Thursday, July 1, 2010

What's Your Price?

Amoeba Music

You'd be hard-pressed to find someone who's music buying habits have not been affected by the "napster revolution". Personally, I've slowly migrated from the CD to Napster to torrent to digital stores with no shortage of frustration and mixed emotions. At this stage of the game, I am finding myself more and more willing to pay for music just to have some control over the reliability of the tracks and their bitrate. Here are just a few of the issues effectively muddying up the industry:

1. The corporate music industry is easy to villainize. High album prices, minimal percentages to the artist, pushing mainstream trends, the Ticketmaster/Live Nation merger, the Payola scandal.

2. Itunes is an Apple product. In a lot of areas, Apple just doesn't feel the need to compete. Consequently, you get painfully subpar products catered to a general audience. Not only is Itunes highly limited in its customization, selection and pricing, but has been one of the last providers to release DRM-free, high bitrate songs. For ages, Itunes felt it was fine to offer 128 bit, copy-protected music. This meant that if you weren't using a product starting with "i" you were going to be frustrated.

3. Pirated music is illegal. Although readily available, it's kind of like buying a watch from a crackhead on the street. There's about an equal chance of it being fake as it is a Rolex. Plus, he'll most likely try and slip in some porn with the deal. Such is the case with downloading music online. It's a seedy world. Try and download an album and you'll being tossing the dice as to what bitrate you'll end up with, how complete the album art is and how reliable the tracklist is. Plus, most likely the embedded mp3 data is full of some eastern European websites and promos.

With all that said, there are interesting trends developing. The onset of legitimate streaming services (i.e. Pandora, Hype Machine, Grooveshark, Mog) coupled with an explosion of online MP3 sales have slowly paved the way for a purely digital music industry. The consumer will see benefits as the industry evolves. One sign of life is Amazon's recent introduction of $5 Albums, which change on a monthly basis. A few standouts in August include:

Mumford & Sons - Sigh No More
LCD Soundsystem - This Is Happening
Rick Ross - Teflon Don
Lady Gaga - The Fame Monster
The Roots - How I Got Over
Lauryn Hill - The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill
Ray Lamontagne - Trouble
Radiohead - OK Computer
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1
Outkast - Stankonia
Grizzly Bear - Beckatimest
Boston - Boston
Coconut Records - Nighttiming
Miles Davis - Birth Of The Cool
Blu & Exile - Below The Heavens
Basement Jaxx - Rooty
The Bug - London Zoo

How much would you pay for legality?