March 24th, 2004


in light of the new fad // bitching/ranting

I have yet to understand it. I have tried, I really have, to understand this fad, yet I cannot fathom the mindset it takes to follow this one.

I'm speaking, of course, of the new downloadable-music fad.

By this I mean the Apple, Wallmart, and other online music stores that all have one thing in common: a crappy product at an insane price.

I just don't understand why people put up with this kind of treatment. 1$ per song? that's over 15$ for most CDs! You can go and buy a used copy of the same CD for 10$ and rip it yourself to produce a better audio file. And don't tell me it's tough to rip a CD. All these online music stores tend to be linked to a song-playing software that also happens to be able to download CD track information online (some do it automatically, others need to be told to do so) and they almost all have a nice big button that says "import to library" or something equally brainless.

And what's with this DRM crap also? Let me get this straight, not only will these online stores charge me more to download the song than if I just bought the CD in a brick-and-mortar store, but they are going to tell me that I am only allowed to listen to this song on a limited number of devices? And only on devices that they specifically approve of my listening to the song on! I don't know what store they buy their CDs from, but last time I went to the local CD store I don't recall having the cashier tell me I can only listen to this CD on CD players made by CompanyXYZ.

And let's hear it for 128kbps! Hoo-YA! gotta love that tinny bass and those shallow vocals! Sure, it's 1MB/min, but is it something you'd actually willingly subject yourself to listening to? I know I only do it on the rare occasion there is no other option. Sure, my songs take slightly more storage space, but the sound quality is so much better, it really does approach "CD quality" (I've done audio work before, and have looked at decompressed waveforms of files compressed at different rates from the same original, and compared to the original, I know just how much sound is sacrificed at each level -- and yes my ears can tell a differance between 128, 160, and, for some songs, 192).

And in the midst of all this, is a little service I've been using for some time now. They have resisted the popular trend to become crappy (and have, in fact, improved the quality of the files they offer). They have explicitly said "HELL NO" to the controlling techniques the larger names try to force on the customers. And, while they have raised their price recently, they are still cheaper than a used CD (for most CDs). Yet, with such great technical and social qualities, they still suffer popular success. I can see one reason for this: they do not carry the same mass-market artists the other online stores offer (in fact, from a quick glance at the labels list, it would seem they don't carry any RIAA labels -- something I've suspected but never actually checked).

I guess it really doesn't matter who you are or what you know, but who you know and who backs you that make the most differance.

Ah well -- to each their own, I guess.