Jul 22, 2011
Ultimately I'm destined to use some sort of service roughly like
Rhapsody, so I tried it. It's July 2011, and I'm most of the way through
the two-week trial period.
In the short time it took me to trial Rhapsody,
Spotify came to the US!
Review coming soonish.
Let's try to be positive. Here are cool things about Rhapsody:
- After deciding to cancel my free trial, they are still letting me
run out the remaining 3 days of it.
- The fundamental concept of streaming an entire music catalog gives
me more music than I would normally have and gives the record industry
more income than they would normally have.
- Flash player fucking sucks
- It eats a LOT of CPU power (on the order of 500MHz, or 10 extra degrees celsius on my little Core 2 Duo laptop).
- It crashes a lot
- It makes the whole computer slow
- It has an awkward UI. For example, it's maximum
inconvenient to control a Flash player on a remote computer (such as the
one hooked up to the amplifier).
- You cannot use anything but Flash player (I cannot just use mplayer or something open source that is much better at not sucking).
- The non-flash components of the web client sucks
- Most items have 3 consistent places to click: "play" icon, "add"
icon, and then the title. If you click on the title, sometimes it will
give you info about the item (which is probably what you wanted, right?)
but in many contexts it will instead start playing it, even though you
didn't click the play button. So answering a question like "what album
did this song come from?" is occasionally impossible and, when possible,
often requires interrupting the currently-playing song in order to
- When you are searching for something and type "band
name<enter>", it brings up the search results in two
locations...the first location is directly below the search box (like
auto-completion), and the second location is in the main view window. If
you click on one of the links in the auto-complete box at the wrong
moment, then sometimes it will (a) not display the result, and (b)
simultaneously make it so that you cannot display the result by clicking
on the link in the main view window. In other words, it doesn't work,
and then it makes it so the fallback technique won't work either.
- Most lists of tracks (albums, best of artist, best of genre, etc)
feature a "play all" item, but some don't. Consistency, fuckers!
- It keeps on popping up a fucking ad,
invariably for shitty fucking pop music that I hate and don't listen to.
Rhapsody has now ten days of records clearly indicating that I do not.
- In some contexts, clicking on an artist name brings up the artist
info page. In other contexts, it brings up a shitty blurb from which you
can access the artist info page by an additional click. Why would I
click on the artist if I didn't want to bring up their info???
- Fundamentally, it's stupid. I select music by artist, then album
(sorted by year), then track (sorted by track number), but Rhapsody is
always making me go through extra bullshit steps. After selecting an
artist, you have to take at least one additional step to see a list of
albums. Why would I click on an artist if I didn't want to see their
- The Android client sucks.
- It cannot play albums in offline mode.
- There's a stunning degree of "you can't get there from here" when
searching through the catalog.
- It crashes (but not quite as often as Flash player)
and is closed source (I cannot fix it conveniently).
- When viewing a band, it shows a list of options, the first of which
is "all albums." Then about half a second later it adds "listen to [band]
radio" to the top of this list of options. Since I always want to see
the list of albums, I click on the "all albums" but while my thumb is
travelling towards the screen, it yanks that button out from under me and
replaces it with the damn radio button. Like a shell game.
- The index is fucked.
- You effectively cannot search for popular
tracks because there is nothing within their index to differentiate the
iconic track you are looking for from the thousands of similarly-named
tracks made by cover bands, live performances, compilation CDs, etc.
- If you search for "bungle" you will find many
bands without Bungle in their name, and none with it in the name. You
must search for "mr bungle." This is the tip of a monstrous fucking
Rhapsody-destroying iceberg. Update 2 days later: Today searching for
"bungle" displays all of the Mike Patton bands, including Mr. Bungle.
So not only does it fucking not work, but it fucking changes from one
moment to the next,
meaning that if you don't find what you're looking for you might consider
JUST DOING THE SAME THING AGAIN. What do you tell a website with two
black eyes? Nothing you ain't fucking told it twice before.
- A lot of music will be played on the "radio"
that you cannot find by searching, such as Nine Horses' track Atom &
Cell. I finally proved that this is a real phenomenon by clicking on the
artist's name and taking a
screenshot of the resulting "This artist could not be found.
