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Universal Music Group's New Music Sharing Service 446

Posted by timothy
from the wheels-of-progress-inch-along dept.
Reader darnellmc writes with this review: "I have been waiting for a service where I could download and burn popular music for a reasonable price. I know even $9.99 a CD or 99 cents a track is still price gouging given the record industry's cost to allow me to download music, but I can live with that. So I gave UMG's new music downloading service a try and wanted to share my experience, since it may help others." Read on for the rest of darnellmc's description of the UMG system's pros and cons. Hint: if you don't have IE handy, you might not find this service very friendly.

First I had to decide which reseller of UMG music to use and decided on Liquid Audio's On-Line store. One reason I picked this service is because they are the technology backers of this venture, so who better? I'm really glad I picked them, and you will see why after you read about the issues I faced.

Of course, there were plenty of music choices to pick from and it was pretty easy to find artists I was looking for. I first noticed that not every track is 99 cents. Some are higher -- it seems that the less popular stuff cost a little more. Some singles cost $1.49, but I found one free track on this CD.

After finding a CD I wanted, I purchased and downloaded the tracks individually and as one large download, since they provide both options. After downloading the files I could not get any of them to play. For some time this confused me, then I tried clicking on a link provided in an e-mail that was sent to me to confirm my order. Well, they did not tell me this on the website, but clicking that link authenticated me to listen to the tracks. This was a bit frustrating, but survivable. Also, I found you can only go through the process of purchasing and downloading with IE. I use Mozilla by default and was not able to purchase with that browser. You also need to use IE to open the URL in the e-mail that authenticate your tracks.

Once done with that I attempted to burn tracks to a CD. I was using a machine with Windows 2000 SP3 and Windows Media Player 9 (current release candidate for Win2K). Whenever I'd try to burn a track, the Roxio software would die. So I gave up on Media Player 9 and downloaded Liquid Audio's Player (v 6.1). When trying to burn with this player it could not initialize my HP DVD writer (model dvd200i) and for some reason was calling it a 200j instead. I also tried downgrading to Windows Media Player 7.1, but that did not work either. The burning software did not even know my DVD Burner was there. I also tried Real's RealOne player, but it can not burn WMA files.

So I gave up and contacted Liquid Audio's Customer Service. They informed me (via e-mail exchanges) that their software could not recognize my DVD Burner and I would only be able to burn using a CD Burner, not a DVD/CD Burner. I was offered a refund, but I did not want that. I've got a CD Burner, but on another PC. So I thought I'd be able to move the files and burn there. I came to find out find out that I can move files to listen to them on another PC, but they can't be burned on a PC other than the one to which they were first downloaded. So Liquid Audio sent me another link to download tracks with after hearing I had to go to another PC. Then I was able to download and burn tracks with no problem.

You can play the tracks as much as you like on your PC, burn to CD as many tracks as you want, copy the burned CDs, and use the CD to make MP3s. Keep in mind there is supposed to be some form of digital watermarking on the tracks though. So if you give the music to anyone else, they (UMG) are supposed to be able to know it was you who violated their copyright.

So overall it was pretty frustrating making my first CD with this service, but I'll probably be using it again in the future. Like Tuesday, when some new music comes out. I have been boycotting UMG for almost a year, since when I heard they would copy-protect CDs. With this service I have officially ended my boycott.

Pros:

  • Easy to download and burn a CD if you have Windows, IE and a CD Burner (not a DVD Burner).
  • Easy to find tracks from UMG artists that are well known.
  • Good customer service. They really helped as much as they could given the software limitations and offered a refund even though I would have been able to keep playing the tracks on my PC.
  • No need to go to the store in the Winter!

Cons:

  • No player seems to be able to burn using a DVD burner.
  • Tracks are not authenticated till you click a link in an e-mail sent to you.
  • Unable to use the service to purchase tracks using Mozilla.
  • No small intro type tracks available, even when you buy a full CD of tracks.


Slashdot welcomes reader-submitted features and reviews -- thanks to darnellmc for this review.

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Universal Music Group's New Music Sharing Service

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  • Liquid Audio (Score:5, Informative)

    by SealBeater (143912) on Tuesday November 26, 2002 @01:15PM (#4759817) Homepage
    From the article, First I had to decide which reseller of UMG music to use and decided on Liquid Audio's On-Line store.

    In other news, Liquid Audio's CEO resigned. Here's the link [yahoo.com]

    SealBeater
  • IUMA (Score:4, Interesting)

    by dirvish (574948) <dirvish@foundnews . c om> on Tuesday November 26, 2002 @01:15PM (#4759820) Homepage Journal
    Doesn't sound too bad, but I think I will stick with IUMA [iuma.com]. I would rather support independents than coorporate whor....errr, I mean popular artists.
    • Re:IUMA (Score:5, Insightful)

      by binaryDigit (557647) on Tuesday November 26, 2002 @01:30PM (#4759931)
      How about simply supporting those whose music you enjoy?
      • Re:IUMA (Score:2, Interesting)

        by doofusclam (528746)
        Damn right! IUMA is a fine service but pretty irrelevant in the great scheme of things - What most people want is major music, downloadable in a form of their choice, cheaply, online. IUMA is not that service. Universals service is nearer to this goal, but not quite - when they offer lossless encoding (monkeys, flac, whatever) cheaply and compatible with any platform then I will *definitely* subscribe to this service.

        *Most* people want a service that is better than p2p. Universal are nearer this than IUMA but they need encouragement, not flaming, to offer us this.
      • Re:IUMA (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Com2Kid (142006)
        • How about simply supporting those whose music you enjoy?


        Because sometimes long term objectives are more important then short term pleasures.

        Hell, by your reasoning, why boycott ANY product if the product is enjoyed? Sometimes it is more then just the product, but how the product is made or where the money used to purchase the product goes.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 26, 2002 @01:16PM (#4759821)
    One thing you don't mention is whether the files are compressed? If they are compressed using lossy encoding, like mp3, that would reduce its appeal to me, since I prefer my 44.1kHz pcm audio. I'd resent paying for inferior quality data, but that's just me. Oh, and since I don't have Windows or a Mac I can't use IE anyway, so it's all academic.
    • I would have to assume it's a lossy compression. It sounds like it was a WMA file.

      Someone correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think a lossless compression exists that will make the file size small enough for "most" people to download. That is to say make the audio about one tenth the size of the raw audio.
      • over the last several years, if it is WMA, it would be lousy as well as lossy. I have never heard a WMA file (and I have listened to many) that sounded as good as a well-encoded mp3 at comparable bit-rates. The trouble is, there are a lot of poor mp3 encoders/decoders out there that give mp3's a bad name quality-wise, so some people think that WMA sounds just as good. Not in my book.
    • by IvyMike (178408) on Tuesday November 26, 2002 @01:44PM (#4760076)

      If they are compressed using lossy encoding, like mp3, that would reduce its appeal to me, since I prefer my 44.1kHz pcm audio. I'd resent paying for inferior quality data, but that's just me. Oh, and since I don't have Windows or a Mac I can't use IE anyway, so it's all academic.

