Music Service Question

By Deane Barker on November 7, 2005

I’ve finally become interested in subscribing to a music service. However, I’m interested in one that will let me download music in DRM-free MP3 format, and does not require me to stay subscribed to the service to keep my music.

Essentially, I want Napster, but I’ll pay a monthly fee for it. Does such a thing exist, or am I kidding myself?



  1. Prolly not legal in the US but I’ve got a “friend” who uses a Russian based service called AllofMP3 and loves it. You can choose the format and bitrate at download time which at 192Kbps MP3 comes to about a dime a song. They have lots of US new releases as well as UK releases that aren’t available here. You can set up an account with Paypal so it’s not like you have to give them a credit card.

  2. You are very much kidding yourself. Here are the major players:

    iTunes – DRM-locked music using Apple’s proprietary DRM. No subscription, it’s pay-per-song, so it’s like buying music from a store, only with DRM.

    Napster – DRM-locked music using WMA, listen to all you want, but you have to pay a monthly fee. Once you leave, your music does too. I believe they also sell on a per-album basis.

    Rhapsody – DRM-locked music using (I believe) Real’s DRM tech. Probably restricts you to Real Player and compatible players. (And thanks for the ad, Real, but the player has earned its reputation). I don’t know much about this service, to be honest. When I go to the Real site, they just redirect me to the linux player based on my user agent. I suppose, though, that since they even have a Linux player, they’re more interoperable than the other two – credit where it’s due. They also have pay-per-song, and it’s cheaper than iTunes.

    There’s also the aforementioned allofmp3, which has withstood suit in a Russian court, but it’s probably still of dubious legality if you’re buying from the US. If you’re going that route, may as well stick with the P2p networks.

    Personally, I use iTunes, since Apple has me by the stones with all the proprietary tie-ins for the iPod. They do make it easy, though, and I buy more music now than I did when I was just getting it from CD stores.

  3. I’ve used allofmp3 as well, but not for awhile. I don’t believe a DRM-free subscription service exists. With any subscription service, one you stop paying your music won’t play. offers inexpensive DRM-free downloads, but none of it is what you would call mainstream music. Definitely not bad, but you may have to dig a bit for the stuff that interests you.

    Personally I’m hooked on iTunes. Does it contain DRM? Sure, but I’ve never encountered a situation where that limited my use of a song I purchased. Does it sound good and allow me to take my music everywhere I want to go? Yes. Perhaps XM or Sirius are what you are looking for. Can’t choose the song and can’t keep it, but it certainly offers a wide variety of programming for the money.

  4. I still like buying CDs. I always want to own it. I don’t trust any company to stay in business for the next 20 years with buyouts, bad accounting, corporate scandles, etc. always occuring.

    If I were to use one, I would use Napster so I could listen to whatever I wanted at the time. Just like XM/Sirius, but with what I choose. I would still buy my Dream Theater CDs though. :)

  5. Has anyone had good luck with AllOfMP3’s quality? I’ve been listening to some samples, and the quality is awful — they sound like they’re singing underwater. IS it just the samples that are encoded poorly?

  6. The sample quality sucks but they let you listen to the entire song/album. You can choose what compression codec you want to encode the songs in at download time, I think they even support lossless, To my ears the 192KBPS MP3s sound as good as anything I rip myself with the same specs. If you do decide to give it a try, assuming you are running Windows, dowload their Explorer client – it’s no iTunes but it makes using the service much easier.

  7. Regarding iTunes: While they are DRMed, you can burn them off to a CD and re rip them. Many people fail remember that when talking aboiut iTunes, but you then are able to treat them like any other MP3 that you have in your collection.

  8. So does the Rhapsody banner at the top of the right-hand column mean that you made a choice?


    Is this then part of the new ad deal with FM? Don’t go getting all crazy with the banner images. And is there any chance of getting some variety? I’m already kind of tired of the Rhapsody ads. Not that I’m really complaining all that much. I’ve actually switched to a feed reader in the past few weeks, so I am seeing less and less of the site.

  9. And is there any chance of getting some variety? I’m already kind of tired of the Rhapsody ads.

    Yeah, there will be some rotation as new advertisers come on. And who knows if Rhapsody will stay? They have a set number of impressions they’re running through.

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