How Do You Buy Music?

January 22nd, 2016

supportI don’t think I’m carrying out a survey which means I might only have a passing interest in how you buy music. This is more of a rant about how buying music is becoming increasingly difficult and I’m not really sure who this benefits.

I like to buy music as I want something that I know I own and I want to see artists that I like being obviously rewarded. Having said that my preferred way of listening to music is Spotify. The app has all the functions I need and it’s much quicker to find things than sorting through my file structure. Even though I tend to stream most things I still like to buy albums so I’ve got an electronic copy of them. I don’t buy CDs any more after noticing they turned up, I ripped them to MP3 and then they sat on a shelf. That’s a waste of precious plastic.

My difficulty is that the majority of big sellers for MP3s are increasingly hiding behind Apps that I have no interest in and pose a barrier to buying things. I don’t use iTunes because all I want to do is download files. I don’t need anything to manage my files, I don’t need anything to listen to stuff on. The alternative for a while has been Amazon. They have a big library and are quick and easy to buy things from.

They used to provide a handy download client and when you bought stuff it would help you choose where you wanted to put files and then leave you alone. Now Amazon insist that you use their player to manage the music you buy. The player insists that it needs to sync with your music. I’ve been there before, syncing over 600gb of files can take around a week. I don’t understand why Amazon needs to know what I already own before I can buy anything off them.

Having compelled you to use their App they also impose a limit on how many devices it can work on. If like me, you forget to deauthorise old phones, in a couple of years you can find that you hit the limit of 10 devices. This happened to me this week when I was told by Amazon that if I wanted to set up their App on a new PC, and download an album I’d just bought, I needed to wait for 30 days. This is a limit imposed by rights holders. Note I don’t want to use their App, it’s a clunky mess, I just want the stuff I’ve bought.

Google Music similarly insists that you use an App. It does provide you an option to download things you’ve bought twice but it really wants you to have the App. But Google Music has some massive gaps in albums you can buy. It’s not that practical.

The only system that works is Bandcamp. They understand that downloading the things you’ve bought is most important and then provide an App to stream purchases as a bonus. I’d buy everything on Bandcamp but not everyone puts their stuff on there.

This means that more and more I’m being pushed into just using Spotify and not buying the back up copies of albums. If you want to create a sustainable market don’t make buying things massively more complicated than streaming, or even just stealing.

You can tell me how you buy music if you want but I think I just wanted to rant.


Posted in Music | Comments (2)

2 Responses to “How Do You Buy Music?”

  1. catnip Says:

    I have the problem where I only want to stream music nowadays. I haven’t got room for all those MP3s gathering dust.

    The only thing I can say from an artist’s POV about Spotify is that it’s better than torrenting. I personally consume vast amounts of new music and couldn’t possibly afford to pay yer old skool £10 an album. But I wish that they did pay artists more than they currently do. They say the per-play amount will increase as the number of users increases. I have thought about paying for MP3s on Bandcamp and just not downloading them for the bands I want to support, but that seems rediculous, there’s got to be a better way. Pay per play does seem like a fair payment system, but the amount per play needs to increase.

    If a viable alternative to Spotify launched that paid their artists more, I’d happily pay more (double? quadruple?) for my annual subscription. But until it does, I’m stuck with Spotify.

  2. simon gray Says:

    taking aside the payment aspect for a moment, what i would say is that in the modern era artists really have no excuse to not have their music available in itunes, spotify, google, amazon, etc – with a cdbaby account you can get an album in all the online streaming and purchase markets for £50 (and i think bandcamp are recommending an aggregator who will do it for free, though i’ve not investigated what the full deal is there), so for an artist not to be there it’s either laziness or wilful absence.

    i was thinking just the other day how actually streaming rather than owning isn’t an unreasonable model, so long as the payment is equitable – there are some albums i own that i play many times, which of course i’ll have easily had the £10 i paid for them’s worth of value out of. there are other albums i own or stream that i might play once, or at most once a year, and indeed i can think of at least 20 cds i’ve bought that i’ve never actually got around to listening to. as a listener, it doesn’t make economic sense for me to keep paying these £10s on records i’ll listen to once. as an artist working in a niche genre at the end of the day i’m more interested in people listening to my music than i am in them paying me for it, and being in the megamarketplaces of itunes, google, spotify, and amazon (and in the olden days, makes my music much more likely to be listened to than otherwise.

    so i think streaming is an equitable model in principle for enabling artists to get paid for their music – what’s not equitable is the pittances that are currently paid per play.

    as for how i buy music, one thing i like to do is by an artist’s music at a concert i’ve just seen them perform at. what i really don’t like to do is buy a cd. what use is a cd to me?

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