      Hrmph. 44.1kHz just doesn't cut it for me; I prefer my audio at 196kHz, 48 bits per sample, 6.1 channels, and I resent paying for anything less. But then again my computer is a Thinking Machine CM5, which doesn't even come with a sound card, so I guess it's all academic for me, too.

      • by david.given (6740) <dg AT cowlark DOT com> on Tuesday November 26, 2002 @02:07PM (#4760282) Homepage Journal
        Hrmph. 44.1kHz just doesn't cut it for me; I prefer my audio at 196kHz, 48 bits per sample, 6.1 channels, and I resent paying for anything less. But then again my computer is a Thinking Machine CM5, which doesn't even come with a sound card, so I guess it's all academic for me, too.

        Oh, come on. If you've got a CM5, you don't need a sound card. It's fast enough so you can exploit the race conditions between the universal cellular calculation states to hack reality and cause the audio to spontaneously manifest via Brownian motion in your room.

        (You can also use the same effect to revitalise flat cola. It's well worth looking into, although you do need to download a kernel patch.)

    • by scalveg (35414) on Tuesday November 26, 2002 @01:46PM (#4760099) Homepage
      Liquid's technology is just an envelope that can securely transfer any kind of file. There are even a few non-music files in the system for various specific purposes.

      The audio compression types that I was aware of while I was there were mostly Dolby AAC [vialicensing.com] with a handful of MP3s. They were working on WMA when I left the company, so I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of the current library is in that format.

      Chris Owens
      San Carlos, CA
    • (So does MS Office and Quicken.)

      FWIW, you could run IE in Linux if that was really the only issue you had. If you want it to be really, really easy and support Wine development, purchase Crossover Office from Codeweavers [codeweavers.com] for a measly $55. (Try getting a Windows license for that!)

      I'm simply a happy customer of theirs, no affiliation.
      • Funny you should mention it, $55 is the EXACT price I pay for a copy of Windows XP Home.

        But, im an OEM.

        CodeWeavers is good for the ability to run Windows apps in Linux - Thats where its value is.

        Its not a Windows replacement because (obviouslly) it runs only a miniscule fraction of the stuff that runs on Windows. Its intended to let you mix one or two Windows things with Linux.

  • by mcg1969 (237263) on Tuesday November 26, 2002 @01:16PM (#4759823)
    Even if this isn't everything we might want in a downloadable music service, I think that supporting this service will help convince UMG and other companies of the effectiveness of this business model. This is a step in the right direction...
    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 26, 2002 @01:34PM (#4759979)
      I think that supporting this service will encourage the continuing price fixing and gouging for music. The middlemen have made so much money off artists & consumers and I am hoping that the digital revolution will turn this around.

      I don't mind paying for something, but the middlemen in the music biz add very little value, and IMHO screw a lot up!

      I want to listen to lots of music but I can't afford to with a big mortgage and kids. I have several music mad friends who buy 100's of CD's a year - and they'd buy more if they could afford to. Basically we want to pay the creators of the music, and I don't see these services moving towards that so I shan't support them.

      Read this Courtney Love [salon.com] article - she is so right (even if I was a bit dismissive of her before I read this).

      That's what it's all about, not whether I can buy 'n download from the net! That kind of tech is just a way for us (musicians & fans) to cut out the fat cat middlemen, and introduce middlemen who get paid for the value they add... Thanks for listening, Andy. (UK)

      • rant

        I'm sure I'll sound like a troll - don't waste mod points on me. I already know it.

        I think that supporting this service will encourage the continuing price fixing and gouging for music. The middlemen have made so much money off artists & consumers and I am hoping that the digital revolution will turn this around.

        So, when will you be happy? When either of these is true? :

        1. Artists write, record, mix, produce, package, market and ship all their own music...or

        2. Middlemen get paid nothing - these include song writers, sound technicians, recording techs, supporting musicians, producers, production assistans, secretaries, marketing advisors, managers, stock boys, warehouse managers, trucking companies, gas station attendants...I could go on for hours!

        I'm sorry, it just realy sounds like people here are getting in the habit of forgetting that there's ANYONE involved in music production other than "the artist".

        Price fixing and price gouging SUCK! I hate them as much as the next guy, but this IS a step in the right direction, and when you complain about this, too, you sound a lot like the psychos who think we never landed on the moon (add +5 funny to the "we landed on the moon!!?" comments) when you try to give them proof of it. Even if you showed the lunar lander to them, they'd still say, "It was planted."

        You sound like even if the ultimate scheme was devised and adhered to by the hundreds of thousands of workers involved in music production, where the artists make planty of money and Hilary Rosen is eating out of a dumpster somewhere, you'd say, "I don't mind paying for something, but the middlemen in the music biz add very little value, and IMHO screw a lot up!" and never support with your pocketbook!!

        /rant

    • by gosand (234100) on Tuesday November 26, 2002 @01:48PM (#4760115)
      Even if this isn't everything we might want in a downloadable music service, I think that supporting this service will help convince UMG and other companies of the effectiveness of this business model. This is a step in the right direction...

      Or, you could email them and complain about how they implemented the business model, requiring IE in order to use their service. I would not pay for a service that requires IE. I hope their customer service lines are flooded. It sounds like it is a total hassle to set up and download music, even if you do have IE. It is amazing that we are this far along in e-business, and companies still don't get it.

      But thanks for the review, it was definitely worthwhile. I won't be using liquid.com any time soon.

    • Support a service that requires you to use Windows?
    • by Bob9113 (14996) on Tuesday November 26, 2002 @02:10PM (#4760313) Homepage
      This is a step in the right direction.

      I don't have a Windows computer. This is not a step in the right direction. Before this service I had nothing. With this service I still have nothing, and there is one more pillar under the Microsoft monopoly.
      • I don't have a Windows computer. This is not a step in the right direction.
        Think about it - if the "right direction" is a service that could some day make any person be able to download and burn a song regardless of platform or browser, then this is a step in the right direction. It's not there yet.

        But still, they went for the operating system that a vast majority of the people use and the browser that a vast majority of the people use on that operating system. Simply put, they went for the majority on this one.

        And trust me, the RIAA doesn't want to help Microsoft any more than you do. Still, this is where IE as a browser has the advantage - everyone using Windows has it, and you don't have to send them off to download and use something else.

    • by Bob Ince (79199) <and@noSpaM.doxdesk.com> on Tuesday November 26, 2002 @03:12PM (#4760888) Homepage
      "Everything" we might want in a downloadable music service? It's not even beginning to approach nearly being close.

      The DRM in this system takes away all the flexibility and reliability we expect of digital music. Look at the insane amount of hoop-jumping darnellmc had to go through to get a usable track! This is not something I could recommend to anyone.

      And it's not even anything new - the likes of PressPlay and listen.com have been doing the same for ages (PP even uses the same crappy broken Roxio software). So it doesn't count as a step in the right direction either.

      For a music service that really *is* a step in the right direction, try emusic.com. It's far from perfect, but it does offer proper non-DRM-crippled files that you can use, in any way you like. (Or, for people whose machiens don't match the spec that Universal's service deigns to work with, it gives you files you can use at all...)

