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Jan 14

Tim O'Reilly

Tim O'Reilly

Sonos + Rhapsody better than iPod + iTunes?

While I'm on the iPhone, another posting that caught my eye was David Kirkpatrick's Fortune column on why Rhapsody and Sonos, not iPod and iTunes, is the future of digital music. I've been planning to take a look at this combo myself, so I was very interested in David's provocative opinion:

We're entering an era of ubiquitous wireless broadband, where data will be available to us wherever we go. In that kind of world, we will not need iTunes. I doubt most people will want to buy or "own" music at all. It will be far more useful to pick from a giant online library and listen to whatever we want wherever we are.

I didn't fully realize this until I got a loan of a home music system called Sonos. It's an elegant way to get music wirelessly from your PC to your stereo, but in its latest iteration it also is well-suited to getting your music directly from the Internet. The best way to get music into Sonos is via Rhapsody. Rhapsody, not iTunes, in my opinion, is the future of music.


I certainly agree with the theory of Kirkpatrick's post, but as the old usenet .sig read, "The difference between theory and practice is always greater in practice than it is in theory." Many a technology that is superior in theory fails in the practical rough and tumble of the marketplace. But the Sonos is getting a lot of buzz, and it might just be the driver to get Rhapsody and similar all-you-can-eat streaming music services to take off. All the people I know who have their home music set up this way do rave about it.

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Walker Hamilton   [01.14.07 01:30 PM]

The problem with this is that most of my music cannot be bought on the iTunes music store...until it's as easy as for a band as uploading an mp3 to these services and then getting paid for sales (think how easy it is to sign up for google ads and then get paid) it's not worth it to me to have a subscription, I would never listen to enough of the music on the servers.

earth2kelly   [01.14.07 03:48 PM]

My God, how many times do otherwise respected analysts have to spend their credibility trying to convince us that we want to rent our music. It's been an abject failure over the last 4 years and nothing technically or socially is coming along that looks to change that.

Buy music, rinse, and repeat.

Tim Connor   [01.14.07 04:06 PM]

You mean kinda like how cable TV was an utter failure? Who'd want to rent their TV shows?

Darryl   [01.14.07 05:26 PM]

I'm in the camp of wanting to own my music. I'd hate to be in a position where, if for any reason I was no linger paying the subscription, I'd no longer have my favorite tunes available to me. Though the subscription model may be an extremely popular model in the future, I'd be willing to bet that many individuals would like to have continuous access to their favorite tunes.
The subscription model, on the other hand, maybe useful for experiencing popular tunes of the time that I wouldn't likely own.
And considering that most television show that are truly favorites, are still bought in DVD form, proves that though people are willing to rent TV, they are still more than willing to pay for and own their favorites TV shows.

gpberlin   [01.14.07 05:53 PM]

iTunes, Rhapsody... and I'd like to have enough money to buy those expensive devices. Music "costs" 0.9c, ...but with conditions. On the other side, I'm here putting money away for buying an iPod. 1.200 euros for sonos? This is not for me, i cannot buy it.
Ok, I'm "free" to choose, I mean.

Who is making money here, are as always the big companies and theirs selected "artists". They don't want lose our money, they are searching other ways to gain fees from music. And artists have to pay money and money, as we listeners. With the Internet we could pay directly the artists: why haven't they a PayPal account? The distribution has to be free through P2P and Internet, not "selected" through iTunes and Rhapsody (and iPods and Sonos). This is what we customers are searching. Music listening has to be free and accessible, not through expensive devices and services. How much money isn't the issue, it is what I'm paying for: I'd like to pay the artists, not buying "how I'm free to listen the music I love".

But this cannot work, thanks the P2P I've found that the best artists are always out this scheme.

Alan Graham   [01.14.07 10:55 PM]

I was a one of the writers who originally thought Rhapsody was a foolish idea...but I've recanted this view in the past three months or so. I wrote about this recently over on Ziff...

I've not only grown to love the service, but it has changed the way I listen to music and the way I explore it. It is worth every penny per month.

Keith Peters   [01.15.07 06:54 AM]

"You mean kinda like how cable TV was an utter failure? Who'd want to rent their TV shows?"

Apples and oranges (no pun intended). 99% of movies I watch, I watch once. Occasionally twice, rarely more than that. Renting makes sense. I might listen to a good song hundreds, or thousands of times, for years to come. I want to own it.

Henrik   [01.15.07 09:21 AM]

Regarding Cable TV. Personally I only have it for the sake of my flatmates. I might have 15 movie channels, but all it shows is american junk, except for Film4 which is free. The userinterface is crap. All in all I would happily go back to digital broadcast TV.

