First Impressions: Yahoo Music

Filed under: — 10:05 am

Yahoo just launched Yahoo Music Engine, their answer to iTunes. Like iTunes, it’s a music player and library organizer, and includes its own music store—Yahoo Music Unlimited. Unlike iTunes, it’s for Windows only, although I imagine a Mac version is in the works. Here are my first impressions of the software and the subscription music service.

Let’s start with the software: YME has a clean user interface that is clearly inspired by iTunes, but doesn’t try too hard to duplicate it. It has some nice touches, like showing pictures of album covers instead of a simple list of albums when you select an artist. Its playlist support is basic, with no automatic formula-based playlists, and the application is a bit slow to start, so it’s not likely to replace WinAmp as my primary music player until it improves. I am intrigued by its list of plug-ins, which include everything from mini-players to a command-line shell and a version of FreeCell that runs inside YME.

As for buying music, you have two choices: you can buy tracks for 99 cents each, iTunes style, or subscribe to the Unlimited service for $4.99 (if you pay for a year) or $6.99 a month, which allows you to stream or download (but not burn to CD) anything in their catalog. Burnable tracks are only .79 for Unlimited subscribers.

The .79/.99 deal does not excite me. The DRM prevents me from doing everything I want (like playing the tracks on my iBook or putting them on my iPod) and the price isn’t amazing, so I’m better off buying a real CD or buying it from iTunes.

The subscription service, on the other hand, has me excited. I paid for a year, so for $4.99 a month I can download any album in their catalog. The music selection seems great so far, although not quite as diverse as iTunes. Yes, the DRM is annoying here too—the tracks don’t work on the iPod or on the Mac, and I can’t even burn them to CD—but at this price point, I don’t care.

Assuming I download five albums a month, I’m paying $1 per album. I listen to most of my music on the PC, so for $1 it’s almost as good as owning the album, and I can listen to the whole thing a couple of times before I decide to buy it from iTunes or the local CD shop. I can play the subscription tracks in the software of my choice—WinAmp and MusicMatch Jukebox both handle them just fine—and I can authorize up to 3 PCs to play them. I could even play them on a portable device, as long as it was one of these and not my iPod or my Treo. Sigh.

In short, I see this service as a nice way to preview and shop for music. At this price I don’t really feel like I’m paying for the music at all—I’m just paying $5 a month to preview it. By contrast, iTunes charges me $9.99 for each album, leaving me feeling like I paid for the album but still can’t do what I want with it.

Nice work, Yahoo!

One response to “First Impressions: Yahoo Music”

  1. […] A while back I wrote about Yahoo Music and their subscription program. I was very happy with the subscription service, but unable to use it with a portable device since it only supports certain non-iPod devices. […]

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