      --
      Andrew Clover
      mailto:and@doxdesk.com
      http://www.doxdesk .com/

  • Why? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by BluGuy (617572) on Tuesday November 26, 2002 @01:16PM (#4759827)
    Why go through all that BS to pay the same amount for a CD that you can go to your local RecordStore and pick up. Is it worth it to say "I made all by myself?" Next question: Will it work on *nix/Mac?
    • Re:Why? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by binaryDigit (557647) on Tuesday November 26, 2002 @01:35PM (#4759995)
      Two words, Instant gratification. The author mentions that it is easier to do this than to venture out in the middle of winter (after living in Canada, I can relate to this) to purchase a cd. So the real question is, is this truely better than going over to Amazon, purchasing the cd and waiting the week or so for it to show up?

      As to will it work on *nix/Mac, didn't the original announcement of the service say that it was pc only initially? Plus with the problems the author had using a pc, hard to imagine they have it working on anything else yet.
      • by sterno (16320) on Tuesday November 26, 2002 @02:11PM (#4760324) Homepage
        If they can get this to be cross platform (will they ever support Linux? I doubt it), and get the bugs worked out, it would be better than buying a CD from a store. But would it be better than using Kazaa?

        This is the problem that these media companies need to contend with. What people want is huge repositories of music for a fixed price that's easy to use, and without stupid DRM restrictions. The advantage that this has over Kazaa is that it's easy to find exactly what you are looking for, but being charged a $1+ per track and having to go through the DRM rigamarole, why would you bother?

        Most everybody I know would be willing to pay anywhere between $10-40/month to get access to a huge music repository that they could use without burdensome restrictions. I currently subscribe to emusic for this reason, it's only drawback is that they tend not to have the newest albums. Maybe do a tiered pricing system where you get the back catalog for some more modest price and then you can sign up for a premium membership that will give you the newer music.

      • by MO! (13886)
        If you want the purchase music online rather than venturing out in winter, order from cdnow or amazon or some-other-online-store. I purchase what little music I buy from online stores, opting for used CDs whenever possible. I can have them shipped ground in a weeks time, or if really important to me next-day air.

      • Re:Why? (Score:3, Insightful)

        by RAMMS+EIN (578166)
        To add another argument, it's not paying the same price. It's paying $9.99 for the songs that are on an album, but in Liquid Audio format rather than on CD. This means the uses are restricted and the quality likely degraded. The price may be higher or lower than that of the CD, depending on what the CD costs (in the Netherlands, for example, CDs typically cost twice as much as this service).

        This is the kind of service I have been wanting for a number of months now. There is now way that I'm going to install Windows, M$IE, and a Liquid Audio player just so that I can pay for music in a restricted and proprietary format. Why are they making things so complicated? They can offer their files for download over HTTP and it will work with any well-behaved web browser. Since the article mentioned that it is possible to burn the music on CD, what's the use of using a #$@#$@$# format like Liquid Audio? This is so much locking people into specific hardware and software that I can't view it as anything other than a plot by the Evil Forces to lure people with nice goodies and then squeeze the money and life out of them.

        Just give me music that I can _play_ and I will pay for it, ok? It's really not that hard. No Crippled Discs, no weird-ass proprietary formats.
    • Re:Why? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Idaho (12907)
      Why go through all that BS to pay the same amount for a CD that you can go to your local RecordStore and pick up.

      Why go through all that BS by going all the way to your local RecordStore where you'll pay a stupendously large amount of money for something as simple&cheap as a CD when it's so much easier to just download it from the Net for free?

      OK I know....you're screwing the artists too...they should have public bank account numbers so people could donate some money to them...Their share is at most $2 per CD anyway (the standard CD price in Europe being more like $22)
    • Re:Why? (Score:3, Funny)

      by nolife (233813)
      Okay.
      I decided to try that method, here's my experience.
      First I could not find my keys. Eventually I found them under the couch. It's cold outside so I had to let the car run for about 5 minutes to get the ice off the windows. About half way to the mall I got stcuk behind a garbage truck that was leaking stuff out the back, it would not have been so bad but he was going like 15 MPH under the speed limit. Luckily though I noticed I was on E, I stopped at the Circle-K and waited in line for gas. Back on the road I eventually made it to the mall. We must be apporaching the holiday season because the mall was packed, I could only find a decent spot near Sears, which is no where near the epicenter of the mall where the record store is. Finally in the record store I could not find the CD I wanted. They had some selections but I did not want to pay $17.99 for one song that I liked out of 10 on the cd, too bad they did not have a method of picking and choosing songs I wanted. I paid my dues and set sail in my Chrysler for home. Traffic was a little worse heading in that direction but I had a cd player in my car, boy was I surprized when my new cd would not play in my car. The label said something about PC only and I could not find the official phillips cd logo. Oh well, maybe I can rip it to MP3 and play it my portable when I get home, I wonder what that the PC only means??

      Yeah, your experience may not have been as bad but I think the author of the articles was not typical either. For the record, I like high quality recorded music, you will NOT get that in a compressed d/l, more so when it is converted from WMA to MP3. My kids are a different breed, my daughter would be more then happy to select and create her own 'CD' online for the same price if she could select the songs herself, she really likes the "Now xx" type of mix cd's and quality is not really an issue for her.
  • by elliotj (519297) <slashdotNO@SPAMelliotjohnson.com> on Tuesday November 26, 2002 @01:16PM (#4759828) Homepage
    You can play the tracks as much as you like on your PC, burn to CD as many tracks as you want, copy the burned CDs, and use the CD to make MP3s. Keep in mind there is supposed to be some form of digital watermarking on the tracks though. So if you give the music to anyone else, they (UMG) are supposed to be able to know it was you who violated their copyright.

    I'd be interested to know how anybody could tell if you've shared the music and what this 'digital watermarking' is all about. If you made MP3s from the CD you make, how would UMG know you violated the copyright? Is my iTunes gonna email them when I play the pirated MP3?

    This sounds dubious but will no doubt be tested by tons of people to see if it's true.

    It also begs the question of what consititutes illegal sharing and fair use. Shouldn't I be able to listen to this stuff on my iPod? Would UMG know?
    • by barnaclebarnes (85340) on Tuesday November 26, 2002 @01:36PM (#4760001) Homepage
      Digital watermarking essentially puts a mark in the music that can be read by special software. It is meant to be non audable to the human ear but that is debatable.

      Watermarking is probably the lesser of evils as it does not stop you copying the music (AFAIK). What it will do however is provide an audit trail of where the music came from. Say a street vendor was busted for selling pirated CD's. They could test the CD's and see that it came from UserX on the UMG service. They could then go to userX and asked him/her how the music ended up on thousands of pirated CD's.

      It seems they are trying to create a balance between fully restrictive downloading and playing and free for all mp3/ogg files. Personally I think it is the wrong way to go but time will tell. /b
      • Thats how the music got out of my hands.. And must be how all that other copyrighted software got on it, as *I* would never do such a thing..

        Now, prove im lying.

        In all seriousness this DID happen to me once... but all was done was they setup an IRC server.. but the point is still valid..

