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MP3 Music Downloads – You’re Doing it Wrong

Posted by susabelle at 9:00 PM on March 13, 2010

The other day I heard a song on the radio that I wanted to buy. Yes, I know not too many people listen to the radio, but my new used car has a crappy stereo in it that won’t take an auxiliary jack for my iPod, and I don’t have an FM transmitter yet. The new stereo is in the budget, just haven’t done it yet. Anyway, I wrote down the name of the band (Pearl Jam) and the song (Just Breathe) and when I got home, I fired up Amazon and looked for the album and particularly the song in MP3 format.

Usually for the low, low price of ninety-nine cents, I can download a single song from Amazon’s MP3 store, and then toss that song onto my iPod, or onto my media-server PC, and that’s that. I am a fan of Amazon’s MP3′s because of the lack of DRM, and because their customer service is outstanding. One time I had a failed download of an album, and I simply wrote to customer service and they reactivated my purchase for a second download, free of charge. You can’t beat that kind of service, and I tend to reward vendors with great service by my return business.

So, I’m surfing through the albums, and I see I can buy the physical CD (Backspacer, in case you were wondering), an album that was released in November 2009. But I cannot buy and download it in MP3 form. Not any of the singles, nor the whole album. Older Pearl Jam albums are available as MP3′s, but not this one. So, I go over to iTunes, where I’ve never spent a penny to buy any song, and find that I can get the song for $1.49, or the album for $14.99. But if I bought it that way, I’d have to accept their DRM, and keep the song only on iTunes or my iPod, and never be able to use it any other way.

I’m not interested in doing that. I want an MP3 of the single. I don’t want to buy a CD, I don’t want to be locked into anyone’s DRM, I just want this song. I’m sure Pearl Jam, or the record label they publish on, has decided that Backspacer cannot be made available anywhere but on CD or on iTunes. And I find this to be backward and ineffective. I’m not a fan of Pearl Jam’s music most of the time, but here was a song I wanted, that I was willing to pay for, but they weren’t willing to sell me. They lost a sale. And they probably lost other sales as well. Not everyone uses iTunes or wants to. How many others went out looking for that song, especially since it is getting incredible air play now, and found that they could only buy it one way, which may not have been a way they wanted to buy it.

I am disappointed. I suppose at some point the album will become available through Amazon’s MP3 store, but by then, I’ll likely have forgotten about the song or gotten so frustrated with the band’s lack of foresight that I won’t give them any of my hard-earned money.

It is unfortunate that this is how they want to do business. No wonder people go out and pirate music. In ten minutes I could have found this song on a torrent and had it ripped to my iPod, and had it not cost me a thing, and the band would not have benefited from that action. Yet what other choice did the band give its listeners, after they walled themselves into the iTune walled garden?

Makes me wonder if they thought this through, and how long it will take them to release the album through Amazon MP3?