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Author Topic: Napster not good for casual music purchasers.  (Read 12084 times)
Deozaan
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« on: March 10, 2006, 01:08:41 AM »

I have to disagree with this review, at least for my needs.

I'm a casual music purchaser, generally sticking to the artists I already know and like. If I explore new music, it is almost always on the recommendation of a friend. I don't listen to the radio because I can't stand all the horrible music it plays. I don't follow most of the popular trends in music. If I get in a car with a bunch of people and they start singing along to a song on the radio, I usually don't know it. I couldn't believe it when, back in high school, a few people asked me what radio station I listened to and the look of utmost surprise (and as if I was some kind of freak) when I told them I didn't listen to any. Sorry for delving into personal history, I just wanted you to have an idea of where I'm coming from in my personal tastes and musical desires.

For an audiophile, your review may be correct, but my experience with Napster has not been a pleasant one. That may be partly because I'm just ignorant on how it works.

In all my searches for music online I have found iTunes to have a better selection of what I'm looking for. Not only that, but it was iTunes' shopping cart that initially led me to prefer it over Napster, even if Napster had the music I was looking for. I didn't like that Napster made me buy one song or one album at a time, and didn't let me pick several individual songs or a couple of albums and buy them all at once.

Also, when I initially tried out Napster, I had a small monitor and liked all my windows maximized. I was more than a little frustrated that my task bar would not pop up from being hidden when Napster was maximized and I moved my mouse to the bottom of the screen. I reported this "bug" and they began to tell me how to go into the settings to make it so that my task bar didn't hide, as if I had no idea that the task bar was at the bottom of the screen and I only needed to move my mouse down there to reveal it. That was at least three years ago, but last time I checked (minutes ago), it still does that. Indeed, iTunes shared the same disfunctionality initially, but it has since been resolved. That problem doesn't affect me much anymore now that I have a bigger monitor and don't maximize all my windows (and don't use Napster), but it bothers me that they blamed my ignorance on how to use windows, as if it worked correctly the whole time, instead of their inability to make a program that allows the task bar to pop up.

The 30 second streaming preview playlist is a nice idea, if it only worked properly. Unfortunately any time you add music to it, it immediately starts playing the most recently added song, which is at the bottom of the list, effectively skipping over songs that you are currently trying to preview. I'd rather have not have a feature than one that doesn't work properly.

And the DRM is what tops it all off. The worst feature right there. I can't believe they won't let you burn your music to CDs when you're paying them each month for music. That's ridiculous! If you're someone who operates on principle, as I am, that's reason enough to stay away from Napster. As the free account user, they've allowed me to burn my music in the past (haven't tried for years, though) so I could easily burn and rip the disc into MP3s. A hassle, to be sure, but it doesn't seem to be much better or worse than stripping the DRM. And I'm not fond of WMA files, either. I much prefer the widely supported MP3 format, though in recent years WMA support has become more available. If I buy something, I want to use it how I want to use it. I don't want to have to search through the limited products that support something as universal as simple audio.

I don't particularly love iTunes. In fact, I absolutely hate that it comes with QuickTime and you have no choice but to install both programs if you want one or the other. I've been using it for a couple of years (ever since I found myself dissatisfied with Napster's selection and functionality) and I still can't figure out how to make proper playlists. As a music player, I hate it. I stick with WinAmp. I don't have a portable music player and if I did I'd just use the USB cable to transfer my music over. I don't need an additional program to "help" me transfer files when Windows Explorer works just fine.

iTunes also has DRM protected M4P files, but natively allows and encourages you to burn your music within the iTunes Player. Again this requires ripping (and effectively having two copies of all your music) to be able to listen to the music anywhere but iTunes or iPod, but I haven't ever questioned the legality of it. I bought it, it's mine. I'll have it in what format I want.

I understand the necessity of both programs limiting the music to 3-5 computers. Unfortunately for me, I had no idea about this "feature" until I'd already re-formatted once and later gotten a new hard drive. Now I have two "computers" that are worthless on there, even though I've been using the same computer the whole time. I don't know how Napster handles this, but I think that unused "computers" on iTunes will eventually timeout.

iTunes was only briefly mentioned in passing in this review (saying it was ripping users off and costing more, when in reality, iTunes it offers albums for about a dollar less and often will include bonus tracks or videos. Not much, but for the miser it adds up) and yet as the main "competitor" of Napster, I feel it deserves further investigation. In this review we were just told about Napster's subscription service; we were simply told that Napster was the best, and saw no objective comparison between the very similar experience of the free account users, in which I feel iTunes comes out on top. That's a shame that readers of the review were not able to see for themselves which program would best suit them by comparing their features.

If you're looking to buy music, stick with iTunes. If you want to explore new music you haven't heard of before, then perhaps Napster is for you. But as a casual music purchaser with a very limited income, try http://www.pandora.com/ or http://www.mercora.com/ (both free) to find new music you'd like, then purchase it with iTunes. Your experience should be much less stressful that way. If you can't find it in iTunes, you probably won't find it in Napster.