    • by msheppard (150231) on Tuesday November 26, 2002 @01:50PM (#4760143) Homepage Journal
      Back in the 90's, Phish made some copies of some studio work that they didn't want people distributing, so they digitally watermarked every copy they gave out. I think it was like 20 copies, so they could tell if someone allowed it to be copied. Funny part is: It worked! I have yet to see copies of that stuff distributed. Seems those who got the copies were afraid it'd be tracked back to them and they would loose the trust of the band or something.

      I can envision people discovering the waremarking technology though. You and a friend register and download the same track, then run a binary diff on the files. Should be pretty easy to determine where the watermark is and change it though.

      M@
      • The way watermarking usually works is by making minor modifications to the whole of the data. It's not just a string in the middle of the file. So what happens is you get a diff that is nearly every byte of the file and you have to listen to each one and adjust it till it sounds right.

        Might as well just write the music and perform it yourself :)
      • by cpeikert (9457) <cpeikert@alum. m i t.edu> on Tuesday November 26, 2002 @03:18PM (#4760949) Homepage
        I can envision people discovering the waremarking technology though. You and a friend register and download the same track, then run a binary diff on the files. Should be pretty easy to determine where the watermark is and change it though.

        Yep, this is called collusion in the literature, and it's been considered (even for the case of several users comparing their files). Lots of work has been put into developing codes that are immune to collusion in various ways. Examples include "identifiable parent property (IPP) codes," "traceability (TA) codes," and "collusion-secure codes."

        The upshot is that it is provably impossible to construct collusion-secure codes unless they have very large "alphabets" or require lots of bits to be embedded in the media. Both situations are bad for the distributors, because watermarking technology is pretty inefficient in terms of how much raw data it needs to robustly embed marks.

        I have a paper with some of these results on my webpage, if you're interested.
  • Emusic (Score:5, Interesting)

    by seizer (16950) on Tuesday November 26, 2002 @01:16PM (#4759832) Homepage
    It's been said before, and it should be said again. If you wantw true value for money, emusic [emusic.com] are a better deal. Pure MP3s, no corrupt watermarks, and no DRM. And cheaper, too - one monthly fee equals full unlimited downloads.

    If I was going to go for any of these services (I'm not, yet) that would be my choice.
    • Re:Emusic (Score:2, Informative)

      by drdanny_orig (585847)
      all the samples I've downloaded from emusic's site are a cheezy-sounding 128kbs MP3. That's hardly hi-fi in my book. Are the ones you buy any better?
    • Yes, but sadly, they have no Metallica available for download. *sarcasm*

      I'll pass thanks.
    • According to this [slashdot.org] which reproduces what is apparently a recent letter from Emusic, there are limits. The letter uses the "all you can eat buffet" as a point of comparison. I'm not judging Emusic here, since they appear to provide a very good service and to be only going after abusers, but the term "unlimited" seems somewhat misleading (a.k.a. marketing speak).
  • And it took me all of 10 minutes in store, no hassle, I'm listening to em right now.

    I can copy, rip, whatever I please. I'm willing to pay an extra 10 bucks per disc for a) good music and b) missing out on the hassle that you went through.

    My time is certainly valuable. The only benefit of online downloading was saving me the 15 minute drive to the store. The downside is no cover art, no reliable copy, and no fun unwrapping process.

    For those interested:

    The Roots - Phrenology (w/ DVD)
    Thievery Corporation - The Richest Man in Babylon
    The Lenny White Collection

    -Greg
    • Wow, what a rip-off. I just spent ~$30 and got 4 new CDs. And I didn't have to go anywhere. Heck, the receptionist even brought them to my office so I didn't have to go to the front desk. Of course, a couple of them were indy artists, but still.

      I got a couple of Shonen Knife CDs, for $6 & $9, a High School Hellcats CD for $9, and a Die Cheerleader Die CD for $5.

      Shonen Knife I got from half.com. A quick email to DCD & HSH and both setup paypal accounts so I wouldn't be forced to find envelopes & stamps.

      Now that I think about it, I also recently purchased a new CD at Best Buy, so that *almost* brings me up to $50 (it was the new Johnny Cash CD, that old man rox u).
  • Windows and IE? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by muyuubyou (621373) on Tuesday November 26, 2002 @01:17PM (#4759839)
    Anything involving windows, IE and Media Player is too suspicious for me giving it a try.

    You also need to use IE to open the URL in the e-mail that authenticate your tracks

    The price is not the problem. The problem is what they allow you to do and what they don't. Next.
  • by Mr_Person (162211) <mr_personNO@SPAMmrperson.org> on Tuesday November 26, 2002 @01:18PM (#4759845) Journal
    I pay the same or more for the download service as for the CD, download the tracks slowly, install their software several times until it works, burn it on a CD, rip it, encode it, then listen to it? And the music companies wonder why their online services aren't insanely popular...
  • by Alizarin Erythrosin (457981) on Tuesday November 26, 2002 @01:19PM (#4759850)
    So... how long until somebody figures out how to remove the digital watermarking? Maybe it wouldn't be the easiest process in the world, but it probably would scare the pants off of them as a proof-of-concept.

    And probably get their lawyers all excited with the possibility of DMCA-related charges.
  • by Stubtify (610318) on Tuesday November 26, 2002 @01:22PM (#4759861)
    The article says you're limited in your freedom to use the files you purchased on another computer, this seems like its just as bad as those stupid new Audio CD formats which are being thrown around, except at least those boast better quality sound. Why limit yourself to IE and put all those stupid DRM in when you know people will get around them anyway.


    He didn't mention it but I assume these are not cd quality audio files, unless I'm missing something here. So I'd pay a small amount to be able to download and manipulate files as I please (50 each maybe) but add all the DRM to those files and I'd pay less. It only makes sense considering you're crippling my downloads.


    I guess it boils down to... why use this over kazaa/limewire/winMX etc. etc. etc...

  • Price Gouging? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Vaulter (15500)

    How is .99 a track price gouging? What is price gouging anyway? I'd define it as charging more for something that a customer _has_ to have. Like electricity. You can charge more because the consumer has no choice. I.E, the result of a monopoly.

    If you think .99 (or 9.99) is too much, look at the profit statement of the company selling it. If their expenses are more than the profit (I bet they are ), then maybe .99 _isn't enough_ .

    The same goes for all the whiners about $16 or $20 CD's. If you think the company is making sooo much profit from this, then you damn better well be investing all your money in the industry, since it's such a profitable, sure thing business.

    Personally, I think $.99 is extremely reasonable, given that I can't hardly buy a 20oz Coke for that much.

    • Re:Price Gouging? (Score:4, Informative)

      by scumdamn (82357) on Tuesday November 26, 2002 @01:30PM (#4759938)
      I wish there was a mod for -1 silly!
      Just because the profit sheets show a company not making profit does not mean that billions of dollars aren't being made.
    • Re:Price Gouging? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by gjt (93855)
      The margninal cost of providing the track to the user is a fraction of one cent per download. The artist maybe gets as much as five cents in royalties. Considering the markup and the constriction of the market by a few large recording companies, it's price gouging.

