Thursday, August 23, 2007

Subscription services, DRM and record company dumbasses

As some of you know, I got a Zune for Christmas. In short, the software blows, the very high potential of this device is unrealized by baffling decisions by Microsoft, but it's a very good music and video player nonetheless. So I've been watching a lot of tv shows on it at the gym, and I have my whole music library on it, with much room to spare.

I've been thinking for a while that I really want to try to find new music, but I don't have lots of time and money to invest. So I checked out the Zune Marketplace. Their music catalog seems to be pretty thorough, not quite up to iTunes level, but not too far off. I decided to try their $14.99 monthly all-you-can-eat plan, figuring that would be a good way to try stuff without paying a bunch of money. I'm not into subscription plans as a final solution. I want to have full control over my music, and I don't want to worry that I can't listen anymore if I don't pay an ongoing fee. But as a means to try new stuff, it seems ideal.

First up, I decide to try Kid Rock's Devil Without a Cause, based on Toast's opinion of it as the second best album ever. I locate it and open it up and there are a total of two songs available for download. WTF? What do these record company dumbasses think - that because I can't listen to them and see if I like them that I'm going to buy them outright? Fuck that, faced with the fact that they've blocked them from my subscription, I'll probably either a)never hear them at all b)listen to a friend's copy, and probably just copy theirs, or c)download it from Sharezaa just to stick it to the greedy bastards. In no case will they get money from me now. However, if I had listened to the album and decided I liked it, it's highly likely I would have ordered the CD off Amazon (DRM free, of course).

Second, I look to see what Beastie Boys they have, because I lost my copy of Licensed to Ill. I find it and now look, not only can't I download anything from the album, I can't even buy the crippled DRM versions they sell through the marketplace. Now, I already know I like this album, but treating me like this does not make me want to buy the album (again). I was able to download Solid Gold Hits but not the more comprehensive The Sounds of Silence.

Finally, I decide to see what they've got for Sarah Brightman. I already own all her albums but I was interested in seeing what they had. I noticed they had a CD single with a new song released this month. Of course, it's the only one of all her songs that's not available for download. So now, I can't see if I like it, which means I'll never spring for the single. I may get it someday if it's on a future album.

The marketplace does have a pretty good catalog, and there are a lot of songs you can access through their subscription service, but there's enough shit like the examples above to make it more annoying than satisfying. Who are these morons running the record companies? Between their unfathomable support of a technology that doesn't work and actually alienates their own consumers and their reactionary stance on the availability of digital music, it's amazing that these guys are still in business. Hopefully, the recent softening of EMI toward DRM will become a trend. I think there are a lot of people like me out here, who are willing and able to pay for our music, but on our own terms.

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6 comments:

fridge said...

FIRST! :)

A Zune, eh? When I was deciding between iPod and Zune, I played with both at the store. It is a really nice player. In fact, I'd say it's better than my iPod, especially for watching video.

In the end, I decided on the iPod because of the maturity factor(as someone who relies on MS products for a living, I'm wary of their first releases), the accessories (amazing for iPod) and I was already using iTunes as my main media player.

The selection at iTunes is enormous and the "one-click" purchasing is like crack. It all "just works" like you'd expect Apple products to work.

But, I do think there are a lot of other services that are more mature than Zune Marketplace and may have more inventory. Rhapsody, for example.

Did you consider the iPod, or was this gift the product of someone else's initiative?

Mr Furious said...

Apple > Microsoft

End of story.

As for adding music, as I said at my place, check the library. You might be surprised. In fact, I nearly filled out the entire Beasties catalog ripping CDs from my local library...

Chris Howard said...

Did you consider the iPod, or was this gift the product of someone else's initiative?

I asked for the Zune for two main reasons. I primarily wanted it to watch video at the gym, and I really liked, and still like, the larger screen. Don't tell me that the video ipod has the same resolution, it doesn't matter because it's still a smaller screen. Second, all several thousand songs I have ripped were in WMA format, due to it's smaller size vs mp3. I didn't want to convert them all to a format the ipod could use.

And I was intrigued by the wireless ability. As I alluded to in the post, the wifi is crippled, but the potential is there. I'm really hoping that MS releases an update that allows wireless sync and wireless music downloads, or failing that, that someone figures out how to run linux on the thing without any hardware mods.

I was reading that from a hardware standpoint, there's a lot of untapped ability in the Zune. It could easily be altered to perform DVR functions, so to speak, for radio, for example.



Apple > Microsoft

End of story.


I think that's true from a usability standpoint. I don't think it's necessarily true from a hardware standpoint.

And I have ripped music from the library, but I do need to go back. It's been a while. I have a personal rule not to buy DRM music, so that's perfect, actually.

John Howard said...

FIRST! :)

Good thing you put that smiley face there. There will be no stupid "first" bullshit on my blog. I don't care if I only have three readers, I'll start banning people. Anyway, to be first around here, all you need to do is check in before Toast is off work.

Chris Howard said...

Hey John, can we have one of those recent comments things in th sidebar? I really like those. And I wonder if you can display the sitemeter world map in a widget like the clustrmap? I like the sitemeter map a little better anyway.

John Howard said...

I don't think blogspot has the recent comments stuff. We could maybe change back to Haloscan and get one. I'm not sure about the map, either. You're free to play around with anything you want. You should have full access to change things, I think. If you don't let me know.