Neither are perfect, but have "features" that annoy me extremely. But for just buying music, iTunes has provided me with the better price, a better selection, an easy to use store (with a shopping cart!), and an overall better experience.
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mouser
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« Reply #1 on: March 10, 2006, 01:23:03 AM »

excellent and well thought out post!

it's been almost a year since the napster review and i would have to say that i would be more cautious now as well recommending napster.

i personally find the pay-per-song approach of itunes unacceptable for my needs, so itunes is not a viable contender for my attentions.  i also dont go to such a music site to buy specific songs.  i'm old fashioned i guess and i like to buy a whole album if i'm going to buy music, usually the real cd/record.

but i do like to explore music with these services, and i love the idea of a monthly fee which lets you download as many full songs as you want.

the one very real addition i would make to the review is the one you made, that there are now some really excellent alternative ways of exploring music, like pandora and also one you didn't mention, lastfm: http://www.donationcoder....um/index.php?topic=1880.0

such sites may be more satisfying (and free) ways to discover new music, and your conclusion may be a very good one that bears repeating:

Quote
If you're looking to buy music, stick with iTunes. If you want to explore new music you haven't heard of before, then perhaps Napster is for you. But as a casual music purchaser with a very limited income, try http://www.pandora.com/ or http://www.mercora.com/ (both free) to find new music you'd like, then purchase it with iTunes. Your experience should be much less stressful that way. If you can't find it in iTunes, you probably won't find it in Napster.

however, until itunes comes out with a flat monthly fee thing for unlimited non-drm'd downloads ill keep looking for the perfect service.
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Deozaan
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« Reply #2 on: March 10, 2006, 01:35:26 AM »

i also dont go to such a music site to buy specific songs.  i'm old fashioned i guess and i like to buy a whole album if i'm going to buy music, usually the real cd/record.

I'm with you there. I usually buy a full album as well. I'm kind of compulsive like that. I pretty much have to have the entire thing or it's not complete. That sounds like a really obvious statement, but I think you understand what I mean. It's rare that I'll look for just a select number of songs (haven't done that since the first time I used Napster and iTunes, which is why Napster became so frustrating to me having to buy one at a time) but there are plenty people who do. I like to have the real CD too, but iTunes is generally cheaper and then I can just burn my own disc and get the MP3 files and I'm ready to go without leaving the house or waiting for the thing to ship.

the one very real addition i would make to the review is the one you made, that there are now some really excellent alternative ways of exploring music, like pandora and also one you didn't mention, lastfm: http://www.donationcoder....um/index.php?topic=1880.0

Ah, I hadn't heard about that one! It's always good to have a selection.

Anyway, I haven't looked at many site reviews yet, but on "The Best [program type]" reviews I'd like to see more comparisons on features rather than just being told which is the best.
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mouser
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« Reply #3 on: March 10, 2006, 05:39:06 AM »

when we started our reviews a year ago they were much more "here is the best one", but we are trying to move more torwards comparative reviews rather than just focusing on one program we think is best.
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slave138
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« Reply #4 on: April 06, 2006, 03:16:02 PM »

I know this is an older review, but I still want to comment a little on it.  Many of the online music services seem to be using some variation of Napster's subscription model, but I despise it on principle. 

To put it in a more real-world setting, it's like I went to a bookstore and they told me I needed to pay them $15 a month to come in.  "It's not that bad!" they tell me as they explain that I can take any book I like.  Sure, the book self-destructs next month if I don't pay them again, but I can always opt to purchase the book outright for a dollar off the normal prices.  As another example it's like my cable company deleting all my video-taped programming if I stop paying my subscription fees.  Neither is an example of a service I would choose to use.

iTunes doesn't rate much higher for me due to the DRM preventing me from playing the songs on my Creative Zen player.

I've been using eMusic for the last few months.  While their selection is limited to independent releases, their subscription options offer a lot more freedom at much lower prices.  For $10/month I get 40 MP3 downloads which never expire and don't care how many computers I put them on.  I'm not a Top 40 snob and many of my favorite artists are available here (like Gary Numan, Eddie Izzard, Bad Religion, Flogging Molly, etc...).

It might be time to do a shoot-out review of the available services just to compare their nuances.
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~slave138
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« Reply #5 on: April 06, 2006, 03:20:25 PM »

i definitely think a new shootout is in order soon, since the first one is a year old.

your points are well taken and have been raised by others, and i think really that there are probably two very different audiences who would like 2 very different answers.

for me,
i get the most fun from exploring music and downloading a lot to listen to for a short time.  and maybe burn some to cd for permanence.

so for me, what i like most is unlimited downloads for small monthly fee.  and the drm stuff doesnt bother me too much since ill just burn it to cd if i want it forever.

but a lot of people go more for downloading the songs they already know they want to own - in which case these "rent-like" drm models are totally unacceptable.
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chaplin7
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« Reply #6 on: June 14, 2006, 06:20:23 AM »

Napster music could be converted to unprotected mp3-s by

[edit: we're trying to cut down on posts that could be considered spam - especially if it's of questionable legality.. not saying this was spam just saying we're removing it for now.]
« Last Edit: June 14, 2006, 09:50:34 AM by mouser » Logged
Deozaan
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« Reply #7 on: June 28, 2006, 12:00:43 PM »

I recently read that the latest version of Napster is free and lets you listen to every song the whole way through nine times. No more 30 second previews.

Cool, but AllTunes.com is all I need now.
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