Rhapsody: The Great iTunes Challenger?

Rhapsody emerged on the scene in 2001 as legal response to the rapidly escalating number of illegal downloads of online music. Though it has had its share of ups and downs over the last ten years, its present format now poses the most significant challenge to Heavyweight Champion, iTunes.

Rhapsody’s mobile apps present the most convenient and impressive bargain available today. The bargain boils down to this: for the price of one regular album on iTunes ($9.99), you can download, yes download, unlimited music onto your iPhone, iTouch, or iPad.

While the creators of Rhapsody initially placed the emphasis on its online streaming capabilities, they recognized that with the growing importance of mobile devices, their strategy too had to shift. Rhapsody still offers streams of all of their music that you can explore from the luxurious convenience of your laptop or desktop.

But the aspect of their service that is most amazing (and most amazes me that it has not caught on like wildfire in the music listening community) is their mobile App. By downloading Rhapsody’s free App, any music that is streamable on their website can be downloaded onto your iPhone, iTouch, or iPad. This music does not join the cavalcade of music in your Music library but can be accessed only through the Rhapsody App. While having the music join the rest of downloaded music would make this App impeccable, you can’t always get what you want.

After downloading the music, you can listen to it whenever you want. The interface is user-friendly and allows you to create a supplementary library to your previously downloaded music. When you are connected to a Wi-Fi network (or if you’re on 3G), you can stream music freely—but once you are no longer on a network, you can only access the music that you have downloaded.

Rhapsody presents an incredible bargain. For $9.99 a month, you have the world of music at your fingertips. At this price, you can only have the Rhapsody App on one device, but for $14.99, you can download music on up to three devices. If you download at least two albums on iTunes a month, you’re already saving money. Plus, with unlimited downloads, you can sample as much music as you wish.

Yesterday, I enjoyed Adele’s soulful new release, 21, Billy Bragg’s classic and influential, Life’s a Riot With Spy Vs. Spy, and Baths’ atmospheric weirdness, Cerulean—all accessed on my computer and then from my iTouch.

One cannot speak highly enough of Rhapsody’s musical offerings. With a few rare exceptions, I have always found everything I’ve wanted to listen to—from old classics, weird forgotten records, to today’s chart toppers. With the exception of one notable absence, my bet is that you’ll be overwhelmingly pleased by all that you can find. Rhapsody’s website provides genre guides that present the newest and most popular releases. They also provide lists—such as “Indie Roundup” which reviews the newest independent music releases or “Folk Yeah!” which provides a survey of the birth of Folk-Rock.


The website can help point you in interesting directions but could still be improved substantially by adding more features, lists and reviews. But as it stands—and with the present MTV sponsored 60 day free deal—Rhapsody offers something truly unmatchable that music aficionados and casual listeners alike should indulge.