Katherine Boehret

Log On, Listen, Blog, Discuss

When you hear a catchy new song, it’s hard not to tell your friends about it. The opposite is also true: it’s nearly impossible to discuss a song when you haven’t heard it first. Yet there are plenty of blogs and Web sites where music is discussed under the assumption that other bloggers know how a song, album or artist sounds.

This week, I dived into the music blogging world of MOG.com, a Web site where enthusiasts can read, blog and network with one another. Starting today, this site will integrate with Rhapsody, the subscription-based music service, so that MOG users, or MOGGERS, can simultaneously blog about and listen to millions of songs that fuel their online discussions.

[CAPTION]Rhapsody is now integrated into  MOG's site for music afficionados
Rhapsody is now integrated into MOG’s site for music aficionados.

MOG Inc. prides itself on working as a destination for people who hope to discuss music tastes and opinions, like TripAdvisor.com works for travelers. MOG’s first public beta, or test version, came out about a year and a half ago.

Its use of a subscription model comes at a time when CD profits are lagging and larger social-networking sites are negotiating with record labels to incorporate music streaming. Plenty of people still prefer purchasing music a la Apple Inc.’s iTunes Store, where there aren’t restrictions due to streaming or subscriptions.

Along with built-in Rhapsody, this newly enhanced version of MOG includes other improvements, such as a better search engine and a speedy tool that generates personal profiles for each MOG user according to his or her musical tastes.

I was granted early access to MOG’s revamped site and was most impressed by its fast search tool, which works just like the Spotlight search in Apple’s operating system. Results are narrowed with each typed letter and returned in neatly divided categories. Best of all, music results came back as fast as if they were on my hard drive instead of various MOG pages and Rhapsody’s database.

MOG also does a good job of marrying its contents with Rhapsody in a way that isn’t overly obvious; tiny Play icons beside song titles can be selected to start hearing a tune through the Rhapsody player, which hums along in the background, and similar icons add songs to playlists in one step.

But for a site that prides itself on appealing to music enthusiasts, I found certain genres much more represented than others. The rock music category, for example, had plenty of related posts and coinciding Rhapsody music, but the classical music section was almost nonexistent and country tunes were poorly represented. I typed “Bach” into the search box, expecting to be flooded with results, but saw no music and only one post by a MOG user about why she thought Bach was a great composer. The company says it will fix this in the next couple of months.

Unlimited Rhapsody access costs $13 monthly and is offered free for the first 14 days. But, like all subscription models, it blocks access to music if you don’t pay this monthly fee. MOGGERS who don’t want to pay or don’t plan on using Rhapsody as much can choose from two free options: one that allows users to listen to 25 songs a month and another that only allows free 30-second clips of song.

MOGGERS can upload their own MP3s within blog posts on the site. But linking to Rhapsody songs was easier and faster.

I got started by clicking a giant “Magic Button” icon on the MOG site. This installed MOG-O-MATIC, a tool that automatically searched my computer’s hard drive for all of my music files, then indexed them and created a profile of my music taste on a personalized My MOG page. This tool was also available in the first version of MOG but is 10 times as fast now, indexing 10,000 songs an hour compared with 1,000 songs previously.

I liked that MOG-O-MATIC did some page-creation work for me, making a list of the songs I listened to most recently — regardless of what program I used to listen to the song (iTunes, Windows Media Player or Rhapsody). Another list that was automatically generated from my music showed which artist was best represented in my collection. If you don’t want the world to know about your Barry Manilow obsession, this list can be altered to fudge the truth.

Because MOG-O-MATIC scans your entire music collection, it knows what music you like. A Recommendations page shows you what other MOGGERS with similar tastes are listening to, helping you discover new tunes. I found these suggestions to be pretty accurate, and even discovered a great song on another MOGGER’s recommended playlist called “Summer Teeth” by Wilco. I checked out the page belonging to the MOGGER who created this playlist, and found other tunes that were in line with my musical taste.

Using Rhapsody, I played entire Web pages of recommended songs with one click. Likewise, entire music collections belonging to other people can be played the same way, as long as you have the right Rhapsody account to play that many songs.

I wrote a blog post on MOG about the newest album from “Fountains of Wayne,” and it automatically included a Play button icon, enabling the song I wrote about to play along with my post. This auto-linking is done with fill-in-the-blank boxes that tag each post with music.

MOG isn’t trying to be a social-networking site that enables all things. Instead, it focuses on one thing, music, and successfully improves the way people discuss, share and discover music online.

Email mossbergsolution@wsj.com.


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