MP3 Music Downloads – You’re Doing it Wrong

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?

7 thoughts on “MP3 Music Downloads – You’re Doing it Wrong

  1. Lots of good reading here, thanks! I was searching on yahoo when I found your post, I’m going to add your feed to Google Reader, I look forward to more from you.

  2. Well I never burn my library to CD, since that would take to long, but I get your point. So the answer to the problem is if you cant find it on Amazon just steal it or go buy the CD and rip it. :-)

  3. I don’t buy much music anymore as I tend to listen more to podcasts (Especially GNC :), anyway there is one local artist here in Melbourne Australia that I like, so like you I thought I’d buy the Album off the net. Although I have an IPhone, I have not tried ITunes for the same reason, I’m wary of DRM, but I have been eyeing Amazon’s mp3 service and your post got me to actually try it.

    I selected the album and the web site says that you have to download the software to get the album or you can pay for tracks individually. Ok, no biggie, download the software.
    Next step, download the music – problem! I’m not a US Resident :(

    So even if the Track/Album is available on Amazon, if you don’t live in the right country, you can’t access it anyway.

  4. Amazon MP3 is my forst choice as well, but iTunes isn’t as bad as it was when their music was locked down with DRM.

    To transfer iTunes music to a CD, put the songs you want to burn in a playlist, insert CD, click on the playlist you created, then click on “Burn Disc” in lower right corner. This will create a CD that is playable in any CD player. If you have a CD player that is capable of playing MP3 files, you can just drag-and-drop in Windows Explorer or whatever file manager you use.

    AFAIK, DRM-free music from iTunes is already in MP3 format, so it should be transferable and playable on any computer. If you have some older, protected AAC format files, burn them to a CD and rip them to MP3 to remove the DRM.

    I currently have my music library on a portable drive for my laptop, a NAS device for 3 desktops, and a backup drive, and have no problems playing anything on any of the 4 computers.

  5. ET, while they don’t have the type of DRM they had in the past, they do not make it easy on you to use the MP3’s you download on any other device besides the computer you downloaded it to. I have yet to find an easy way to transfer any iTunes-downloaded material onto a CD to take with me in the car without an aux port, have you? If so, would love to see the process. Amazon MP3’s can be taken anywhere, put on any computer or device, without restriction or jumping through any hoops. That is why they are my preferred way of getting MP3’s. And, ever tried to get customer service in iTunes?

  6. Not all bands (nor all vendors) get it. I recently read an account by a gentleman who encouraged his young teenage niece to purchase her music legitimately, as opposed to pirating it, as many of her friends did.

    As the gentleman related it, due to a hard drive crash, she lost all her music, and the vendor (iTunes?) wasn’t being too cooperative about helping her replace her collection. She wasn’t about to spend another $100 to replace her collection, so her uncle handed her a copy of Limewire which she could use to replace her lost collection.

    He commented that here he was trying to encourage her to do the right thing, and the vendor was being difficult. He wondered what kind of a lesson the child was taking away from all this.

    I think that the lesson was quite clear: it is less hassle to pirate what you want than to purchase it legitimately. When the vendors make piracy a less onerous experience than legitmate purchasing, they’ve got a real problem on their hands.

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