July 22, 2003 spout

My $5 Digital Music Experiment

I *really* want to own my digital songs, so I’ve been dying for a real site to purchase them one at a time, instead of buying entire albums I don’t want or ripping the songs off of the albums I do own. Towards that end, I was excited about BuyMusic.com and immediately spend $4.95 on five Avril songs. Overall, it was not a happy experience.

What I love about BuyMusic.com is the site:

  • The web site is very usable and full-featured, making finding, listening to and ordering artists, songs and albums easy
  • The price is right: $.99/song and $9.49/album
  • I really wanted to immediately find the web service so that I could write a program to go through my wife’s bootleg mp3s and purchase them

Unfortunately, I hate BuyMusic.com because of the Digital Rights Management (DRM) experience:

  • On one machine, I could listen to all of the songs, but only after a DRM upgrade” (whatever that means)
  • On another machine, I had to do systems administration to play a song (DRM doesn’t like it when you’re a guest and an administrator in the same account). This is fine for me, because I can chase the error to the web page and do the systems administration on my account, but what about normal people? Then I had to do another DRM upgrade. *Then* I had to log in with my user name and password on *every* song! That means I have to roam around to every machine in my house that might possibly want to listen to the music, because only I know the email/password for the songs I buy. What a PITA!
  • I’m allowed three machines? Why? I can take my CDs to any machine in the house and my cars. I want to own this music for life and I *know* I’ll have more than 3 machines before the end of it. I tried it on four machines and it didn’t turn me away, which is nice, but how long will that last?
  • How are these WMA files going to work with my mp3 player? Even if the format works, will the DRM get in the way?
  • What about if I download a bunch of songs on my way out the door? If I’m on an airplane, I can’t jack into the Internet to obtain the license and there was no pre-license” batch mode that I could find to save me from obtaining the licenses one at a time

The whole experience made me want to cry. The site was so great, but the playback was *so* hard. Why do I have to be treated like a child? I’m dying to pay for the music I want, but I don’t want to be penalized for it. I really wanted to find the inevitable hacking tool to strip the DRM off of the music I downloaded so that I could use it more freely, but what’s the point of that? This kind of hacking would break the license agreement and is no better than downloading mp3s (although the the latter is a hell of a lot more convenient).