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Author Topic: Here's why I love (and don't love) Napster  (Read 4502 times)

ThatAdamGuy

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Here's why I love (and don't love) Napster
« on: August 09, 2004, 12:07:57 am »

I've tried Rhapsody, iTunes, Magnatune, emusic, MusicNow, RealOne, MusicMatch (every variety!), and more... and Napster remains my favorite.

Here's what I love and don't love about Napster:

COOL STUFF ABOUT NAPSTER:
- It's the only service that lets me download as many songs as I'd like for one monthly fee.  I can then integrate those songs seamlessly into my MC, WMP, or MM libraries and playlists.  When I get a laptop, I'll even be able to play the songs when I'm not connected to the Internet!
- Napster integrates with WMP10, showing me really cool artist/album info for songs I've downloaded from Napster AND songs I've ripped from my CD library.
- It's the only major-label service that really supports in-depth discovery (Last.fm is getting somewhat close).  I can see who else is listening to a particular tune I'm streaming. I can check out who else has a particular track in their library.  And so on.
- $10 for access to over half a million songs.  Pretty hard to beat.
- I've been pretty pleased with the sound quality.  I know some folks here vociferously disagree, but TO MY EARS, 128kbps WMA sounds darn good.

UNCOOL STUFF ABOUT NAPSTER:
- You can't burn any tunes (legally) unless you pay 99 cents per.
- Albums are sometimes priced higher on the service than the dang CD costs!
- Many albums are incomplete.  Grrr!
- Many tracks are "buy only" and not freely streamable in the 600,000+ catalog.
- I can't (legally) share even a single dang song with a friend (and don't give me heck about legalities here; I sincerely believe there's a difference between driving 56mph vs. 156mph on a freeway, and there's similarly a stark ethical difference between sharing a song with a friend and uploading a song to a P2P network to share with a few thousand 'friends').  The bottom line is that Napster should just watermark the darn songs and not DRM them.  But yeah, that'll happen when pigs fly.

Anyway, I do strongly urge anyone and everyone to try the Napster service (if your setup allows it -- it's only available for U.S. folks using Win XP/2000).  You may indeed decide it's not your cup of tea, but until you experience the service, I honestly don't think you can make an informed judgement.  Napster does have a free 7 day trial.
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Curtis

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Re:Here's why I love (and don't love) Napster
« Reply #1 on: August 09, 2004, 01:26:24 am »

I agree with most of your pluses and minuses, but for me the balance swings to Rhapsody.
Rhapsody Pluses:
    It's more important to me that Rhapsody has many more complete albums. I suspect Napster couldn't negotiate complete albums because they *do* allow the downloading.
     Rhapsody has more music that I like than Napster (along with complete albums of same).
     Rhapsody's live streaming is 128K, better sounding than Napster's 96K. With Napster, you have to wait and download to get 128K quality.
Rhapsody Minus:
    It's player is very limited, and without being able to download songs (and without MC being integrated into Rhapsody) I can't play Rhapsody streams through MC and use visualizations, DSP, and equalizers.
    Of course, things are changing quickly, so hopefully we'll get a best of both worlds solution soon...
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ThatAdamGuy

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Re:Here's why I love (and don't love) Napster
« Reply #2 on: August 09, 2004, 01:28:51 am »

Curtis,

I think indeed we're in complete agreement.

The only difference is in our priorities... and I'll add that if Rhapsody ever allowed downloading, I'd quite possibly defect back to that service.
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Curtis

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Re:Here's why I love (and don't love) Napster
« Reply #3 on: August 09, 2004, 01:52:08 am »

The reason I agree not being able to download with Rhapsody is such a big minus is that we can't currently play Rhapsody's stream "live" through MC. IF MC were able to stream Rhapsody (like WMP can stream Napster), would you care about downloading for other reasons? I don't think I would ...
   I'd like MC to someday soon be able to let me enter my subscriptions to multiple online music services, and let me drag songs from my playlists in Rhapsody, Napster, etc., into a master playlist in MC. That playlist would also include my ripped CD collection, so I could seamlessly play back albums, playlists, etc., regardless of whether they're playing off my hard disk or streaming live from an online service.
   And MC would be able to apply all its playback features to the entire playlist: visualizations, DSP, equalizers, AND even the Analyze Audio feature so the playback volumes from all the different music aren't so different (I think Rhapsody itself is guilty of a lot of variation in the volume of their cuts, not sure about Napster on this).
    Then, when we've got wireless PDAs and hotspots across the planet, we can plug in our earphones and stream anywhere we want, for those flat monthly rates. That will end the debates about DRM and burn rights. We take our playlists and music service passwords with us, not our MBs of ripped music (don't need those Compact Cards either). And as all that unfolds bandwidth will continue to increase and the music can be streamed at higher and higher fidelity, making the CD vs. lossy compression arguments moot.
   I'm sure it's all going to happen, how long will be interesting to see...
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ThatAdamGuy

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Re:Here's why I love (and don't love) Napster
« Reply #4 on: August 09, 2004, 01:58:30 am »

Once again we agree (gee, this is boring... you need to say something stupid so I can disagree :D).

The main reason I like the downloadability of Napster stuff is -- as you guessed -- the fact that this enables me to integrate my tunes and playlists with nearly any player of my choice.  If MC were able to stream from any major service, that'd go a long way towards having me lose a bit of my Napster loyalty.

With that said, though, there's more here than just the access and manipulation issue.  As I highlighted in an earlier post, one of the other things I really enjoy about Napster is its integration with WMP; I get much of the Napster coolness (artist / album info, related tunes I can stream and download, etc.) when listening to my Napster *OR* non-Napster tunes on WMP.

If MC could somehow hook into Napster -- and other services -- in this way, that'd be fabulous.

