Play.com, the Jersey-based entertainment retailer, has beaten Apple and Amazon to the punch today by opening the UK's first mainstream* legal digital rights management-free music download store with major label backing. Amazon has yet to replicate its US digital store on this side of the Atlantic, and a spokesman for the firm …
mp3's are fine for the minute
because not everybody has an "mp3 player" that supports aac.... which is why mp3 is probably used - you can be damn sure if a shop is selling a 2GB mp3 player it will be able to play...... MP3s!!! :)
Once people have begun buying drm-free music from the likes of play and amazon and they all get mp3 players, then the next phase of better encoding types will start.
@"£0.10 tracks, in any encoding you want, from the entire history of recorded audio, by the end of 2008", and to all of those referring to allofmp3.com in the past tense... www.mp3sparks.com
Or am I missing something?
Ever tried getting any credit onto your account?
"I've just replaced my Air - Moon Safari album which some bugger nicked off me years ago for less than £7. And I can stick it back on CD without worrying about the DRM causing issues further down the line."
Er....but the CD is only £4.82 from Amazon!
I won't be buying any downloads until they're substantially cheaper than a Cd from Caiman USA I'm afraid.
@ Hedley Lamarr
That's a qualifier that kind of makes my point mate, and I notice you also say 'pretty good' and i dare say if you spend £10-20k on an audio setup CD's would probably still sound better on it.
Do they have any good classical music?
I'd be interested in a good recording of the Brandenburg concertos, for example. I already have a couple of budget recordings on CD, but they sound like crap compared with some of the versions I've heard on Radio 3.
Well, I tried searching for "Bach" and apparently they only have the Goldberg variations, and it costs more to download than to buy the CD.
Oh, well. I'll try again in another five years, perhaps.
But I want all 4!
Great news (I wonder if this will effect my ipoints), but now we need all 4 major labels, as alot of what i'm after isn't on EMI!
1 step in the right direction. We still need Amazon in the UK though (unless play.com get all 4 1st). I emailed them, all i got back was a 'thanks for your suggestion'. grrrr...
It's getting better but...
...one major record label ain't enough though, Mr Play Dot Com, and as other people have pointed out it's STILL cheaper to buy the physical CD than the digitally downloadable equivalent in too many cases.
I buy the occasional itunes album (itunes "plus" wherever possible for the sound quality and DRM-free-ness) but if the "real" CD is cheaper on Play or Amazon then I'll always go for the physical version and rip it myself to 320kbps AAC.
Play's prices are a step in the right direction but what we need is more choice of music, and lower prices still.
320kbps MP3s disappoint everyone
For people who want decent quality but need small files (e.g. limited capacity portable music player), they will have to re-encode to a smaller bitrate. Putting the same piece of audio through a lossy-compression algorithm twice sucks for quality. It's certainly not something anyone should pay money for.
For people who want the best quality, FLAC or some other lossless encoding format is better than 320kbps MP3. The MP3 will sound fine for most people, but if you're going to have large files anyway then why not go the distance and give us FLAC so that everyone is happy?
People can then batch-transcode to lower bitrates (for portable players) as they require and they will always have optimum quality that their target format can provide without any quality lost because of how it started off.
Of course, some people just want a 192kbps MP3 that they can play everywhere without using up a lot of space or having to be transcoded, and that should be an option as well. Options are important, as others have said, but the batch transcoding tools are so easy to use now that, download time aside, I don't see why anyone should dislike a FLAC download.
I am glad to see the music industry is slowing switching to DRM-free digital sales but I still won't buy any of their products online unless they give me the same quality, and adaptability when it comes to transcoding, that I get from buying a CD. So far it's only a few independent releases and labels which get this right.
It's also funny how the video industry is *increasing* quality, from VHS to DVD to the new high-definition formats, while the music industry seems intend on *decreasing* quality from CDs to gratuitously compressed downloads. I guess your average punter notices visual quality a lot easier than they notice audible quality.
"simply log back on to Play.com and re-download the file"
"Can I re-download my purchases?
For each track or album purchased through PlayDigital, there is a set limit to the number of times you can re-download the file. This may vary by title as the record label sets the re-download limit. If you were to lose a file or it becomes corrupt for any reason, you will need to log on to your account and go to the ‘My Downloads’ section where you will find all your purchase history from PlayDigital. You then need to simply select the item(s) you wish to recover, and follow the download instructions to retrieve a copy. You will be notified when your re-download limit has been reached."
Still a little pricey compared to Amazon marketplace, but this thing's got legs. It's the first sensible large-scale attempt to provide a decent alternative to physical media since allofmp3.
I'll be scooping up some 'pop classics' that I would never consider purchasing on a CD with 11 other filler tracks. Beyonce's "Crazy In Love" - things like that...
Rebirth of "The Single" as a thriving format?
History repeating itself
Everyone whose ears aren't full of wax knows that Walkman cassettes were vastly inferior in terms of quality to LPs or CDs. Access to specific tracks was also a problem. The one thing the format did have in its favour, though, was the fact that you could record it at home. (And, in fact, you generally ended up with a superior product if you did. A store-bought album on tape never sounded as good as a home-taped one. Even cheap stereos always recorded much better than they played back: most of the distortion was introduced in the final amp feeding the speakers.)
Hence, its success as a format. The killer advantage it *did* have over the other formats -- home recordability -- was enough to make up for the poor sound quality, general flimsiness and slow access.
MP3 has its own killer advantage: ubiquity. It was just There First. And while Ogg Vorbis is touting "patent-free" as an advantage, MP3 is also patent-free in most of the world (thanks to mathematical processes being excluded from the scope of patentability in many countries) anyway.
Transcoding between lossy formats is never a good idea. You can't recover what was lost by the first encoding, and you end up losing more in the second.