As much as I like it, it’s time to retire my iPod. I’m switching from iTunes to Yahoo Music, and the iPod has to stay behind (because it only works with iTunes). I’d been holding off on switching because I listen to a lot of podcasts on my commute and iTunes has nice built-in podcasting support. Today Yahoo released Yahoo Podcasts and a Yahoo Music Engine plugin to go along with it – that was the final piece I needed to make the switch.
1. I’m listening to a lot more music: During one year of using iTunes I bought maybe 10 new albums. In just one month on Yahoo Music Engine (YME) I’ve added over 30 new albums to my collection. One reason is that it costs $10 per album on iTunes compared to $5 a month for as many albums as I want on Yahoo (I know I’m comparing apples to oranges, but I don’t burn CDs anymore, so it doesn’t matter to me that I “own” iTunes music and “rent” it on Yahoo). More importantly, I’m finding it easier to discover new music on Yahoo than I did on iTunes (more on that below).
2. Podcasting: As I mentioned above, I listen to lots of Podcasts. iTunes has nice built-in podcasting support. The new Yahoo Podcasts product offers all the same features as far as I can tell (searching for podcasts, featured/top podcasts, subscription management, etc). In addition, Yahoo offers tagging and one-click listening which should help in discovering new content.
3. Music sharing: This is probably my favorite YME feature and it’s mostly missing on iTunes. YME allows me to browse the music collections of other users. It imports my Messenger buddy list and I can see what my friends are listening to when they are online. When I find an album I like in their collection I simply click to add it to my own (all included in the $5 per month). I’ve found lots of great new music to listen to in this way. iTunes on the other hand has been a solitary experience for me with no chance of discovering new music through my friends. The closest thing on iTunes is the iMix playlist sharing feature, but it’s kind of impersonal, you have to buy all the songs from someone’s playlist to listen to them (which gets expensive in a hurry), and YME has a better version of this feature via the YMEplaylists plugin which lets me browse other users’ playlists and play them without extra cost (more on plugins below).
4. Recommendations: YME knows my taste and recommends new music for me when I log in. The recommendations are pretty good (often pretty mainstream, but still useful) and have helped me discover a bunch of new music. iTunes has “people who liked this album also liked…” but no personalized recommendations.
5. Streaming radio: Both YME and iTunes offer genre based streaming radio stations. YME in additon has theme based stations, and more importantly it has “my station” which is based on my music tastes, as well as access to other users’ stations (I’m listening to Scottt106‘s station as I write this). I’m listening to more streaming radio on YME than I thought I would (for some reason I never used the feature on iTunes).
6. Plugin bonanza: While no music service I know of is truly open (DRM’d content, etc), YME is ahead of everyone else by having open APIs to create plugins to extend the basic YME functionality. You can check out the plugin site to see what people have built. I’ve got the unfair advantage to see a bunch of pre-release plugins through my job. I’ve been running several of them to show Flickr photos of currently playing artists, control my YME from a remote browser, browse concert dates for the artists in my collection and create collaborative playlists via Messenger. No plugins for iTunes.
7. Remote access: I can walk up to any PC with YME installed, log into my Yahoo account and start playing my music collection (only songs from my Yahoo Music Unlimited subscription, not my MP3 collection). Since I access YME both at home and at work, this has been very nifty. I also like this as a backup feature of sorts: if my hard drive fails I can simply reinstall YME, log in and it’ll re-download all my tracks. There might be a way to make this work on iTunes as well, but I never figured it out.
The iTunes/iPod combo does have great overall product fit and finish, but there are enough advantages to Yahoo Music that I’ve decided to switch. For me it all comes down to the fact that I’m listening to significantly more music (especially more *new* music) on Yahoo than I did on iTunes. I’ve got a Dell Pocket DJ on order. It’s compatible with YME (I’ll be able to load any music I want from my YME collection into the player as part of the $5 a month). I’ll report back once I’ve used it for a while. I’m still experimenting and would love to hear people’s thoughts on these products.