I must admit, though, I'm skeptical about services enabling such transparency overall.  I'm guessing that when Rhapsody shifts over to the Real Player engine that you'll only be able to stream using that player.  Same thing currently with MusicMatch (can only stream with MM).

It reminds me a bit of the unfortunate Social Networking Services phenomena; there are lots of fascinating things being done and interesting people joining the different services (Ryze, Tribe.net, Orkut, etc.), but it's all balkanized, and the individual services have absolutely zero incentive to abandon their walled gardens :(
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paulr

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Re:Here's why I love (and don't love) Napster
« Reply #5 on: August 09, 2004, 03:21:39 am »

Okay, let me disagree :)

Quote
- You can't burn any tunes (legally) unless you pay 99 cents per.
- Albums are sometimes priced higher on the service than the dang CD costs!
- Many albums are incomplete.  Grrr!
- Many tracks are "buy only" and not freely streamable in the 600,000+ catalog.

That says it all...

1.  99 cents per song, compressed with a lossy format?  That's about the worst deal I have ever heard of, because of my next point
2.  I can get almost any new CD, with disc, case and liner notes for $13.  I don't have to worry about a hard drive crashing, or a license getting screwed... Most CDs these days have 11 or so songs.  That puts you at $11 (for less than full quality, no liner notes/lyrics/case/pictures) which leads me to
3.  Used CDs are even cheaper
4.  Incomplete???

And sorry, but 128 kbs encoding is just not good enough.  If your ears or equipment don't highlight the limitations with that then consider yourself lucky, but those sound absolutely awful to me.
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ThatAdamGuy

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Re:Here's why I love (and don't love) Napster
« Reply #6 on: August 09, 2004, 03:45:24 am »

Paul,

I understand that we'll simply have to agree to disagree about encoding quality (though I'm curious if you're basing your distaste of 128kbps on MP3 -- which IS lousy -- or WMA, which IMHO is much MUCH better at that bitrate).

However, I'm puzzled that you didn't address my main point:  that Napster allows you to sample hundreds of thousands of songs, full-length, for less than the price of ONE regular CD.

Even if you only use this listening for discovering new bands, new albums, etc. to PURCHASE, I still think $10/month is a fine deal.
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paulr

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Re:Here's why I love (and don't love) Napster
« Reply #7 on: August 09, 2004, 04:00:51 am »

Actually, I am not basing it solely on MP3 encoding.  128 kbps is simply not enough information with current codecs.  Some sound better, but I have never heard a song encoded at 128 that sounded good (MP3, WMA, OGG are the three I have tested this with).

I can sample anything I want, in CD quality right here where I live at a local record store.  They will even take CDs back for exchange if you don't like them.

I won't pay money to sample songs in order to figure out what I want to buy.  IMO, that is ridiculous...  I can sample music on Amazon, locally or through several other means such as Sirius Satellite Radio or Yahoo! Launchast.

To answer your question, I actually did answer your main point.  I won't pay $10 a month to sample substandard quality songs in order to decide which ones I want to pay $1 for.  If I am going to listen to low quality sample, then it might as well be from FM radio or Amazon.

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ThatAdamGuy

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Re:Here's why I love (and don't love) Napster
« Reply #8 on: August 09, 2004, 04:18:35 am »

Quote
I can sample anything I want, in CD quality right here where I live at a local record store.  They will even take CDs back for exchange if you don't like them.

Your record store sounds marvelous indeed!  I wasn't aware of any meat-space record stores that have a selection of 600,000+ songs that they'll let me come in to listen to 24/7 as much as I want.

On a more serious note, I've also never heard of a record store that lets you buy and then return a CD for a refund!

Quote
I won't pay money to sample songs in order to figure out what I want to buy.  IMO, that is ridiculous...  I can sample music on Amazon, locally or through several other means such as Sirius Satellite Radio or Yahoo! Launchast.
- Amazon only offers 30 second snippets of a limited number of songs... typically only for major label CDs, and only the first few tracks of each CD.
- Sirius Satellite Radio isn't free.  And you can't request songs on demand.
- Launchcast is riddled with ads, and, again, you can't request specific songs.  Their library, from my experience, is also woefully small.

Quote
To answer your question, I actually did answer your main point.  I won't pay $10 a month to sample substandard quality songs in order to decide which ones I want to pay $1 for.  If I am going to listen to low quality sample, then it might as well be from FM radio or Amazon.
What many folks do is use Napster/Rhapsody/MM to discover cool new albums / groups, and then buy the CD in a regular store or via Amazon.  I agree with you that $1/song is ridiculous.  Surprisingly, millions of folks who use iTunes (which I personally feel isn't very interesting) and DO pay $1/tune.  Go figure :)
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paulr

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Re:Here's why I love (and don't love) Napster
« Reply #9 on: August 09, 2004, 12:30:29 pm »

Quote
Your record store sounds marvelous indeed!  I wasn't aware of any meat-space record stores that have a selection of 600,000+ songs that they'll let me come in to listen to 24/7 as much as I want.

On a more serious note, I've also never heard of a record store that lets you buy and then return a CD for a refund!

They aren't open 24 hours a day, but the rest is true.  It's a local store and they survive in the face of Best Buy and other "big box" retailers with their customer service.  They have listening rooms (with doors) and some fairly decent speakers to listen on.

I simply won't even entertain paying $120 a year to the recording industry to sample their work that is overpriced to begin with.  I understand that some people are willing to do this, but not me.

Another reason I won't pay to buy MP3/WMA/AAC/OGG music is this:  You are stuck with the format forever unless you want to transcode it thereby reducing its quality even further.

If Napster would ever offer lossless with no DRM for around $0.50 a track, then I might consider it...  :)
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