      Coke does well, but doesn't nearly get that kind of a markup on a 20 oz. Coke. Coke has to pay for manufacturing and trucking costs. The retailer that sells the product then has their own labor and real estate costs.

    • Re:Price Gouging? (Score:2, Insightful)

      by BigBir3d (454486)
      15 songs at 99cents is still $14.85

      no disc, no case, no jacket with said case.

      still a waste of money, IMO.

      prolly as much profit as selling cd's in the store too.

      it is a step in the proper direction though.

      i wonder if browser masquerading fools the system into letting you use it with opera or whatever?
  • No thanks... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by flirzan (133046) <flirzanNO@SPAMpsychoholics.org> on Tuesday November 26, 2002 @01:23PM (#4759868) Homepage Journal
    Media that I can download only using proprietary software, and listen to only on the computer I donwloaded it on (what if I don't have/want a CD burner?)... I think I'll pass. It shouldn't be that difficult to get the point across that we will happily purchase music for download, as long as we're allowed fair use.
  • Missing Con's (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Christopher Bibbs (14) on Tuesday November 26, 2002 @01:24PM (#4759871) Homepage Journal

    Must remember to surf with IE rather than a browser you prefer.

    Must remember to download tracks only while sitting on a machine with a CD-R or CD-RW

    Must remember to never let your machine die or be replaced. If you do, you'll never be able to reburn the audio.

    Thanks, I'll stick with Slamjamz [slamjamz.com]

    • That was childish, but will probably get modded way up for being so righteously indignant...

      Right there, in the review, he says:
      • No player seems to be able to burn using a DVD burner.
      • Unable to use the service to purchase tracks using Mozilla.

      And as for the 3rd: "Must remember to never let your machine die or be replaced. If you do, you'll never be able to reburn the audio." ... Considering how they allowed him to download the songs again for free (with his machine still in perfect working order) when he found out he couldn't used a dvd/cd burner, my guess is they would do the same for a person whose computer died.
      • my guess is they would do the same for a person whose computer died.

        Unless it's in the contract that you can, forever, sooner or later you won't.

    • o Must remember to download tracks only while sitting on a machine with a CD-R or CD-RW

      IIRC, Window XP allows only a limited number of hardware swaps. Given that, then the user had better get a supported hardware config sooner rather than later. Hopefully these guys will be able and permitted to expand their range of support hardware and software.
  • by lorcha (464930) on Tuesday November 26, 2002 @01:24PM (#4759873)
    I've always thought that the end of Napsteresque p2p sharing would be when the record industry released a reasonably-priced alternative. I mean, how much would you pay for a professionally ripped track from a high-bandwidth server found using a simple and fast search engine?

    The pricepoint is a little higher than what I'd like to see, but this is definitely a step in the right direction for the music industry. Kudos to them for actually trying to solve the p2p "problem" by giving consumers (almost) what they want instead of trying to lock down every electronic device. It may be a clumsy interface, but it seems like a good first stab at a compromise between consumers' fair use rights and copyright holder interests.

    • by mcwop (31034) on Tuesday November 26, 2002 @01:30PM (#4759945) Homepage
      I agree on many points, but not as a p2p killer. Baby steps - a move in the right direction - but still very flawed:

      • Useless to a mac user
      • Songs are not already in mp3 format
      • email verification sounds annoying
      • song library is lame (for my taste at least)
      • Definately needs to be cheaper by the song with discounts for volume purchase
    • I honestly think the end all of mass p2p sharing would be if the record industry purchased a familiar interface (Napster), spruced it up a bit, and make simple searching, and downloading of high quality mp3s then p2p would end. That plus the added benefit of no spy ware, and a cheap cost, like $5/month, and I honestly think people would pay that and the music industry would make a ton of money.

      What the RIAA wants to hold on to is the mega $$$ they are making by selling CDs without any added benefits (DVDs including music videos, extra tracks, etc. etc.) and keeping the same profits. Sorry guys, times change, even kodak realized traditional film and camera are no longer the money maker and they adapted. For a big successful business, these guys really have no clue.

  • Ogg Vorbis (Score:5, Interesting)

    by gjt (93855) on Tuesday November 26, 2002 @01:24PM (#4759875)
    Wouldn't ripping the tracks from the CD into Ogg Vorbis defeat the track watermarking. I'm guessing that their watermarking technique is based on the properties of the MP3 algorithm, which would be diffrent in Ogg.
    • Re:Ogg Vorbis (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Idaho (12907)
      Wouldn't ripping the tracks from the CD into Ogg Vorbis defeat the track watermarking

      So, let me get this straight...you are proposing to convert WMA->WAV->OGG to get rid of a watermark that supposedly *cough* doesn't have any influence on the music itself....and think you'll get a result that even resembles digital quality audio?

      Not likely....

      Btw. the first problem is that you got to have IE ofcourse...I have finally (after several years) deleted Windows entirely (after not using the partition for months and finally needing the space :), so I can't use IE, not to mention WMA files.

    • Re:Ogg Vorbis (Score:2, Insightful)

      by ahaning (108463)
      It's more likely based on encoding things into the audio that you can't hear. Sort of like "encrypting" data into an image; steganography You could reduce the quality such that the watermark is no longer detectable, but what use is that? You'd get a crappy music file that you could trade freely with your friends, but they wouldn't want it. (Calling Dr. Felton! ;-) )

      Also, as the reviewer chose the Liquid Audio site, I thought that would mean that they would provide the tracks in LiquidAudio format, but it's WMA? When I try to listen to or buy a track on their site, it seems to suggest that the tracks are in LiquidAudio format.

      For general downloading or purchasing music online, I personally would avoid Liquid altogether. WMA/Real are acceptable as a last resort. MP3s are better than either WMA, Liquid, or Real. OGG would be the best of the lossy formats. However, couldn't they at least provide SHN or FLAC files? The SHN files I've downloaded from Archive.org[Etree] [archive.org] and recompressed into FLACs generally get about 2:1 compression. That's not bad considering they are lossless, "CD-quality." Please note that my mini-review of the formats is NOT based on quality. I've checked out the OGG listening test at vorbis.com and could hear no difference in the files. My preferences are mostly based on ease-of-use. MP3, OGG, FLAC and SHN are easier to use from my current computer to any other computers I may have in the future.

      Maybe the general populace doesn't care enough about the quality of music on their PCs. So far, they've been able to get it all for free. However, when they start to be able to pay a bit for a downloadable song, they will (hopefully) demand more of their online music store. (e.g. They'll demand that it be like their brick and mortar music store, but online).

      And, where are the liner notes? Lossy music, crappy software, no artwork?! Uhh.. Some of my parents' old vinyl records have really neat artwork on them. It's as though, as production costs have decreased, so has the product quality.

      Not that I think the music that these companies churn out is always that great, but there are certainly lots of intelligent people working behind the scenes that know how to market a product well. Where are they?

