by Bill Forman
The announcement came yesterday, along with the news that Rhapsody has split off from its parent company of the past seven years, RealNetworks (best know to most of us for its RealPlayer media player). Rhapsody also introduced a new mobile app for the Android platform (an iPhone/iPad app is already available).
What makes Rhapsody so godlike, at least in my view, is that it enables you to listen to virtually any album or song in the history of recorded music in an instant, whenever and wherever you want it.
Some reviewers have balked at the cost following the two-week trial period, claiming that free services like Pandora and Last.Fm are just as good.
Actually, they’re completely different animals, since you have no choice what you actually listen to with the free services. Instead, you create artist “stations” that typically play one random track by your selected artist, followed by various songs that Pandora and Last.FM have decided sound similar. So you’re basically at their computer’s mercy, and the music that gets thrown together can range from exceedingly dull to wildly incongruous.
Rhapsody does have its drawbacks: If you play “Stump the Rhapsody Catalogue” long enough, you’ll eventually find some artists’ albums missing. (The biggest ones seem to be the Beatles and Led Zeppelin, although you’ll have no problem finding members’ solo albums.)
To give you an idea of how deep and diverse the selection is, I once interviewed an experimental South African band called the Kalahari Surfers. I’d only ever heard of them making two albums, but when I looked them up on Rhapsody, I found six available for listening.
In my experience over the past several months, just about any artist I’ve read or heard about (or can even think of) is on there.
I have no idea if or how Rhapsody’s split with RealNetworks will affect that, and I’m hopeful it won’t. But for now, being able to pay less than the cost of one album a month in order to listen to the entire history of recorded music strikes me as an incredible deal.