Can iTunes learn from Musicmatch?

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Like my co-worker, Jason Snell, I love iTunes. I can't imagine organizing or playing my music on anything else. It's so easy to import, find and play songs, and then skip on over to the iTunes Music Store to buy an album or two. An easy to ease feature-rich application, but as Jason points out, iTunes is far from perfect.

While I'm sure most Mac users have tried or use iTunes on a regular basis, I'd be interested to know if those same users listen to iTunes Radio. This is one feature that I don't think I've used since iTunes 1.0 -- to be honest it's terrible. I really had nothing to compare the radio service to until recently when I tried Musicmatch's Windows music service.

Leaving the QuickTime versus Windows Media format war out of the mix, the Musicmatch music store is very similar to Apple's iTunes Music Store. Both services offer much of the same music and if you can't find a song on one service, you probably won't find it on the other -- this, I suspect, has more to do with the record labels than the services Apple and Musicmatch offer.

Not being able to differentiate yourself in a music store puts companies on the offensive, striving for ways to lure customers to their service -- in this respect Musicmatch came up with a great idea.

Musicmatch took the radio idea to the next level of listening pleasure. Not only do they offer the old standard of listening to different genres of music, but Musicmatch also gives listeners Artist on Demand and Artist Match radio. These two services alone would make me subscribe and pay money for the radio service (which, incidentally you do have to pay for the service).

Artist on Demand and Artist Match were so cool, I was surprised that Apple hadn't thought of it. Here's how it works: You do a search for your favorite artist and Musicmatch gives you the option to play all songs by that artist (Artist on Demand) or play songs by that artist and all similar artists (Artist Match).

So, if today I want to listen to Ozzy Osbourne and click Artist Match, I would hear Ozzy, Black Sabbath, Dio etc. Your own personal music playlist streamed over the Internet. But wait, it gets better.

Musicmatch Artist on Demand and Artist Match also includes songs that aren't available for purchase. So, as an example, I wanted to buy "We're an American Band" by Grand Funk Railroad -- iTunes Music Store didn't have it and neither did Musicmatch. However, it was available using the Artist on Demand feature.

These are two services that I would gladly pay Apple a monthly fee to have (say $4.00). So Apple, when you are thinking of ways to innovate, don't forget some of the older features that you can improve on.

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