      Here's what I mean WRT the marketing: I know people here love to make fun of Microsoft (what would a Slashdot story be, without Microsoft?) but, honestly, if you can find it, watch the "Ray of Light" commercial for WinXP where people jump and jump and eventually take off and are flying around. It's horribly hokey and easy to make fun of, but they really make you WANT Windows XP. Not that I think: "Ohh, if I had Windows XP, I'd fly!" but they make you think that it's actually going to give you the freedom that you always thought it would. Please read the word "think" with emphasis ;-).
  • Watermarking? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Patik (584959) <cpatik AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday November 26, 2002 @01:27PM (#4759898) Homepage Journal
    You can ... burn to CD ... copy the burned CDs, and use the CD to make MP3s. Keep in mind there is supposed to be some form of digital watermarking on the tracks though.
    How are their watermarks supposed to stay intact once you use lossy MP3 compression?
  • End of P2P (Score:5, Funny)

    by jvmatthe (116058) on Tuesday November 26, 2002 @01:30PM (#4759934) Homepage
    To quote the author:
    After downloading the files I could not get any of them to play. ... For some time this confused me, then I tried clicking on a link provided in an e-mail that was sent to me to confirm my order. Well, they did not tell me this on the website, but clicking that link authenticated me to listen to the tracks. ... Whenever I'd try to burn a track, the Roxio software would die. ... So if you give the music to anyone else, they (UMG) are supposed to be able to know it was you who violated their copyright. ... So overall it was pretty frustrating making my first CD with this service

    Holy cow!!! That's way too easy! At this rate, it sounds like they're going to have Kazaa and all the other P2P file sharing programs on the run in just a couple of months.

    I guess that when we threw down the gauntlet and said "Ok, Music Companies, let's see some real innovation and get an easy to use, cheap, my-mom-could-use-it service for music" they went and did their homework. I bet my mom's already signed up, downloaded lots of tracks (on 56k), failed to burn copies, downloaded all the different players (again 56k), tried burning her music with them and failed, called support, copied the tracks to her other computer, failed to burn again, contacted support again, redownloaded the tracks again (56k, remember), and finally got them to burn so she could listen to them in her car.

    It's that easy. Wow.
  • "Hint: if you don't have IE handy, you might not find this service very friendly. "

    Does the BBC know?

    cheers

    front
  • Sounds great for windows users...

    I use Linux on all my boxen. No MAC user will be able to use this either as it requires DRM stuff.

    Of course as they say.. if you are not part of the solution you are part of the problem.
  • I know of no other industry who makes people work so hard to use their product. If only the quality of the product was enough of a carrot to justify the effort.

  • Technology Preview? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by codeonezero (540302) on Tuesday November 26, 2002 @01:35PM (#4759988)
    Sounds to me like they still need to work out issues before making it a service that the average Joe and Jane can use.

    What kills it for me (but then again I'm probably not in the majority they are targetting) is the requirement of Windows 2k/XP and Windows media player...

    Well its not like I'm downloading MP3s left and right anyways. Most of my music is bought at a store or via one of them music clubs...(Where you can get like 11 CD for 1 cent, so long as you buy 4 more at regular price in 2 years time...which if you play smart you can gets tons of CDs cheap, assuming you dont need the latest release)

    Maybe by the time I get a broadband connection, these services will use a more open standard format, and the service will be a lot more flexible.

    A price reduction would be nice, would encourage people to buy the songs the like from a website instead of leeching off gnutella or [insert favorite file sharing client/server here].

    50 cents a song sounds good to me :) Maybe for a certain quality, and raise the price up from there for better quality encoding and/or more flexibility. (i.e. pay 99 cents and you can choose your format of choice to download...etc, pay $1.49 and get dvd quality audio...you get the picture :)

    Maybe they can come up with better pricing though.

    Hey I can get 4x6 photo prints of my digital photos for 50 cents from Kodak online services!
    (Well yeah shipping is like $2.99 though hehe)

  • by slutdot (207042) on Tuesday November 26, 2002 @01:37PM (#4760007)
    If you're looking for some UMG artists, try emusic [emusic.com]. Emusic is owned by UMG and contains quite an extensive UMG listing [emusic.com]. For $10/month, you get some UMG artists as well as really good indie labels. If you're into industrial a couple of the labels like Metropolis and Cleopatra are there.
  • Perfect for Apple (Score:3, Insightful)

    by binaryDigit (557647) on Tuesday November 26, 2002 @01:38PM (#4760024)
    This authors experience bodes well for Apple if they can get the licensing straight. If they can interface with these music sites and make them as easy to use as say the iPod, then they'd have a killer combo. Imagine being able to add tracks to your inbox, pay for them, click a button and have it download AND burn for you automatically. Or download/convert to mp3/shove it over to you iPod automatically. This could be another area where the Mac shines, again, if they can get the necessary buy in.
  • by burgburgburg (574866) <.splisken06. .at. .email.com.> on Tuesday November 26, 2002 @01:39PM (#4760035)
    This seems like just the solution I've been looking for. Oh, and the DRM and the problems with the DVD burner. Except for those four little things, this is it.
  • So if I mark darnellmc as a friend, then he should be able to (with out any moral problems) share his music with me right? I'm mean how the the record industry get me because I share with my freinds :-)

    Thanks /.!
  • by draed (444221) on Tuesday November 26, 2002 @01:43PM (#4760073)
    i've found that with a little searching i can find the CDs i want, brand new, online for around $9-$12 shipping included.

    some good sites to find cheap prices :
    • mysimon [mysimon.com]
    • is a good search engine that typically finds the cheapest prices for cds(and most everything else)
    • deepdiscountcd [deepdiscountcd.com]
    • has very cheap new CDs
  • by no_opinion (148098) on Tuesday November 26, 2002 @01:46PM (#4760095)
    I tried this service too. It worked pretty well for me, though I had to click the download link twice to get the file. Some comments:

    1) they're selling the files in 2 formats, the Liquid format and Microsoft's WMA format. I tried both and the Liquid format only works in the Liquid player, while the WMA files will play in Winamp, MusicMatch, WindowsMedia Player, and others. WMA seems to be the default except in a few cases, so check your format before you buy (and you probably want WMA).

    2) surprisingly, there are no burn count limits! When you download, the site tells you what the content usage rules are, and you get unlimited burns!!! Sure enough, I made a few burns of the stuff I downloaded and when I checked the properties, there is no burn counter (you can check the license properties on XP in the WMP).

    3) portable device support is limited, but they've covered the major players. Again, this varies by format, but for WMA files you can use your Rio X00 or Creative Labs Nomad. I've got a Rio800 and it worked fine. Another surprise - no transfer limits!

    4) I was worried about the audio quality, but the files sound great vs your typical kazaa download.

    5) I found the different track prices confusing, but eventually I realized that not all of the content in the liquid store is UMG's.

    So I found the whole thing to be remakably easy to use (I didn't have any of the download or burn problems mentioned in the original post) and I was pleasantly surprised at the lack of burn or transfer counts. The files do use DRM, but they've got relatively loose rules. My primary complaint is that the selection is still not fantastic. A bunch of things I searched for were not up. Anyway, it's a good start and I hope that the other music companies follow UMG's lead.

