A Look at MSN Music
I checked out the recently launched MSN Music last night and was pretty impressed. The interface is slick and clean and previewing is entirely browser-based (looks like IE only), making it even simpler than iTunes to check out clips of new bands and much simpler than iTunes to send people to pages of the store. Prices seem to be the same as iTunes and the format is of course WMA chock full of DRM. This means it's incompatible with all the iPods out there, which is going to hurt it in the short term. Also as far as I know you can't buy anything from the store in Canada so there's not much else I can say about that.
- Put more bio and discography content in there. Become a useful music encyclopedia resource like Allmusic with easy previewing and purchasing of songs. Do this right and you'll have a resource that web savvy types would be constantly sending new potential consumers to even if they themselves aren't interested in the purchasing part.
- Let users embed song previews -- and links to buy the song -- on their websites. So if I wanted to make my killer mix of 80s hits I love and you should have, I could list them all on a page on my weblog here with 30 second previews and links through to buying the tracks from the MSN Music Store. Why would I do that? Because it's easy, it costs me no bandwidth and is something I can't easily do on my own. Giving people referral kickbacks like iTunes would obviously be an added bonus. This would be like the awesome iMix feature of iTunes except instead of being only useful to people who are already inside the store, it would be open to the majority of web users.
- Artist and record label RSS feeds. Why not give users the option of instant notification when there's new stuff to buy on artist pages, or entire record labels. I can't really see a downside. The catalog is a bit empty in some areas right now and I'd like to be able to watch for when stuff I want shows up.
All in all I'm pretty impressed. Now they just need to get my music in there (delivered on August 27!) and we're all set.