Happy Father's Day, Dad! :-)
So here's the thing about downloading digital music legally - I've finally found a service that I'm willing to subscribe to and use on an everyday basis. It's by no means perfect - not even close - but it's the first one that I'm willing to pay for past the free trial.
I had already looked at Rhapsody and rejected it, but the service earned a second view with the announcement of $.079 downloads (in addition to the subscription fee). In addition, they're running a special right now that cuts in half the cost of a three-month trial of the "All Access" plan, making it something like $13. So I gave them my credit card number and signed up.
Believe me when I say that I'm the most shocked of anyone to say that I've really been enjoying the service. You have to download a separate client to access the service, but I've been able to download it three times - once at work and on two computers at home. I've been listening to a couple of its radio stations and for the first time, I'm paying to hear new music. I've used free services like Live365 (which I still listen to) but until now, I haven't used a recording industry-based site that does a decent job of showing me new music. And there are some pretty specific channels, like the one for Hawaiian music.
The service has 340,000 songs, which again is just a start. They have a lot of stuff I like to listen to, but they also don't have a lot of stuff I like to listen to. You can really see the indie holes, too, especially from artists that used to be with a label but now produce their own CDs. For example, you can't get any of Aimee Mann's post-label CDs in Rhapsody.
But you can burn CDs of some of the music, and so far the two I've burned play in various CD players. You can't just download the MP3s, no it can't be that easy. Instead, you have to burn a CD and then rip it to MP3 to transfer it to your player. I'm actually okay with this for now because it gives me an archive copy in case my hard drive fails, but it is a PITA to go through the extra steps. Hopefully the labels will move forward soon and stop expecting me to be a criminal.
The new Annie Lennox album came out this past week, and I was planning to run to the store at some point to purchase it. Instead, today I bought it from Rhapsody and then ripped it for my Archos. I'll be listening to it on the drive in to work tomorrow. I paid $8.69 for it, although you probably have to add $.10 for the blank CD-R. I didn't get any cover art, liner notes, or the special edition DVD bonus disc, but I'm okay with that. Of course, I'd appreciate it if I could also download the cover art and liner notes from Rhapsody if they're going to force me to create my own CD. Now I'll have to do it myself, which somewhat defeats the point of paying for the convenience of digital downloads.
But overall, this feels like a big first step for the recording industry, and I finally get to feel some of the recent iTunes euphoria. Maybe there's hope after all.
Notice, though, that there isn't a place at the table for libraries in this scenario, something I'm not sure the entertainment industry sees as a loss. I'm sure services like Rhapsody aren't even considering libraries in the equation (hey, more profits for us!). We need to force our way to the table.
Oak Park Public Library (one of my member libraries) is in the middle of putting up a new building, and I've heard that it will include stations for listening to music. It would be interesting to see if one of these online music services would be willing to sell a site license so that patrons could listen to music within the library itself or (ideally) at home. If you could get them to let you offer the service in-house, similar to the Classical.com deal with Westminster Libraries, it would be cool if it could also be open to patrons using their own laptops, PDAs, etc. using the library's wireless network in the building (or even just outside of it!).
Addendum: Two things I forgot to include in my original post - 1) I don't need Windows Media Player Version Anything with Rhapsody, which was a big factor in my decision; and 2) I'd love to know if my purchase of the Annie Lennox album will count in her sales statistics for the first week. I'm guessing not, even though it should.
If I'm lucky, I'll be able to find a CD I actually want to buy that costs under $13 with tax. I'm not holding my breath, though.
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