The Big Questions Surrounding MOG’s All Access

As promised, MOG launched its All Access premium content tier Wednesday morning, a move that changes the stateside chess match a bit.

At a top-level, All Access is a paid, cloud-based play that features a massive catalog of on-demand songs, an innovative radio concept, and plenty of dynamic content.  That is threaded into a community of like-minded music aficionados, a social layer less prominent on competing services.

But is MOG head-and-shoulders above the competition?  Right off the bat, MOG claims to be ‘Better Than Rhapsody, Pandora and iTunes… Combined,’ a boast that will probably include Spotify in the coming months.  But all the braggadocio is a bit misplaced, especially for those putting a higher premium on simplicity and interface elegance.

The problem is that more ‘stuff’ invariably introduces more complications.  MOG layers lots of context, community, and discovery into the mix, but that compromises simplicity.  Spotify features less context and community, but on the flip side, its interface is easier and less cluttered.  And, for all the criticism that iTunes attracts from the industry, it nails its main charter of organizing large amounts of user content across different computers and portable devices.

Let the debates ensue, though all of these services are hardly interchangeable competitors.  But MOG’s All Access has some innovations that will undoubtedly draw attention, including a discovery-focused radio service.

In a nutshell, users can create on-the-fly, customizable radio stations that feature a particular artist, or a blend of similar artists.  On top of that, the user can determine the mix of selected versus recommended artists, a nice twist on dynamic radio.  This can get addictive, and potentially evolve into a great discovery vehicle.

But the meat-and-potatoes of All Access is the on-demand stream, and MOG delivers a catalog of six million songs.  Those are culled from all four majors, and a large number of independent labels.  Songs are fairly easy to locate, and can be quickly placed into playlists.  In turn, MOG organizes playlists from the community by popularity and theme.

On top of that, artist content is threaded into blog posts, a nice integration that suddenly sonifies an opinion.  Now, the question is how many users crave that level of comprehensive context and community, and more importantly, how many will pay $5 a month for it.  MOG is properly targeting a music-addicted user, a crowd already hanging out at the blog-focused site.  But this networked, context-focused approach is not for everyone.

The alternative?  Instead of consulting popular playlists, bonding with fellow addicts, and reading the latest user-generated opinions, some simply want more direct access to their hand-picked music and playlists.  Or, in the case of iTunes, quick and easy access to a personal collection of MP3s (often in the thousands), and easy synchronization across a number of systems and devices.

What else?  A few minor technical issues emerged on the first day out.  Some streams failed to launch, instead producing an error notice, though this is probably an early-stage bug.  Also, full-length access seemed to suddenly switch to 30-second playback, a problem quickly fixed by a re-login.  In fairness, this is mostly a solid technical effort, and anyone producing a major release has to contend with the odd bug (or three).

MOG is planning a mobile layer to All Access in the coming months.

Review by publisher Paul Resnikoff.