Regarding broadcast music. That's essentially radio whichever way you twist it, so it comes down to the person choosing the music. I'm sure it's out there, but I haven't found a station that plays music I like all that much. So far I haven't found any service that is able to learn from my preferences and find music that I will bother listening to for more than half an hour.

And no, I still don't like to listen to music on my PC, even if I do it right now, I still don't like it much.

Dan Woolley   [01.15.07 10:31 AM]

I have liked Rhapsody for a while now, but recently got a Sansa Rhapsody (think iPod Nano with drag and drop plus suggestions from Rhapsody) and now I love it! Got stuck in the airport through repeated delays this weekend and listened to a lot of new music I don't own but "rent". Looking to get a Sonos at home next.

Erik Schmidt   [01.15.07 05:50 PM]

"We're entering an era of ubiquitous wireless broadband, where data will be available to us wherever we go."

We seem to have been entering this era for a long time now. Ubiquitous broadband, much less ubiquitous wireless broadband, is further off than those of us who live in places like Silicon Valley like to think.

Even in Silicon Valley, I can't just grab a wireless Net connection whenever I want, wherever I want. It could be quite some time before the dead-simple, super-cheap wireless broadband world actually arrives. Until that time arrives, I think the rental model will continue to be pushed by pundits and mostly rejected by consumers.

Brent Edwards   [01.15.07 11:36 PM]

I am a Rhapsody user and will likely never buy a CD because of it. I am pessimistic, however, about the speed with which the general public will accept "radical" changes to their normal way of doing things.

I wrote something to this effect in a recent blog post of mine in response to Christmas day difficulties with iTunes and Rhapsody--you pay a price in relying too heavily on online content and services:

Post on Rhapsody, user acceptance, and technology predictions

Rolf F. Katzenberger   [01.16.07 01:38 AM]

It's not necessary to tie oneself to a specific vendor's proprietary hardware/software bundle (e.g., Sonos insists on a WLAN infrastrcuture of its own, instead of employing the one I already have). The main satisfacion actually comes from streaming your digital music (rent, bought, whatever; MP3, FLAC, whatever) to any place via a standard WLAN, via a device that offers digital out to your stereo. For this, there are more open solutions than Sonos, e.g. the fabulous Squeezebox (once, now Logitech).

Jerimiah Ham   [01.16.07 07:06 PM]

No one has specifically mentioned the power of using BOTH the subscription and the purchase model in combination. It doesn't have to be an all-or-nothing commitment to either way of getting music. In fact, I find that having the Rhapsody subscription lets me explore artists more effectively, which makes it easier to decide which albums I really REALLY like and want to purchase. When I decide I want something, it's very simple to click 'Buy' in Rhapsody and then burn a CD for my permanent collection.

Compare that to my pre-subscription method of finding new music: recommendations from friends and the media, listening to 30 second samples, or guessing. Too often I was disappointed, which certainly didn't fulfill what I was trying to do in the first place - be happy about discovering new music that I was passionate about.

Lou Factor   [02.20.07 01:35 PM]

I'm a vehement opponent of DRMed music. However, after trying out Rhapsody I have to modify that to I'm a vehement opponent of DRMed music that I purchase. When you spend money on an individual file and are not allowed to do with it what you want, that is obviously unfair.

However, in the case of Rhapsody, you really are renting music. For a small fee $8 - $15 depending on which provider and level you purchase you get to listen to anything you want. This business model couldn't work without DRM. Think of it as an all request radio station that you get to control. I don't care that I don't own most of the songs that I sync up with my MP3 player. Because I'll listen to them a handful of times and discard them. It's nice not having to purchase music I want to listen to only a few times.

yowzah   [03.04.07 08:20 AM]

I own a Sonos system with Rhapsody, and I recently got a Macbook with iTunes. While I am loving iTunes for its podcasts and video content, the Rhapsody/Sonos combo clearly shines when it comes to music. I am able to explore different artists easily without buying a CD, and am able to listen whenever and wherever I want (with my portable Creative Zen audio device). I own hundreds of CDs from the past, but I have stopped buying them in favor of Rhapsody. I now can listen to my old favorites and discover new ones for a flat monthly fee. I'm sold on renting music.

Michael   [01.22.08 06:25 PM]

What I love about iTunes advocates is the thought that they "own the music". You don't own the music! If iTunes shuts down, you would not be able to play the music. No iTunes, no verification and hence no way to play the music. Unless you buy the CD, you actually don't own the music.
As far as iTunes or services like Rhapsody, it all depends on how you listen to music. If you like to listen the same thing over and over, go iTunes. If you have a wide interest in different music and don't continually listen to the same thing, then a service subscription may be the way to go.

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