Music: A Personal View

Some thoughts on the music issue – Nikita Chrystephan

Apple’s iTunes has now been released for Windows, and it brings with it the Apple Music Store. That brings its proprietary music format AAC, which is somewhat similar to Mp3 but adds DRM. As soon as I saw this, I wondered how long it would take for someone to make a program that would convert an AAC file to an Mp3 file and thereby make the whole DRM thing pretty much pointless. Of course, you already can burn to a CD and then rip that CD in Mp3. That may not even be bypassing DRM (which is illegal, as shown by holding the shift key – go HERE for an article on this).

I am a former p2per; I say former, because Kazaa is dying. More and more people are leeching and not sharing because the RIAA is succeeding in their mission to scare people. They scared me, and they’ve scared people I know who used to do p2p quite a lot. I am worried about this, because I tend to like obscure bands like Renaissance, Nick Vigarino, Terranova,and Fairport Convention. You can’t find those in most music stores even real ones.

With the online music stores that have less selection than your average Hastings, you simply can’t get these bands. I happen to live where there isn’t an actual Hastings within 100 miles of me, and it’s very inconvenient to travel that far to buy music. Thus, I am stuck with, which actually has a decent selection, but probably not as large as some people would like (I would like feedback as to whether everyone can find their favorite obscure groups there).

CD’s are not versatile. You get only certain songs, which are chosen by someone other than you. Many people do not want every song on that CD because, in their opinion, they aren’t all worth listening to (I have run into this myself from time to time, but I listen to talented enough groups usually that most of their songs have at least some redeeming qualities, which make them worth listening to at least sometimes).

Online music stores are versatile. You can download any song you want (albeit within their extremely limited selection). I like this, and I will eventually switch to buying music online partially because of this. However, I say this with a few reservations.

My first issue I have already brought up – the very limited selection of music is a serious problem, which will probably go away within a few years.

The second problem is worse: they are asking about the same price you pay for a CD (CDs average around $13, or maybe a little higher and average about that many songs) for a downloadable file that is little better in quality than an Mp3, if at all. This is far worse quality than a CD. The DRM on AAC files is pretty loose and I find I could live with it, if only because you can burn the files onto an audio CD and do away with those DRM controls entirely (I’ll explain why this is important to me later).

Yet, even with the lower quality on AAC, the prices are still the same as if you were buying a much higher quality song. I have quite a good stereo setup, with which I can hear the difference between and Mp3 and a CD quite clearly, and I don’t want pay the same for less.

The third problem with online music is the DRM.

As I recall, AAC lets you copy the file three times from the parent machine and onto an audio CD. However, if you happen to back up your AAC files by directly copying them onto a CD (without converting them to regular audio format), it will use up one of your copies; and if you format your original machine for whatever reason without first de-authorizing, you will have to download the song from Apple again. Then you’ll only have two uses left, having used one up (and you cannot get three uses from a copy of the originally downloaded file). From personal experience, I know that I cant always prepare like that for an unexpected system crash because it is *unexpected* Backing up I can do, de-authorizing is less realistic.

What I Would Like

Cheaper music downloads (remember I am used to getting this music for free, so even agreeing to the principal that I ought to pay for music at all is a major adjustment). I would not mind paying 50 cents a song, but I would really love an all-you-can-eat option, where I pay $30-40 dollars a month and get access to all the songs I want (note I am on a dial-up here). That’s way more than they make off me now and way more than they ever made off me in the past from record sales. Before, they probably made $50 a year, if that.

I expect selection to go up constantly, until it is greater than the offline selection, because they don’t have production costs. It doesn’t cost them very much to have a file sitting around on a hard drive somewhere. Next, there really should be a way to save your lost/reduced-sharing files if you lose them unexpectedly, yet still find a way to minimize/eliminate people trying to extend the use of their or other people’s AAC’s.

I always knew that eventually p2p would die, and I knew that I better get while the getting was good before it was all gone. Ever since Napster was shut down, I had prepared myself. However, I want to say that from personal experience, even though I have far more music now than I ought to for the amount of money I spent over the last few years on music, I think I spent more on music than I otherwise would have because I was exposed to music I hadn’t heard before and then went out and bought the CD, because it sounds better.

I am not a person who has ever spent a lot of money on music, though, so maybe people who did spend a lot on music spent less after using p2p than before, and probably people who either don’t notice or don’t care about sound quality spent less after p2p, but I didn’t.

Now, after I have voiced my opinion on the music scene, you may flame me all you want.

Nikita Chrystephan

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