I’ve been on a digital music buying spree this week — purchasing and downloading three new albums online. Despite being a voracious consumer of new music, mostly from mp3 blogs that highlight and share new tracks, I have never purchased music from the iTunes store. And I still haven’t — I purchased two albums from Amazon’s mp3 store, and one directly from the band (Radiohead).
What pushed me over the edge? Music files with no restrictions on use: no codes to key in, no limits on how many people I can share it with, or how many computers I can play them from. I have had too many bad experiences trying to play a track in iTunes that a friend gave me, only to find that I need their username and password to play it — even if they are happy to give it to me, it’s an extra step, and it reminds me that by my listening to “their” music I may be restricting them from listening to it on other computers or iPods, or sharing with other friends.
iTunes is on the right track now, offering DRM-free mp3s, but their selection is still fairly low, and I don’t enjoy the process of sifting through a lot of great (but DRM-limited and thus undesirable) music to find the unrestricted mp3s. Amazon offers a much more pleasant user experience — I know what I’m going to get: everything is unrestricted.
I didn’t realize how much of a hindrance DRM and a poor user experience had been for me — the unpleasantness of emailing friends for a password to re-activate the music they shared with you a couple months ago, the heartbreak (ok, annoyance) of finding a great album on iTunes but realizing it’s only available in DRM-protected format and so having to continue the search elsewhere — these factors just added friction to the whole music-buying process. Once those issues were resolved, I was surprised to see how quickly my wallet flew open: $30 on DRM-free digital music in one week; that’s literally more than I’ve spent in the past year.
The New Pornographers: Challengers
Radiohead: In Rainbows