If free ad-supported music services aren't going to make it financially, what about paid subscription services? Rhapsody and RealNetworks continue to soldier along, but RealNetworks is apparently looking for investors to take some portion of the Rhapsody business off its hands, and we haven't heard much about Napster since Best Buy, which acquired it a little over a year ago, slashed subscription prices in May in a bid to build membership.
Soon, there will be another competitor in the market: MOG. The company has offered a kind of music blog site with a social-networking spin for a couple years now. On Monday the company announced it will launch MOG All Access, a new subscription service, on December 2. At $5 a month, the price will match Napster's, only without the minimum 3-month commitment that Napster requires.
MOG has been teasing the service with videos for a couple of months now, and the latest demonstration video looks pretty appealing. Fast search will show results as you type, and you'll be able to create and save playlists, which will then appear in other users' search results (for instance, if you create an all-shoegaze playlist, it should show up when I type "Boo Radleys Curve Slowdive"). There's also a social-networking aspect: you'll be able to create profile pages which will display information such as the last song you played, and add other users as "trusted sources" to get their recommendations--very similar to Microsoft's Zune Social.
There's also a radio feature that trumps every other online radio service I've seen. You can enter an artist, such as the Dead Kennedys, and it'll begin playing songs only by that artist; unlike most other online radio services, you'll be able to see the queue and move to any song in it. If you crave more variety, you can have the service add related artists to the mix in a fashion similar to Pandora or Zune Smart DJ.
All this sounds like a valiant effort to move the subscription market forward, but lack of a portable story is a big drawback. Rhapsody To Go is available on the iPod; Microsoft gives you its own alternative for the Zune. Still, I've signed up for the beta and will be testing it out as soon as I can.