  • Music Royalties (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    I always hear about music lovers wanting to pay for music without all the hustles. They will continue to use P2P until purchasing music is hastleless (and reasonably priced). In fact...I bet some people would even pay for music which has already been downloaded by P2P to make amends. Why do these music industries try so hard to put DRM into everything? Let people pay for the music and do with it as they wish. Listeners are not stupid, they know they need to support the artists which they enjoy. Does there have to be so many restrictions? Is the music industry afraid that the music industry would die and we would have no more music? I doubt that would happen!
  • by NullProg (70833) on Tuesday November 26, 2002 @01:54PM (#4760171) Homepage Journal
    I'm sorry, not trying to start a flame war or anything. But who is this story for? Windows users?

    This service needs IE, WMA, and a Windows Box? It won't work under my MacIntosh, Linux, or Home Entertainment system(s)? The songs won't work in my car, walkman or the kids boom-box?

    Well maybe this is news I can use. I know I won't be using my disposable income on this service.

    Enjoy,
  • Cost? Quality?? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Theaetetus (590071) <theaetetus,slashdot&gmail,com> on Tuesday November 26, 2002 @01:55PM (#4760183) Homepage Journal
    Two quick points - one, you don't mention what the quality of the tracks were... were they non-watermarked AIFF or WAVs (44.1k, 16bit), or were they some compressed and altered format, with its attendant artifacts?
    You do say there is watermarking... which listening tests have shown is subtle, but still audible, so you're already at a loss of quality here.

    Also, for cost - popular tracks as high as $1.50, regulars for a dollar... Let's just pick a currently popular, common CD, like The Eminem Show...

    20 tracks (though, 5 of those are skits, which you said you're not able to get...) - really 15 audio tracks... At a dollar each, that's 15 dollars. At a dollar each for most, plus $1.50 for the current singles (White America, Cleaning Out My Closet, Soldier, Without Me, Hailie's Song, What You Say) is 18 dollars.

    Now, my local Newbury Comics is selling this same album for $14.99 (and with a coupon from the Sunday paper, I can knock 3 dollars off of that).

    So, I can either tie up my cable modem and 'puter and download a watermarked, questionable quality version for 15-18 dollars, or I can pay 12 for the original, plus the non-music tracks.

    I'm sorry, but I really don't see what the point is...

    Of course, say I don't want all of those songs, but five from this album, and five from the previous, and five from the one before that... Then, there is a savings, but it's so miniscule - I'd be getting the popular singles off each album, so at 15 tracks * $1.50, I'd be paying $22.50... and if I bought the albums, either on sale or used, I'd be paying no more than $25-30... and get a bunch of tracks I'd never have heard otherwise that I might like. Plus, 3 separate booklets, liner notes, etc.

    There's no way they're going to attract people from P2P sharing if their chosen method is slower, more expensive, and of questionable quality.

    -T

  • This is stupid, insulting, and unnecessary. Provide me the data in some high-quality format (I frankly don't care if it's WMA, OGG, MP3, AC3, or something you just made up) with a watermark so you can track where it goes. I think watermarking is the only thing that makes sense, and it makes the most sense during digital distribution. Think about it, even on my athlon tbird 1.4 GHz I can encode as fast as I can rip (Formerly I did both at once using audiocatalyst on a plextor drive... yay plextor.) So it makes sense to store the uncompressed music, and develop your own encoder which will insert the watermarking as you go and deliver the resulting file.

    The DRM thing is stupid, though, considering that once I jump through your hoops I can record it to Red Book/CDDA. Just sell it to me through an SSL-encrypted connection and shove the files at me.

  • by bytesmythe (58644) <bytesmythe@gmai l . com> on Tuesday November 26, 2002 @02:01PM (#4760232)
    NOTE:
    This isn't intended to be a troll or flamebait post.

    One of the issues that surrounds the music industry is the way that large record labels treat the artists who have signed with them.

    Now a record company has suddenly made it (more or less) convenient to download songs legally, and as soon as it gets easy, the ol' consumer mentality will kick back in and the artists will end up forgotten.

    The artists won't be thought of, just like most people don't really think about the sweatshop laborers in foreign countries who make clothing, or code cheap software, assemble appliances, etc. Give us what we want, and give it to us cheap. To hell with the people who have to work to produce the lifestyle we get to take advantage of.

    *sigh*

    The music industry isn't really upset that you're copying copyrighted material. They're upset that you're no longer a consumer. They want you to consume their services, and if they re-work their existing services in a manner so the production costs are cheaper than current costs, but still charge you the same and still screw over the recording artists, then they see it as a major win.

    Maybe I'll get lucky and someone will reply and tell me why UMG isn't as bad as the others.
  • by imr (106517) on Tuesday November 26, 2002 @02:07PM (#4760277)
    PROS
    Service:
    there's a real nice looking girl and she knows a great deal about music.
    Prices:
    It's much cheaper than your service as I can find whole CDs between 1 and 3 euros. Yes, they are used, but it's because the shop re-buy from its customers. They are as perfect as new ones. You can buy new CDs at regular price also. People are not doing it to rip them since the shop existed before cd writers.
    CDs:
    I'm not limited to one company, as a matter of facts I'm not limited at all since they sell all kind of music from all kind of compagnies from all countries.
    Choice:
    There's another shop just the same 30 meters away. Only there isnt a nice looking girl there.
    CONS:
    half an hour of subway.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I was expecting less when I first heard about the service, and have been pleasently suprised one several counts, first and foremost the customer support: when contacted and asked, they didn't give any run-around, telling him the problem and offering a refund.

    Also, the ability to easily burn them to CDs, despite the lack of DVD support, is a nice feature. I can even forgive the digital watermarking: it's my music to listen to (as I bought a license), but the content still belongs to the company, and giving it out in a easy-to-steal format is against their best interests. I'm all for free music, but this doesn't seem unreasonable.

    The only fear I have is in the verification: what is the music file doing to check authentication, and is that exposing my computer or I to unique identification by some third party company or group? Or does the link just add something to my registry and check locally? All in all, this isn't reason enough to avoid at least giving it a try, as driving to a record store costs half as much as a cd itself.

    Mozilla support would be nice, too.
  • versus Napster: they only sell the stuff the labels want to sell. On Napster, I could get live stuff, tracks that were on out-of-print soundtracks, b-sides, all sorts of stuff I couldn't buy from the record stores, Amazon, or CDNOW no matter how much money I was willing to spend. That's pretty much all I used Napster for anyway (I know, the typical Napster user just wanted to get the latest Eminem CD for free). I see nothing here that suggests that the record companies "get" this.
  • by Dark Paladin (116525) <jhummel&johnhummel,net> on Tuesday November 26, 2002 @02:28PM (#4760482) Homepage
    Their Liquid Audio player for Mac does not run under OS X, nor does it even run under Classic!

    Now, I know that Apple is obviously the Big Evil One to Hollywood because they allow *gasp* MP3's by default with iTunes, but come on, people.

    I want to see a song I like.
    I want to pay $1 or $2 for said song.
    I want to either put song on a music CD (they can mail me the CD, I don't mind), or put the song right on my iPod.

