Does technology drive us apart? This was an interesting question posed in a Rockline interview with the Wilson sisters of the rock band Heart. With MP3 players, game devices and smart phones, people may be connected, but, as Stephen Stills might say, not necessarily connected with the ones they are with.
The timing of last night's interview with Ann and Nancy Wilson was impeccable, as I have been reviewing MOG for the past couple of weeks. MOG, an on-demand, subscription-based service, is looking at bringing social back into the music listening experience. The Heart interview gave me the perfect excuse to, once again, test MOG’s claim of 8.5+ million songs under license. Sure enough, Heart's new album Red Velvet Car instantly popped up on the MOG site.
Prior to pressing the play button, I could peruse the web page and see that, of 26 ratings, their new album had received 5.0 out of 5.0. There were also reviews of the album from various web sites accessible by clicking on a link. Instead of a redirect to another web site, a new window on the MOG site would appear. Similarly, clicking on the Lyrics tab shows the lyrics for a particular song; no having to jump to another site that probably has doesn’t have the rights to post lyrics, but has lots of pop-up ads and who knows what sort of viruses.
To this last point, one of the major benefits of MOG is that it is a licensed offering that streams and plays music without the need for loading plug-ins or installing peer-to-peer or any other kind of software; all that is needed is an up-to-date browser. This makes it safe and easy to use. A nice feature is that one can try it for 3-days at no cost and without having to enter a credit card.
The on-demand nature of the service is nice, as well the ability to jump back to a previous track. One of the nicest features is that it brings the album concept back, as opposed to some of the Internet radio solutions where you hear related songs or artists (which this service also provides). The albums play just as they did from the 70s, except there is no need to worry about a skipping needle. The 320 Kbps audio encoding provides higher quality than the typical Internet radio station. Once the album plays, it will continue to play music from that artist or others, depending upon how the listener sets his preference.
The MOG site is as much a social sharing site as anything. It is easy to rate, comment and share playlists. Playlists are an important part of the site and include listener-generated playlists, artist playlists and MOG playlists. This is a great way for those of us who like music pushed to us. Unlike most of the Internet or the satellite radio services, the listener may also search for and select a song or an album to play on-demand in a “pull” model.
People on the go can listen to music on Android-based devices either via streaming or download. I found the Android application a bit cumbersome and not nearly as responsive as the browser application. Of course, this may have also been a function of Android 1.6, my ancient G1 phone and the mobile network. The Android application is sure to get better and it does point to the value-add of being able to listen anywhere
The service does not allow you to login at two different places at a time, which is not a showstopper, but it would prevent the kids from listening in one room, while the parents are listening to something else in another room. On the other hand, this forces a sort of communal experience. For example, in my household, we turned down the generic music on the game console while we were playing a game and instead listened to an album from my days of future passed.
The service is off to a great start and I can see addition of some other cool features that will make it that much easier to use, such as:
- Sub-accounts to allow more than one stream at a time
- Integration with a content identification service like Shazam. I find that I use Shazam to identify long forgotten songs that I would like to buy (but never do). A Shazam-like feature would be a natural way to build a custom playlist for listening on MOG.
The most interesting thing about this service may be the business model. At $4.99, with access to a library so big and with so many easy-to-use features, it is an excellent value. For $9.99, one gets the music portability.
It goes beyond price, as MOG sees their service as an interesting add-on for IPTV or broadband plays. Like a subscription on-demand for video, they see this as a simple way to bring music to the living room without having to rewire the house or make a purchase decision every time they want to listen to a new song. Today's announcement of MOG’s integration with Roku provides a way for viewers/listeners to do things such as search, interact and view album artwork via a 10-foot interface on the television.
MOG anticipates extending their model to broadband and IPTV providers. This could be an interesting value-add to bundle with a broadband subscription. The nice thing about this feature is that because it is audio, it does not clog the network. This is a service that broadband service providers should monitor or at least give a listen.
- Red Velvet Car is a quintessential Heart album that is worth a listen. For background on the album and their career of the Wilson sisters, the Rockline interview will be archived and available for the next two weeks at, http://www.rocklineradio.com/replay/replay.php
- MOG's model reminds me of a video interview I had with Fred Von Lohmann a couple of years ago, when he was still with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and how he alluded to a similar model as a way to move to a new of distributing music and ensuring compensation of artists. Click here to watch that interview.
- Except for original Beatles music, there wasn't any song or album I couldn't find. Granted, my tastes are probably pretty mainstream, but I found complete catalogs from various artists covering the 60s to the present.