- The "radio" does not differentiate between artists with similar
names. For example, listening to "No Wave" radio will ocassionally play
tracks by Mars (No Wave) and will also play tracks by Mars (rapper).
- Older releases are often missing, meaning you can only get at a
track in best-of albums rather than the original album the band released
in the 60s.
- Older material is often mis-dated. For example the entire Pink
Floyd catalog appears to be present, but it is all indicated as having
release dates in the 90s. I understand that the database might not have
date information from the 70s, but why would they just fucking lie? I
know the answer, but it's still super lame. If I wanted an
inconsistently-compiled collection, I'd use
- A lot of music is missing
- A few I ran into: The Beatles, Nine Inch Nails, Y Kant Tori Read, Mothers of Invention, Frank Zappa
- A lot of artists have drastically incomplete discographies. For
example, several Panda Bear albums are available but "Person Pitch" (the
one I was looking for) is not. Bad Plus - Suspicious Activity is also
suspiciously missing. So you'll be looking for an artist, asking
yourself which album is the coolest one (usually the earliest one), and
you'll see this list of albums and think "oh I can find the one I want."
But in fact more often than not, the one you want isn't in the list. The
list is in-fucking-complete because Rhapsody fucking sucks. And for
artists you don't already know, you have no way to know this is the
fucking case. Seminal albums are the best and they're the most likely to
be published under a different label and thus be fucking missing. So
Rhapsody is next to useless for exploring new artists.
- The queue ("mixer") does not allow any interleaving of radio and regular queue (see Grooveshark for how it _should_ work):
- You cannot make a channel based on the music you have listened to today (in your queue)
- You cannot queue tracks to be played as an interjection in your radio
- You cannot see which tracks are next and previous in the queue when
listening to radio (especially, you cannot look for the awesome song that
- If you leave your queue unattended, all sorts of fucked up shit can happen.
- Some tracks simply do not play (if they are in your queue, they
cause your queue to stop when they are reached). Reloading, requeueing,
restarting flash, nothing will cause the track to ever play. No error
message, no sound.
- Sometimes it just seeks randomly to an earlier part in your queue,
repeating songs you just listened to. (I never use shuffle)
- At times, the queue is randomly re-ordered, making it impossible to
listen to albums in sequence. (I NEVER USE SHUFFLE!)
- Sometimes the Android player just starts randomly playing whatever
you listened to a week ago, even if you have since cleared your queue.
- Sometimes tracks at the bottom of your queue simply disappear.
- When I started my trial, the price was $9.99/month, but now they are
advertising $14.99/month. Right!
- A lot of tracks seem to be cut off (about one in twenty). I'm not
sure what the dealio. Is it network problems they failed to work around?
Some of them are
exactly 30 seconds long -- did they inadvertently integrate a few
promotional editions into their database? No fucking clue, but it's a
problem I don't have with MP3s.
The concept is so fucking on top of it all that I really don't want to
give up on it. I especially love that I can generally find whole albums
(something not true about services like Grooveshark), and that I can find
fairly obscure stuff (like The Tokens' psychedelic answer to Sgt
I'm not sure if I could compromise on the Flash player sucks issue,
and the whole proprietary security-through-obscurity DRM model that is
It'd be a little easier for me to accept a service that is missing
such essential musicians as Frank Zappa, but still under protest.
But there's no way in fuck-hell that I'll pay extra (vs. Grooveshark)
for a more complete collection when they haven't even figured out the
most basic fundamentals of indexing it.
They want my money? Fuck them.
I know a lot of this reflects problems in the underlying music
industry. For example, The Beatles' label is douchebags, and Rhapsody
can't do anything about that. And presumably most labels demand DRM
bullshit. And all of the labels love re-issuing, re-mastering, and
re-compiling tracks to try to make an extra buck off of old music.
I'm disappointed that these problems haven't been overcome in the record
industry's answer to piracy. But what is actually surprising to me is
how many of these errors are un-forced. Rhapsody is just shit-poor
Android, it's possible to do _much_ better than this. The numerous
multi-faceted indexing and queueing problems are just staggering to
contemplate. It's like they don't give a shit about their customers.
Or, as they described it, they only have one developer, and they pulled
him off of PC development to work on phone apps instead.
Save your fucking money. If you're going to use something that is
overtly by-and-for amateurs, use something free like