Slightly saner online music sales?

As reported in a few places (including The Register), Universal are making 43,000 tracks available for online purchase – US$0.99 a track, around US$10 an album.

The gist is that it’ll be using the Liquid Audio system, which is proprietary, Windows-only and DRM-friendly.

To see what’s likely to be in store, I went and checked out liquid.com, which just happens to already be handling quite a bit of music.

It could be worse. It could also be a whole lot better. You’ll need a player that can handle Liquid Audio files (or maybe, just maybe, Windows Media). This pretty much means you’ll need a Windows PC.

If the new stuff is anything at all like what liquid.com is already doing, then you’ll need to look very carefully before buying anything. Many albums are restricted to being playable only on the computer to which they’ve been downloaded, without even a burn-to-CD option, and the user interface at liquid.com uses icons to display permissions which aren’t all that easy to distinguish from one another.

This may in the longer term open up some of the Universal back-catalogue. Some hoop-jumping will be required to listen to music thus obtained on anything but a Windows PC, but it’ll probably be better than nothing.

(I may succumb to temptation and buy an album. Purely in the interests of research, of course. Nothing at all to do with wanting a copy of Kinky Friedman’s Sold American at all. If this happens, I will be sure to regale you all with tales of just how crap an experience it is.)

3 thoughts on “Slightly saner online music sales?

  1. Now we are living in the age of on-line file sharing, and the race is on to see which company can come up the the best ‘pay to play’ system, a few things seem to be getting lost along the way. Wheres the packaging? Those of us old enough to remember the old gatefold vinyl will remember what a treat bringing home a new record was, and poring over every inch of artwork and liner notes. Sure it’s not the same with cd’s but the basic premise is still the same, artwork is the icing on the cake with your favourite cd’s. Another thing which I’m curious about is royalties. If you can ‘pay’ to download cd’s from your favourite bands and all the record companies need to do is post a master copy online, that therefore cuts out the cost of pressing and distribution. If on average, artists make say $1.70 from the sale of a $30 cd once the record company deducts all costs (including P&D), does that mean there’s room for a royalty increase for artists? It’s probably a rhetorical question but an interesting one nonetheless.

  2. Wheres the packaging?

    Good question. Given a choice between getting a copy of something as MP3 or CD-R and buying the full thing on CD, I still go for the latter. And yes, packaging is part of that.

    As to royalties, I wouldn’t be holding my breath to see artists get a bigger cut just because costs go down…

    The other thing they appear to be missing (though Universal may get this right — hard to say until they’ve got stuff up) is this: who the hell wants to pay the same price for a limited-use online version of an album as they’d pay to get the thing on CD? With the faux-CDs starting to come out there may be a smaller functionality gap (if they ever get it “right”), but even that is by no means certain. The whole “permissions” thing is a continuation of the “you are not listeners or even customers, you are theiving scum” attitude.

    Until they quit thinking they’re the insurance industry, things aren’t likely to start looking up any time soon.

  3. hmm, microsoft are actually slowly releasing microsoft (hence windows) programs on Mac, MSoffice and stuff. From what i remember from my Mac days, there is a microsoft/windows media player that runs all the appropriate movie/music files that were originally onyl for windows OS’s.

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