Tomorrow, MTV and Microsoft unveil their new digital music contender, Urge. MTV is digging deep into its vault to capitalize on its strengths, adding original live performances to its inventory along with an onslaught of celebrity playlists, customization, and editorial content. The two-tiered subscription service–$14.95/month if you want to download songs to a portable, non-iPod device; $9.95 if you don’t–includes access to CD-quality radio stations and the ability to play and download songs to your PC. The system is tied up in Windows Media Player 11, and MTV has cleverly re-introduced an emphasis on cover art as a way to sort and play albums. Urge will also include “Auto Mixes,” which take the artists and songs users like and continously find similar ones, refreshing its inventory with every new sign-in. Having interacted with automated playlists that left me more insulted than enlightened, it will be interesting to see how well this one works.
Lately I’ve been testing out different music services to see if their vast inventories include songs that, for whatever reason, aren’t on iTunes (Napster scored well). Music fans are incredibly fickle when technology stops working to our advantage. Just look at the set-up our parents had compared to what we use now. Whenever music is wrapped up in something fashionable, it’s even more ephemeral. We’re moving closer to a point where iPods are going to seem like, sooo last year. Urge is joining a growing group of services that aren’t iPod compatible (which, it should be pointed out, was actually an interoperability block on Apple’s side, according to MTV’s Van Toffler). The recently-released iPod alternative iriver Clix has been getting good reviews. Who knows–by the time the fall colors hit the stores, the TRL crowd might have sold all their iPods on eBay.