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Rhapsody

Real Networks has joined the online music fray with their new service, Rhapsody. Rhapsody is a bit different than the other services out there (i.e. BuyMusic.com, MusicMatch, iTunes etc.). For $10 per month, Rhapsody subscribers can listen to unlimited music streams from over 375,000 tracks. If you want to keep any of the tunes, you can burn them directly to CD for $0.79 per track. The sound quality is excellent, and the streaming performance is very good (over broadband, at least; I haven't tried dial-up). And, the catalog of songs is quite good considering the service is in its infancy. It can only get better, too.

I really like this approach to digital music. You can browse the music you like and listen to it as often as you like. If you really like an album or track, you can burn it to CD (although I prefer to purchase the CD outright for the higher sound quality). In addition, the client application makes it very easy to browse for new music. When you bring up a song or artist, it displays related artists as well as the genre to which the song/artist belongs. This allows you to branch out and discover new music in the same genres you already enjoy. It's very slick.

The only downside to this service is that you can't save the music directly to your hard drive. And, there is no support for portable MP3 players at this time. So, if you've invested in an iPod, Creative Nomad or something similar, you're out of luck at this time. You'll have to stick with iTunes or BuyMusic.com for the time being. Rhapsody is supposed to add support for portable players in the future, but its availability has not been determined yet.

However, if you like browsing music and listening to it while you sit at the computer, you can't beat Rhapsody. In fact, I'd recommend it to anyone who is interested in music. You can download the 14-day trial here. Enjoy!