Tonight I thought I would write about downloading music. No, I am not talking about downloading music "illegally," through the various file sharing programmes out there. I am talking about purchasing music "legally" through the internet, such as the various stores on Windows Media Player or through iTunes.
If you are wondering why I put quotations marks around "legally" and "illegally," I guess I should explain. While I recognise that the recording industry legally has a right to the music it produces, I feel that ethically and morally they do not. In my mind that music should belong to the artists. That is, when it comes to Monster Magnet's recordings, it should be Monster Magnet who controls the rights, not A & M Records. Consider, when you pick up a book by Clive Barker, the copyright is shown under his name, not the publisher of the book. In the publishing industry, at least, the rights of an artist's works belong to that artist. Sadly, this is not the case in the music industry. Long ago the recording industry used their muscle to finagle the government into enacting copyright laws that favoured them rather than the artists who actually create the songs we listen to. While I will not illegally download music, then, I feel that the recording industry has no ethical or moral right to the recordings of that music. Quite frankly, I think that they are worse than any music pirates out there, as they are claiming what is ethically and morally not theirs. Here I should say that while I don't download music "illegally," I by no means condemn those who do.
Anyhow, back to the subject at hand, I must admit to being positively addicted to purchasing music through the internet. My favourite place to buy music is Napster. Napster originated as a file sharing programme specifically dedicated to MP3s. After being shut down by lawsuits from the music industry, Napster was revived as a legal venue for selling digital music. One can buy music from Napster in one of two ways. The first is a stand alone programme that is not that dissimilar to the original file sharing programme. The second is a Windows Media Player plugin. I use the latter myself. What I like about Napster is that it is user friendly. When downloading songs from Napster, it gives the amount of time left for the download and the percentage of the file that has been downloaded. If for whatever reason the download is interrupted, one can simply resume the download where one left off.
Indeed, I think that Napster's customer service may be the best of any of the online music stores out there. As I related in this blog, my niece recently crashed my PC. Because of this I had to do a reinstall. In the process I lost my music licences. I don't know if I didn't back them up or if the reinstall simply wiped them out. I promptly emailed Napster customer service and I received a reply within 12 hours. They gave me step by step details on how to get my licences back. In the end, I got the licences back for about 300 songs (everything I'd bought from Napster), without having to spend money to rebuy them. Now that is good customer service.
The other online store I have used a good deal is the WalMart Downloads Store. The WalMart Downloads Store works primarily through a plugin in Windows Media Player. Like Napster it is very user friendly. It is also the cheapest online music store around--it sells songs for 88 cents a pop. That having been said, there are things I don't like about the WalMart Downloads store. First, their licences allow for one to burn a song to CD only nine times--Napster allows one to burn songs one has bought from them as many times as one likes. Second, their customer service is lousy. I emailed them about the loss of my licences following the computer crash. I have yet to hear back from them. Quite frankly, this has inclined me to simply cease doing business with them and to do more business with Napster.
Of course, if one is going to play digital music today, it is as often going to be on an iPod as it is a computer. To this end, Apple developed iTunes, a programme for both managing one's digital music and media (such as video) and purchasing it over the internet. Before this week I had never used iTunes. I really didn't see the point, as I already had Windows Media Player with its Napster plugin. But then my ancient VCR failed to record Lost and, knowing one could buy TV show episodes from iTunes, I went ahead and downloaded it there. I must say that I like iTunes, but I can't see using it very often. It is easy to use, but it does not give the amount of detail about downloads that Napster does. And songs there are the same price (99 cents). Unless I get an iPod or I miss another episode of Lost, I don't think I'll be doing much busines there.
Another online music store is MusicMatch. I must admit I don't know much about them. I have only bought one song from them ("Words" by The Monkees). They have a plugin for Windows Media Player like Napster does, although I don't know if there is a stand alone programme. It does seem to me that they are not quite as user friendly as either WalMart or Napster. And I don't think they have quite as good a selection. That having been said, I think MusicMatch is a good choice for anyone wanting to purchase music online.
At any rate, I do think downloading music is the wave of the future. By no means do I think that it will put an end to the CD. CDs offer a good deal of convience in that one can simply buy them and then pop them in one's CD Player or PC. They also have such things as liner notes, which digital music does not come with. That having been said, I do think digital music will become incresingly common over the years. The way I see it, digital music and CDs will co-exist in the same way that LPs and singles once did in the days of vinyl. When an individual wants to buy just one song, he or she will simply download it online, just as people bought singles years ago. When he or she is particularly enamoured of a group, he or she might well buy the CD. I find myself doing this. I will buy CDs by my favourite groups, but then I will simply download songs by artists who have produced only a few songs I like. By no means do I think digital music means the end of CDs.