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Inexcusably Long Ramble on a CD-Digital Music Experience August 22, 2006

Posted by David Card in Media.

Live by the Mac, die by the Mac. I’ve come out ahead of craptastic DRM experiences by being a Mac user before. So tonight I got my come-uppance.

It being New Music Tuesday, I bought the latest release from Razorlight, another one of those NME-anointed Next Big Things (and truthfully, I loved the first album). Brand new and $10 at my local Virgin Megastore — they will never lose my business! Though I fear I’m about to be going to miss Tower’s $10 bin as well. Both stores actually rotate the sale inventory aggressively, which brings a heavy buyer like me back weekly. I could have bought the import 4 weeks ago or so, but it would have cost me $25. The US release promised an extra downloadable single, too, woo hoo.

So, after ripping the CD into MP3s, I launched this nasty little app (took over my whole screen, made me shut down my “media player” etc.) from something called Digital Insert, and entered my name, birthday, gender, zip, (mobile number optional, and declined, you can be sure) so Mercury Records (under exclusive license to Universal Records) can spam me with Razorlight e-mails. I’m already on a Razorlight mailing list, btw, probably from the mgmt company rather than the label, but that wasn’t an option.

So far, so good. They also asked my preferred digital download source from the following list:

Virgin Digital
HMV Digital
Peer 2 peer
band’s own site
(A veddy British list, I’m thinking)

And my preferred bonus material out of these:

live versions
B sides
cover versions
ring tones

Cool. Great. Love the B-sides.

But then, after shutting down my media player as requested, I got:

    Now please download your music.

    The studio version of ‘Somewhere Else’ can be found below. Please Right Click and Save Target As.

    These downloads are provided as Windows Media files. If your computer will not play these, you can listen to ‘Somewher Else’ using the Real Audio stream here

    Thanks for using the Bonus Area.

    For information on Razorlight visit the offical Razorlight site HERE.

    Note to iTunes and iPod users: Mercury Records makes these free downloads available under the understanding that it reserves its right to protect the interest of its artists. To this end, the free music is available as either protected Windows Media files or as Real Media streams. We are afraid that we are unable to make the music available as iPod compatible downloads as the Apple Computer do not allow third parties access to their file protection programme called ‘Fairplay’.

Having previous bad experiences with WiMP files on Macs, I bailed. I’ll do this all on a PC, burn it, and rip it back to MP3. Just to show ’em.

The same album is $7.99 — no NY sales tax, either — on the iTunes store, complete with an extra single (a different one) that you can only get if you buy the whole album. But hey, all else being equal, I’ll generally pay the extra $2-$4 for the CD, depending on the band and album. So, only a slight feeling of being screwed.

But maybe this just means that in the UK, digital is normal. In contrast with the States, those crazy Brits have been selling singles, EPs, etc. all throughout the CD cycle. Completist fans have always been trained to buy, buy, and re-buy. US labels will have to re-learn these selling & packaging skills, as digital slowly but surely kills the album.

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