OK, I've got a few minutes, time to rhapsodize about Rhapsody.
Let me get the bad parts out of the way first, so I can concentrate on the good parts. Rhapsody is a Windows-only service, so the fourteen of you out there who are still fighting the anti-Microsoft battle can quit reading now. Rhapsody is also a pay service ... I'm not certain about the pricing, but I think it's $10/month, $25/3 months. Rhapsody is also a computer/online service ... the only way to listen to it on your stereo is if your computer is connected to that stereo, you can't listen to it in the car or anywhere else non-computerish.
I've just given plenty of reason for many, even most, people to lose interest in Rhapsody.
What are the good parts?
Well, Rhapsody has an enormous catalog of music. Let's take, oh, Van Morrison for an example. They've got 13 of his albums. They have six compilations on whch he appears. They have five other albums that he does guest shots on. You want to hear Astral Weeks? You can. Want to hear just that one song from Astral Weeks? You can.
Let me take someone a bit more contemporary. Like E-40? They have five E-40 albums and one EP. They have five compilations he appears on; they have close to 20 albums on which he makes appearance.
OK, they have a lot of tunes. I think they claim 400,000. Not everyone is available for this "on demand" service, most notably the Beatles. But 400,000 songs is a lot. (There is also a Rhapsody radio thingie that is part of the package, and it's nice, if not quite as good as Musicmatch MX ... and on those stations, you'll hear some of the artists who are missing from the on-demand catalog.) Basically, though, if you say to yourself "I want to hear that song," you can hear it ... I don't have a %, seems to me that I get positive results on about 90% of what I'm looking for.
Then there's the playlists. Anyone who loves making mix CDs will love this. Everyone of those 400,000 songs in the on-demand catalog can be placed in a playlist. You can put them in particular orders, you can put the same song in three different times, you can do a shuffle play, you can save as many playlists as you like. And the playlists are stored online, so if you've got a computer at home, a computer at work, and a laptop, you can install Rhapsody on all your machines and whenever you log on, from whichever computer, all of your info is there, all of your playlists are there, and this is all part of the basic package.
Here's some examples of what you can do with playlists, besides the obvious Mix function. I have a playlist called "Robin." It has about 300 songs so far, and it'll continue to grow. Basically, I'm sticking every song I can think of that Robin likes into that playlist. Then, when she's at home and in the mood for tunes, I put "Robin" on shuffle play and everyone's happy. With standard radio, she's stuck listening to the oldies channel ... that's closest to her taste, but it means she never hears anything from the last few decades, and there's lots of music from that time which she enjoys. With Musicmatch, Robin can create a station based on her taste in music (you can do this to a lesser extent in Rhapsody), but she is then at the mercy of the software, which can be good (it will play a song you don't know but will like) or not so good (it will decide that since you like Bruce Springsteen, you'll also like some piece of obscure garage junk, and you won't like it). With Rhapsody playlists, the surprise factor is missing ... you won't hear something new, you have to look elsewhere for that (listening to a Rhapsody station that appeals to you being an obvious possibility) ... but since the catalog is so huge, you WILL be surprised.
IPod people know what the thrill is ... most of us these days either have an iPod or know someone who does, and they love to explain how they put their entire CD collection on the iPod. And that's a great thing, and it's also portable, which is not the case with Rhapsody. But, given the limitation that you are listening from your computer, Rhapsody has iPod beat in one important area: with an iPod, you can put your entire CD collection in one place, but with Rhapsody, you can put every CD the world in one place.
OK, I've exaggerated as usual ... 400,000 songs is not the same as "every CD in the world." But it's a move in the proper direction. I'd be happy to link to the article in question, but I can't remember where I read it ... but just a couple of weeks ago, I read a piece that said one possible future for music would be one where the consumer paid a flat fee for access to every piece of music that exists. It's basically what radio stations do. Now, the point of the article was that for our flat fee, we should get unlimited rights to that music ... we should be able to listen to it anywhere we want, in any format we desire. Rhapsody is nowhere near that point, being that it is tied to an internet-connected computer. But it's got the right idea. Give 'em their $10/month (about the price of one used CD), and listen to any of 400,000 songs you want.
The playlist possibilities are endless. I have a crushing nostalgia for the "underground" radio of the late-60s ... I've created a playlist with 700 or so songs that got played on underground radio in those days. I've got a playlist of songs my sister Chris likes, which I can listen to when I'm chatting with her online. Neal came over and made me several mix playlists of some of his favorites, so I have Neal-chosen Greatest Hits for E-40, Geto Boys, and Timbaland. I'm building a playlist that contains every song Rhapsody makes available from Dave Marsh's book of the 1001 best singles of all time. I've got a playlist called "Morning" which features music appropriate for reading the Sunday paper.
Also, you can send playlists to others ... obviously, you need the Rhapsody service to listen, which cuts out most people, but I can place a link here on my blog and if you click on it, you can listen to a short set I built for listening to in the car when Robin's driving. (Here's the list, before anyone asks: "Werewolves of London" - Warren Zevon, "You Can Leave Your Hat On" - Randy Newman, "All I Wanna Do" - Sheryl Crow, "St. Teresa" - Joan Osborne, "Who Will Save Your Soul" - Jewel, "One Headlight" - The Wallflowers, "I Need To Know" - Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers.)
I've ignored the burning capabilities of Rhapsody ... I'm interested in it for the playlists and huge catalog, I don't need to burn the stuff, but they make a large part of the catalog available for burning at I think 79 cents a song ... again, I don't use that function, so I have no idea if it's any good or not.
So, if anyone is actually reading this and actually using Rhapsody, let's see your playlists!