I'm sitting on a Via train, listening to CBC's new streaming music service.
I downloaded the app on my iPhone, and using the train's free WiFi to listen without worrying about blasting through my Rogers data plan.
It's all very Canadian of me, particularly since I'm hurtling toward Montreal. And listening to the Leonard Cohen channel, to some woman singing Suzanne. In French. Something about l'oranges down by a riviere?
Or at least she was, I only have so much patience. And with dozens of streaming music channels, there's no reason to be annoyed for more than a few seconds.
So I've switched to “rock.” I think I’m hearing the Silversun Pickups, but it's impossible to know because the app doesn't tell you who is singing at any given moment.
It's an early stumble for the music service, given the revenue possibilities generated by similar services that let you buy the song right off the app.
Of course, not having a commerce strategy (aside from Hockey Night in Canada banner ads) does help deflect the notion, put forward by some critics, that the broadcaster is picking a fight with Apple's iTunes.
But that's a whole other story.
Anyway, the interface resembles the one used by Sirius XM, the satellite-radio company which operates on a subscription basis. Stations are broken down by genre. It's all here. Classical. Pop. Hip Hop. Aboriginal. Complete Cohen, too, though that section is apparently “seasonal.”
It also provides feeds from CBC Radio Two and Radio Three, but I already have apps for those.
My Sirius feed sucks about a megabyte of data per minute. But the sound is brilliant. The CBC says they average slightly less, about is 54mb per hour (not much in the way of savings for data-conscious users).
Even so, there's a lack of depth to the tracks. I'm listening to Love Hurts right now, and it's all treble, all the time (it's also terrible).
I've been listening for an hour. Which feels like enough to decide if I like it or not.
Mostly, it's fine.
The interface is a little thin, I need more info on what I'm listening to at any given moment (especially because at 36, I get less hip by the day).
But the service does provide great range, and pulls music from all over the world instead of pushing a steady diet of Canadian content. And the cbcmusic.ca site also has video, which is something.
Whether this is a service my national, taxpayer-funded broadcaster should offer is well beyond my present concern.
But we're three hours out of Montreal, and the train just stopped so the conductor can “just check the engine quickly.”
So, for now, I'm awfully pleased my tax dollars are beaming the Beatles my way. Just don't ask me which song it is, I have no idea and the app won't tell me.