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Where's what I bought?
I'm working on an online music startup for a consortium of symphony orchestras, so I'm subscribing to all the paid music services out there to steal the best product ideas someone else has already developed.
One of the best from the standpoint of sheer content is Rhapsody, from listen.com. (What's the deal with the two brands? Oh, well.) They have a deal with Naxos, the label that has revolutionized the classical recording business by producing thousands of new, often excellent digital recordings retailing way down in the $7 range. Rhapsody has a plan where you can listen to nearly all of Naxos' huge back catalog online for $6 a month. Not a bad deal if you want to stack up a bunch of interesting recordings and let them play while you're working for a few hours. For an extra $4/month, you can burn up to 10 Naxos tracks to a CD. Rule #1 for a premium subscription service: Have enough content. This service does.
But this is likely to fail unless they address some serious usability issues.
-- Like every online audio "player" I've seen, the user interface is confusing and garish. You've got both a "My Library" and a "Playlist" window on the front page -- takes a lot of time to figure out the difference. (Hint: "My Library" is your Bookmarks/Favorites list of recordings that you want to don't want to hunt for twice.)
-- The catalog data fields are inconsistent -- as so often happens with classical recording databases, it's shoehorned into a layout with pop-centric field names, and the merger hasn't gone very well. (Lots of performer names in the "composer" field, etc.) Yes, it's a huge investment of time to get the data right for 20,000 tracks of music -- but the customers for this service will have a harder time figuring out what's where.
-- Worst of all -- I subscribed to the Naxos-only package, but there's no reference to Naxos anywhere in the Rhapsody/Listen interface -- no way can I find a home page or "center" for the subscription package I've subscribed to on the main page. If I look past all the rock promos, there is a "classical" link, but it takes me to a catalog with Naxos mixed in with a bunch of other labels that I don't have access to. And there's no classically oriented e-mail newsletter, telling you what's new or what Naxos has added. (Naxos hasn't even tried to sell me any CDs!)
"Hey, what do you want for a tiny specialized audience?" Tiny specialized audiences may be the people who help online subscription music take off, and they deserve a focused package and some nice targeted communications for a product they're paying $70 or more a year for.
Posted by Thomas Baker to Open Field Partners at 6/3/2002 9:52:30 PM
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