Think back …
Do you remember six-pack weekends on your favorite album rock station? You’re driving and there’s a marvelous long cut that you love and you’re waiting for the end of the pack to here the announcer say who performed and what the titles are. I first heard Jukebox Hero that way, driving late one Sunday on the Thomas E. Dewey, returning to Rochester from Philadelphia. [Hey, I liked it! You don’t have to.]
You didn’t catch the identification of a tune? So you called the station and they actually told you what they had played? (Who knew from playlists and why they have them back then).
Now flash forward to Internet Radio and and all of the broadcast stations with Internet streams. You can hear content from anywhere on the planet, such as one of my favorites Radio L’Olgiata (32kbps stream in Media Player here: I love the funky station jingles) or one of Rick Segal’s favorites, The Wave (great 64kbps stream).
Nostalgia for the Past
Once upon a time (three years ago, an Internet generation) there was a wonderful service called MSN Radio Plus that provided radio streams in my Windows Media Player. There were no collisions with my browser and I could keep the player completely separate and nestled at the bottom of my screen. Better yet, the album art for every tune showed up in my player along with an option to purchase downloads of single tracks, full albums, and also explore other work of that artist and of others that I also like. It was wonderful. The $12.95 annual Radio Plus subscription was nominal. I accumulated a fair amount of licensed content that works on all of my household computers and my plays-for-sure Sansa player too. The scheme for sharing licenses on up to 5 machines works perfectly.
Back to the Present
Microsoft recidivism struck at the end of 2006. MSN Radio Plus vanished, the ability to purchase easily from the connected MSN Music disappeared. The only alternatives that worked within Media Player were cumbersome systems like Urge and Real’s Rhapsody (with their own player), all at greater cost and, for me, less convenience, especially for the equivalent of radio that let me purchase downloads on impulse without other costs and purchase nagging.
There was (and still is) integration with other Internet radio streams, but they don’t integrate with convenient purchase sources and many services are scary with their intrusiveness and animated GIFs. Ick.
Whatever Department-of-Justice wariness led to this exit, the alternatives were more expensive, less functional, and careless of whose computer they were running on. Sometimes the success of a Microsoft venture for some consumers is because the competition sucks. Somebody listened to the complaints. No one seemed to bother checking with the satisfied customers.
A New Dawn?
Now I listen to Pandora for free. I was led there by the MSN Pandora arrangement. I stopped using that URL when MSN removed the option to open the separate mini-player.
What I really want: Pandora operating inside my Media Player in the Now Playing window. Then I want to be able to click to their artist, track, and album information in a way that lets me (by preference setting) click through to Amazon.com’s MP3 (256kb!) listings where I can quickly make a purchase and roam around further while the radio plays on. I want this to be friction-free and without too many clicks to the point of purchase. If I could marry Pandora smoothly to the Amazon MP3 service and its downloader, that would work. I bought DRM-protected downloads this way, why would I resist MP3s the same way?
Bring back my past!
What Others Are Saying
Rick Segal: So Close and Yet. The Post Money Value (web log), 2007-10-22. "This seems obvious: You are listening to a radio station and you like a song. You want it." Segal points out how much distance there is between hearing a song and being able to purchase your own copy. These posts reminded me that I have had this pent-up blog urge since I started using Amazon MP3 downloads. Here it is. [The recommendation for 94.7 the Wave is one that I’ve added to my favorites. I do have a weakness for modest doses of smooth jazz and the Wave does it well. The station site is not as ugly and frenetic as some.]
Rick Segal: Peter White – I Have Your Forty Bucks. The Post Money Value (web log), 2007-10-22. "I believe that if there was a single, simple, friction free way for people (like moi) to pay for stuff, like songs, we’d do it." Rick notices how few ways there are to pay for downloaded music when you want to, and how much friction there is in making music available in a form that works when it is wanted. [With this much focus on Peter White, I had to find out who he is. Peter White music is available on Amazon MP3. It is the kind of new-age guitar and backing that Vicki can’t stand (along with most smooth jazz). I am more inclined but I didn’t tip over for Peter White. I purchased some rich blues compilations though.]
Listening to: Ten Years After, Live at the Filmore East, in Windows Media Player, via Amazon MP3. KTWFM Smooth Jazz (in my browser), Radio L’Olgiata (Internet playlist into Media Player)