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Wednesday 26 May 2004

Napster - not bad but... [lurks]

Oh look, a week away and no one does any blogs. Surprised? No, I expect not.
Anyhow, Napster have launched in UK today. I have a professional interest in the service so I leeched it down and checked it out. I think they could be a lot clearer about how things work so I'll summarise here.
If you sign up to Napster and use Napster Light, it'll cost you a whopping 1.09 sterling (Beej still hasn't fixed pound symbol) per track or 9.95 an album. You can stream the first 30 seconds of anything in their collection. This as opposed to forking over a tenner a month in which case tracks can be as 'low' (hoho) as 88p and no mention of how much an album is. You can stream anything you like, listen to radio stations and get access to the forums and stuff. Here's a handy comparison page.
It's a step in the right direction. It's sort of file-based like the Napster of old but the top panel ushers you into finding artists, their entire biography and pulled in content from AMG (the guys) and so on. Also plenty of recommendations on another tab. There's certainly no shortage of music on it so far and big stuff that you'd expect to find too. All's well and good.
On the other hand, you're looking at paying the same - if not more - than buying a CD from Amazon. Only you don't get a CD, you get some lame DRMed WMA files which wont play on ass loads of MP3 players including the iRiver stuff. Where's the value add here exactly?
I think I'll stick to Amazon which has highly accurate recommendations and I get proper CD of uncompressed audio which I can then compress to my favorite format and play it anywhere I goddamn like. I get printed artwork and a CD backup incase my computer(s) go tits up too. If it's stinky, I can always flog the CDs on eBay too.
I think we really need stuff like Napster and iTunes music store. I like the whole streaming idea before buying but I fail to see why I should put up with DRM rubbish and higher prices than CDs. What's more, they want me to give them a tenner retainer and for me to pay for the bandwidth/net connection to download this stuff and for me to pay for the hardware (HD, CD, flash etc) to store it on and charge more than a CD.
Where's the value? There isn't any. I might use the Light version to listen for some good stuff and then go buy the CDs off Amazon and rip to MP3 like I've been doing for years already.


  1. The Big Man and me were talking about this earlier. Its silly what they're doing, what they're *all* doing. They're not providing you with anything extra, in fact, they're taking stuff away.
    Here's the beef: I want a decent commercial music download service, and I want it very simple. I want to download and pay for music, and once I have the music, I want to do what *I* want with it. It should be assumed that I'm not going to break the law, and if I do, it should be dealt with from there.
    What I don't want is a limited format. I don't want to have a limit to the players I can use. I want *my* music on *my* computer and I want to be able to store it in a format *I* chose. If I get a new computer, I don't want to buy the music again. If I get a new player, I don't want to have to buy the music again. If I forget my password, I don't want to have to buy the music again. I don't want to license an album. I don't want to subscribe to a band. I don't want to return to my collection in 10 years time and discover that my ability to play it has disappeared because my lease has expired or the company has gone down.
    Fuck EMI! Fuck Geffen! Fuck Sony! Fuck all the pinheaded marketroids that dream up the insane and shortsighted acts of idiocy! Fuck them because they're so stupid and greedy.
    Here's something for those cocks to mull over: in the three months that I was subbed to the once excellent EMusic, I didn't download a single illegal MP3. Not one.

  2. Well said. What gets me is how Napster is so focussed on offering all the same crap which you might find in a record store already. The fact that an online shop can offer more is what made eMusic so great! The Napster story strikes me as being something like this: A would-be magazine publisher goes into a newsagent and takes a look at the magazines on the shelf. He sees that there's a motorcycle magazine, a boat magazine but not a car magazine. He goes back to the office and starts working on a boat magazine anyway and then makes it half the size and twice the cost.
    I think there's a lot to like about the Napster service but I can't for the life of me think why I'd pay a tenner. Sure I can stream stuff from the computer but that's not where I want to listen to music. I also think the p2p-like client design is pretty naff. Napster was shit because it was file-by-file like every othert p2p application. You get pages of nonsense. Just show me the albums and let me zoom into the tracks please. Also, let me stream ALL of the songs in low-quality (as they are now for that matter) and not the first 30 seconds on the Light product.
    Clearly downloadable albums should cost a fiver for an MP3 album and tracks should be 50p. It's not going to happen though, is it?

  3. And while the big companies tries to get us to buy old shit at a premium price, several not-so-legal websites offer subscription services to download mp3's where you can listen to stuff and shit (like eMusic was). The big companies needs to wake up and offer the consumers what they want, not some shite DRMified crap.

  4. Hmm, well... Those sites offering subs to download music they don't own should be pursued just like any other pirate outfit. Yes the record companies suck but it was them that funded producing of the music in the first place.

  5. Well, my point was not that we should all start using the pirate sites offering subs to download mp3's, but rather that the big music companies should perhaps start looking at different pricing schemes to get people off the pirate ones.
    Still, nothing beats having a proper CD in the shelf.

  6. Oh I take your point. The record companies know about piracy alright although they'd convinced it's the numero uno reason for dropping CD sales and not that there's any other factors such as a diversification of entertainment from the traditional forms.
    They're sort of doing the online thing, at last, but offering far less value than traditional CDs - let alone net piracy (of course). They seem to be of the mind that some people will pay more for less and hence balance out the piracy. Rather than actually taking the approach of trying to concieve a business model which is genuinely offering more value than CDs do.
    As Dave pointed out before with the eMusic thing, we're ready for it. We're ready to go legit and pay for downloads but there's got to be value there. Otherwise I'll just cherry pick my CDs and pirate the stuff I'm not sure about - as I suspect most of us are doing.
    The Net means that we want to consume more media but pay less for it. That's what the record companies appear to be a mile from understanding and holed up in their corporate towers of righteous indignation - I see precious little evidence that they're going to collectively see reason any time soon.

  7. re:Pound signs (third paragraph)... all fixed in Blog v2, which is pretty much ready to go 'cept for Rebot integration.