    This should not be difficult. But it is - because the music company is so concerned with *their* wants rather than *my* wants.

    And I'm even willing to pay for it. Go figure.
  • by matthewd (59896) on Tuesday November 26, 2002 @02:40PM (#4760612)
    There are plenty of caveats with the Liquid Audio system. The one great thing about it though is "CDs" never have to go out of print again.

    For some time I was looking for an obscure CD called "The Great Game" by Brother Sun Sister Moon (now called Luminous for their second release). Impossible to find on CD, and impossible to find on peer to peer networks (except one track as noted below, which helped get me hooked) I looked on. But it was on Liquid Audio, and despite my reservations about a proprietary file format, I plunked down the $10 for the entire digital album.

    Download: There were problems downloading. As in the Liquid player crashed during download didn't recognize that the album had been partially downloaded (files were not there), and didn't let me re-download the missing files. Cleared up by customer service.

    Audio quality: decent. I think I've read that the Liquid Audio is really mp3 @ 192kbps inside their "secure" wrapper.

    Compatiblity: Bad. I use WinAmp, and hardly ever listened to the Liquid tracks because I couldn't listen to them in WinAmp.

    Portability: Disappointing. Only playable on the machine you download them to without a MS Passport, or something like that.

    Burnability: Good, once I got a CD-R drive in the computer I downloaded them to.

    Security: Puzzling. What good is distributing music in "secure" files when the Liquid Audio software lets you burn them to an unprotected CD format? I ripped then of course into mp3 format (using a very high bitrate to avoid as much as possible problems with recompressing already compressed audio) and the results are not bad. Now I can listen to them in WinAmp! (nearly every day)

    (btw, in case anyone out there is an Information Society fanatic, Paul Robb is one half of BSSM/Luminous. Definately worth checking out. The one song that I found on p2p was Bangkok, off some movie soundtrack if you want to have a listen first.)
  • by defile (1059) on Tuesday November 26, 2002 @02:47PM (#4760678) Homepage Journal

    You can play the tracks as much as you like on your PC, burn to CD as many tracks as you want, copy the burned CDs, and use the CD to make MP3s. Keep in mind there is supposed to be some form of digital watermarking on the tracks though. So if you give the music to anyone else, they (UMG) are supposed to be able to know it was you who violated their copyright.

    From my understanding, a "watermarked" audio stream is one where identifying information is included in an imperceivable portion of the audio stream.

    Given that lossy encoders (MP3, OGG) use psychoacoustic-models to reduce data in the audio stream that it considers outside of the human audible range, wouldn't encoding to MP3 or OGG damage or destroy the watermarking?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 26, 2002 @03:08PM (#4760861)
    An alternative view:

    First off:
    ALBUMS ARE $9.99
    ALBUMS ARE $9.99
    ALBUMS ARE $9.99
    ALBUMS ARE $9.99

    Three quarters of the arguments here are about how expensive this is. It's not! I bought the newest Beck album through this service for $9.99. This was the best price I could get outside Best Buy, which is $11.99 and about 20 miles away.

    I downloaded the album in Liquid Audio format, because I didn't want Microsoft to get the commission on .WMA files. The download topped out my DSL at 1.5 Mbit. I immediately burned the tracks to CD, which was one of the only disappointments in the process. The standard (free) Liquid Audio software only burns at 1X. The other problem is that the Liquid Audio format does not include a track number, so I had to arrange the tracks manually.

    Immediately after burning the CD, I ripped it to MP3, (which is what I would have done if I bought a physical CD). These tracks aren't going to P2P or anywhere else. I just want the MP3s for my own personal use, and I paid for them.

    THE TRACKS SOUND FINE. I do not have a $50,000 audio system, nor do I have $50,000 ears.

    Not caring for my Liquid Audio experience, and wanting the new Nirvana track, I paid for and downloaded that one in .WMA format. The download took something like 30-45 seconds. I don't need a whole CD for one song, so I burned it to CD-RW in Media Player (quickly, this time) and ripped it to MP3. It cost me $.99, instead of the the $15-$18 for the whole "new" Nirvana album of music I already own.

    In summary:

    1. I paid $9.99 - no tax - no shipping, for the new Beck album. I downloaded it immediately and quickly. No re-tagging, no broken downloads, no bad rips. I burned it on to CD (slowly, this time).
    2. I paid $.99 for the new Nirvana track. I wasn't buying an album of music I already own to get one track I don't. And I didn't have to.

    I have always said that if 'they' offered this stuff for a reasonable price and so that I could do what I wanted with it, I would buy into it. I'm practicing what I preached.

    1. I download in a protected format, but I can burn to CD, which is what I would do if I were downloading MP3s,
    2. Once it's an audio CD, I rip it to MP3, which is what I would do if I bought the CD itself.
    3. I pay for music instead of getting it free, which I always said I would do. It feels good to practice what I preach, instead of constantly bitching and then changing my tune (haha) solely to allow myself more bitching.
    4. The albums are $9.99, which is MUCH less than I would pay for anything new.

    This is a good thing. Pity that most of you can't see that, even though this is very close to what many of you asked for all along.
    • So you download (need Windows/IE), burn (slow), rip & reencode in order to get a more lossy version of what they could have put up for download in the first place.

      Tell them to get back to me when I can download using Windows/Opera in mp3/ogg and burn with Nero. This one is not about price, but about convienience. They've got a bit to go there, spending an hour or more to get mp3s out of it is not my idea of fun.

      Kjella
  • by foxtrot (14140) on Tuesday November 26, 2002 @05:20PM (#4762217)
    So imagine you're a record company. You see a problem: People are downloading .mp3 files that they can then do what they want with of your intellectual property off the internet. You know from seeing it happen that people like .mp3 files that they can do what they want with. You think, "Gee. I'd like a piece of that action."

    So this thing comes out. You can download music off the internet now, and it's legal! It's not ridiculously priced, but there are problems-- it's not .mp3 files that people can do whatever they want with.

    The question becomes, then: Were people interested in digital music that they didn't have to go to a CD store to get? Or were they interested in .mp3 files they can do what they want with?

    I suspect that, particularly since the .mp3 files are free, people for the most part want .mp3 files that they can do what they want with.

    So, if you're a record company, how should you go after a piece of that action?

    Well, let's look at p2p programs. Say you want the latest track from Foo, called Bar. You ask for bar on the p2p client. You get back 142 responses. Now, of these 142 responses, 100 were bogus entries trying to get you to download their porno virus spam. 30 are busy and won't talk to you now, 5 have something completely bogus, 5 are people on the wrong end of a 14.4 modem, and two actually have what you want and open slots to download it, but one of those has it at 96 kilobits.

    Now, if I haven't made it sufficient of a hint, perhaps the proper way to sell digital music online is to

    a) Sell people .mp3s they can do what they want with, and,
    b) Make a reliable service to get them in good quality so you don't have to sort through 142 options to find the one that actually has what you want and will disconnect you halfway through the download anyhow.

    How do you make money selling something that's free? Make it convenient. You can offer people both of those things and still get as much money for them.

    -JDF

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