I have a Slim Devices Squeezebox 2, which I love to death (the link goes to the cosmetically different but identically performing Squeezebox 3). If you don’t know about the Squeezebox, it is a networked music player that connects to your home theater or audio system via wireless or Ethernet. You need to run server software (available for Mac, Windows, or Linux), then you have access to your iTunes library in your living room. It also plays Internet radio stations, like Live365, radioIO, and Shoutcast.
The Squeezebox connects to streaming music services like Pandora and Rhapsody (that link gets you a free 14-day trial), and that’s what I really want to talk about. Pandora is exceptionally cool. You give it music you like, and it comes back with different music that it thinks you will also like. This is good, but you never know what’s coming up (which is also kind of the attraction). Rhapsody is similar to the iTunes Music Store, except that the music is available for streaming, and you can get whole albums and search for what you want.
Both services are free for streaming music over your computer, though ads are inserted in the stream. For the ad-free version through the Squeezebox, they require an annual subscription. And that’s where I was initially brought up short. But I’ve bought both services, at a cost of about $150/year. I figure that I’ll end up saving money. Let me explain. The Pandora subscription costs $36/year, and I’m constantly exposed to artists that I would probably not have otherwise heard. That’s worth three bucks a month for me. Rhapsody is pricier, at $10/month. But I’ve already saved $12 because of it, and I anticipate saving lots more. Here’s an example.
I’ve been a fan of Patty Griffin for a long time. She has a new album out, Children Running Through. Normally, I would have automatically bought it. But I wasn’t madly in love with her last album, Impossible Dream, so I wanted to hear the new music before forking over the dough. I probably could have downloaded it from BitTorrent, but instead I listened to the whole album on Rhapsody. And I just don’t like it that much. So that’s $12 I won’t be spending. It was great being able to audition the album first. And presumably Patty got paid when I listened to it, which makes me feel better.
I also get to listen to albums that I want to hear, but don’t really care to own, like Pink Floyd’s Animals (had that on vinyl, but never on CD). Or new albums like John Mellencamp’s Freedom’s Road (I may end up buying this, cause it’s pretty good), or older stuff. The downside is that I can’t move stuff I like to my iPod, because it is just streamed music. But I can live with that. And I can always buy the CD of music that I want to own and have on my iPods.