29 September 2007

Music Downloads

I’m sure I’ll eventually get something from Amazon MP3, but so far I’m not wildly impressed. Let’s do a comparison of a random album.

Amazon MP3 sells the Mekons album “Natural” for $8.99 as unprotected MP3s. There are 12 songs, so that’s $0.75 per song. Sold separately, they’re $0.99 per song. I haven’t played with the site much, but searching seems weak. Playing tracks is easy.

iTunes has it for $9.99 as protected AAC files, but includes two bonus tracks. That’s $0.71 per song. (The bonus tracks seem to be variants of other songs — nice to have but not essential.) Sold separately, they’re $0.99 per song. Searching is excellent — I really like the feature that must have been added recently, where band names are suggested as you type in the “Search iTunes Store” field. Playing tracks is easy.

eMusic has the same 12 songs as unprotected MP3s. Their basic subscription gives you 30 downloads a month for $9.99. That’s $0.33 per song (there’s no discount for buying an entire album). It looks like eMusic changed their plans slightly since I subscribed, but I think that by paying for a year in advance, I get 40 tracks a month for $9.99 — $0.25 per song. A much better deal, and in my opinion worth the crappier web interface (I usually sample songs on iTunes). Searching is OK, but playing tracks is a pain (I get a .m3u file I have to open separately). Oh, and eMusic has free tracks, sometimes entire albums of good stuff (e.g. “A Marmoset Menagerie”).

For what it’s worth, I got the Mekons CD as a birthday present. Amazon sells it for $13.99, or $1.17 per song. But it’s encoded at CD quality, includes liner notes, and is a backup for the version I ripped to my computer.

I’m happy with the CD, but I would have been almost as happy getting the music from eMusic.

I realize most people have different tastes, and may be more interested in the major label stuff that might not be on eMusic. But I do almost all my purchasing from eMusic — currently 1471 songs (which includes free tracks) compared to 1229 songs (including about 150 free tracks) from iTunes. Getting songs for 1/4 the price is worth the inconvenience, and some of the free stuff would have been worth buying.


Felix said...

Why not go the whole hog and pick up your music of choice free via P2P?
Digitalisation is making the idea of copyright pretty meaningless, and increasingly bands are understanding that digital tech means that they can record their own music, and distribute it without recourse to the monopolies in recording/distribution previously held by the recording "industry". Bands will make their money in the future by playing live-records will become what they used to be-free promos.
Loved KoDP, btw.

David Dunham said...

Well, as a content creator (e.g. KoDP), I am perfectly willing to pay the artist for a song (even through the imperfect multi-tiered distribution system -- direct is certainly better!).

I hope to listen to the music I buy for a long time, even after the band breaks up.

FWIW, I am going to see the Mekons next week. Last time I did, I bought one of the musician's CDs direct. They make money that way too, and had I know I'd be going (it was a birthday present), I would have bought their new CD direct as well.

Anonymous said...

It's always better to help out artists rather than record companies because even if you buy a CD and rip the tracks to play on your mp3 player, the RIAA considers that as "stealing".

Bastards only care about making money for record companies owned by huge conglomerates. Even so, as an up-and-coming singer/songwriter I really like to see performers benefit directly from their work.