Bottom line: Two big thumbs up!!!
I’ve used many different methods to store music over the years, but recently that method has been digital. I have converted (over the course of several months) my entire CD collection to MP3 format and store it on a portable hard drive.
There are many ways to purchase new music that’s already in digital format, but most of these involve what’s known as Digital Rights Management (DRM), commonly called “copy protection.” I don’t like DRM, primarily because there is no uniform way it’s implemented. If I buy music from one service, I may have to use their proprietary software to play it instead of the software of my choosing. Further, portable digital music players (like the iPod) only support a limited set of DRM, so if I buy one of these devices from a particular manufacturer I am limited to purchasing music from services that support the DRM of the hardware I purchased. Additionally, DRM restricts how I can use the music I purchased by limiting what I can do with it. I need to burn music to CDs to listen in my car, but with DRM I’m limited in the number of times I can do that before the music “locks” and becomes useless. I know all of this DRM stuff probably sounds confusing; in my opinion it is.
MP3 eliminates all of the hassle and confusion. The MP3 format is universal, and supported by all modern digital music software. MP3 files can play back on almost everything that can play digital music, every computer, every portable digital music player, even my low-end DVD player can play disks with MP3s on them. MP3 files never “lock,” and allow me to use the music I purchased in the manner I choose.
I’m not a market researcher, but I think people are tired of the DRM. Companies like Apple have been talking about selling music without DRM. Amazon.com is stepping up to the plate and actually doing it, and they’re doing it right by using the MP3 format. They have a huge library of MP3-format songs already available for sale on their website, and I’m sure this will only grow. The MP3 format is versatile in that it can encode music at different levels of quality; Amazon.com is using a high-quality level which is indistinguishable from listening to a CD. Additionally, the price for their DRM-free music is the same as other services which use DRM.
Amazon.com allows purchasing of individual songs or an entire CD in MP3 format. So far I’ve purchased a couple of full CDs this way. When your purchase the entire CD, you have to use Amazon.com’s software application to download the music. Although I was hesitant at first, their software is easy to install, very convenient (it is a toolbar application which downloads the music in the background and requires no coddling), and works perfectly.
I could not be more pleased with what Amazon.com is doing and how they are doing it. Downloading an album in MP3 format is less expensive than purchasing a CD, and since I simply encode CDs into MP3 format and store them in a closet anyway Amazon.com is saving me time, storage space, and money. I hope their MP3 downloading service flourishes. I suspect other music downloading services will either have to follow suit or go out of business.
Here are some links of interest regarding digital music:
Amazonmp3.com – You can search for MP3 downloads from Amazon.com’s regular search box (they will show up in searches for music), but they have set up this special domain name to take you directly to the MP3 area of their website.
I Hate DRM – As you can tell by the title, the owner of this site doesn’t like DRM either. I Hate DRM focuses on the business ethics of DRM, and while I personally dislike DRM primarily for the technical aspects rather than the ethical I do agree with a lot of what this site has to say.
emusic – For the sake of completeness I should mention that other services have always offered music downloads in MP3-format, notably emusic. However, in my experience the selection of music they offer is limited, and in the case of emusic you are required to purchase a monthly subscription instead of purchasing the songs you want on an individual basis. While I applaud these services for using DRM-free MP3, I much prefer Amazon.com’s sales model. Hopefully Amazon.com will break new ground and allow other MP3 services like emusic to grow.
Wollensak Reel to Reel Magnetic Tape Recorder – My parents had one of these! In fact they still have it! It was my first tape recorder. Completely DRM free!