.79 each [or maybe browse for and then download from a different P2P program, hint hint], or researching various artists, etc., in many different ways, it may be worth it. But if you keep the rental service, and if you download the stuff onto your hd, you’ll be more likely to never leave the service in order to preserve your downloaded but copy-righted music. For example, if I have 500 “rented” songs on my hd, which I’ve spent countless hours downloading and organizing, I’ll be less inclined to cancel the service if I someday want to switch to a better or cheaper service. Why? Because the “rented” music will be vaporized if it’s not periodically checked-in with the Yahoo service. All that time and effort wasted. That seems to be a real “gotcha” that you have to consider. I have to admit, the downloaded songs do sound superior to the streamed ones, especially if you later listen to them on Realplayer, not on Yahoo’s beta music engine (which badly needs an equalizer).
So, if you like to listen to fairly good quality music on your computer (perhaps used as a hookup to your main sound system), and/or enjoy the cool research abilities of the service, then it may be well worth checking out. You do have a 7 day period to test and cancel, so what the heck?
Pros Easier to find new music with recomendations, more stable than Napster
Cons Still in Beta, so quirks exist
Summary I am using both Napster and Yahoo music unlimited. Napster was first to market, but still hasn't issued updates to fix the multitude of bugs that abound in the service. Most notably, Napster is extremely slow especially when transfering music and frequently crashes during transfer and download. The biggest problem with Napster in this regard is that everytime transfer crashes with Napster-to-go tracks, it ends up duplicating (or triplicating) the track on your player. I couldn't figure our why my player was full and I looked and after a big crash, Napster had put 4 copies of most of my library onto my player. As far as I can tell this is a major bug and happens to many users.
Yahoo music unlimied on the other hand has a much snappier interface. Also Yahoo does what Napster doesn't do hardly at all, provide better ways to discover new music. So far I haven't had any hang ups during transfer to my Zen Micro
For instance, the Jazz section of Napster is a joke and many of the artists that are threaded together by the recommendations make little (if any) sense to this Genre.
Yahoo, takes a music profile of your tastes and lets you discover new artits with the single click of a button (create playlist of similar artists). Also Yahoo has much more refined Genre pages which makes finding something new to listen to much easier.
Yahoo's recommendation engine also lets you rate artists much like how Netflix works and thus helps guide you to new music.
The best part is that when you click on recommendations, there is an option to show more mainstream bands or more obscure. Very nice and it has led me to many new artists.
As far as catalogs, Yahoo covers more bases than Napster with more of the obscure artists. Both services cover the mainstream very well with the exception of the hold outs (Metallica, AC/DC etc.). Why these bands think they should offer their music on a service makes no sense. Oh, well, just means that I don't listen to their music, their loss in my book.
I haven't used the messenger plug in all that extensively, but it looks like once the service gets more established, this will be a nice feature.
Bottom line, for 1/2 the cost of Napster, you get a snappier, prettier interface, music recomendations and a larger selection of obscure artists, so for the time being Yahoo Music Unlimited is a winner for me.
Pros small footprint, stable, good recommendations, shows promise of flexibility
Cons At this time, I'm not sure what I don't like.
Summary Yahoo Music is the first service I've seen to provide music with strong search and lookup features on just about any artist and combine it with a straightforward, clean interface clearly geared towards audiophiles.
It provides good, meaningful artist, album, and song recommendations reminisant of MusicMatch, but doesn't bore itself into the OS (I can't tell you how many memory exceptions I was getting simply by turning my computer on while I had MusicMatch installed). On top of that, it supports plugins, which at the moment would appear to be free and fan-based. Any one who's ever used FireFox or WinAMP can you tell you the joys of an application with tons of free and useful plugins.
I think Yahoo stands to be a serious contender in the online-music-store arena at a time when many services and applications fall short.
Pros Low price, good idea
Cons Only about half the songs you hear on Launchcast can be subscribed to
Summary If I'm listening to Launchcast, I'd like to be able to move a song I like over to my MP3 player. Unfortunately, only about half the songs on Launchcast are included in the subscription. Also, the Launchcast player in Yahoo Messenger is not integrated with the Launchcast player in the Music Engine (you get two different streams if you play both). Hopefully this will be fixed in future releases.
Pros Keep clicking away as much as you like. Add songs/albums left and right for dirt cheap price.
Cons not all the music is accessible to yahoo unlimited. It is more like 70%. Extremely buggy and might not work with win 2000!
Summary I'm an iPod/iTunes user. I couldn't resist the $5/mo offer. Since I'm a long standing Yahoo user and trust their products, I took the bait. Right away I found out that with 2000 you can't sync you portable device with YME. So I upgraded my OS to XP. Well, now it wouldn't recognize that I was logged in and that I signed up for unlimited music subscrition service. Their help site was not helpful for my problem. I tried everything from resetting cookies, turning down my privacy level, readjusting my firewall and even reinstalling the damn thing several times. After several complaints to customer service on email, the guy was telling me that may their billing department hasn't authenticated my subscription! Well after wasting several hours and high level nerding, It finally somehow worked. Now it is absolutely great. I can download anything I like (songs/albums) at my wish. The sound quality is awesome.
It is disappointing to see that not all the tracks are available to download. Some are available only for buying. Some simply not available at all. Customer service says that they are working on this. Count on having access to say 70-75% of all the music out there. All the popular ones are of course available.
One big pro is that YME gives you recommendations (kinda similar to netflix) and they were consistent with what I liked; this led to me find some superb artists and tracks that I never heard before. I guess that in itself is worth the price.
Anyways, what can you expect from an introductory beta product with unlimited downloads for $60/yr or $7/mo. It sure beats iTunes (99c/track). Remember, even iTunes doesn't have all the songs in the world in its library.
Looking for a portable device, I knew I couldn't match the quality and build of my ipod. Well, searching around I found Dell DJ30, which costs 250$ including shipping and tax, to be the cheapest $/gig hard drive based player compatible with Yahoo.
We'll see if Yahoo lives up to its potential.