One Dollar Cuts
October 24, 2002 5:50 PM   Subscribe

One Dollar Cuts So many times so many of us have said we would buy music online if the price were right. It looks like that opportunity is now here. Are we going to put up or shut up? Is this article going to end up as a piece of PR or as an online social shift? (via /.)
posted by Tystnaden (49 comments total)
Maybe I missed it, but the article says nothing about the quality of the encoding, nor the format, nor whether there will be any crippling/annoying DRM stuff.

If the choices do not include at least 256 bitrate in unrestricted MP3 or Ogg, screw it.
posted by Ayn Marx at 6:02 PM on October 24, 2002

Rhapsody said it was the first online music service to give consumers the ability to burn tracks on a pay-as-you-go basis, in addition to paying a monthly subscription fee of $9.95.

Dump the monthly $9.95 fee and give me some good bitrates and I'd consider it.

If I bought one cd a month, I'd still be paying over $20 for a cd's worth of music. What makes that different from being burned my the major retail outlets? Not to mention the fact that if I really wanted to burn a cd, I'd be using my own disc, case and paper. A cd with 12 tracks would be $12. Add the $9.95 for the service and I'm at $22. No thanks.

It needs to be cheaper.
posted by eyeballkid at 6:09 PM on October 24, 2002

So many times so many of us have said we would buy music online if the price were right.

$1 per track x 12 track average album = $12, the price of an on-sale actual real physical compact disc. With all the ill-will the recording industry has earned in the past few years, this isn't going to fly as long as it appears that they are taking cost savings of online distribution vs. physical distribution as added profit. People already feel that they are being ripped off.

On preview, what eyeballkid said.
posted by 4easypayments at 6:16 PM on October 24, 2002

it seems a bit odd that Thick as a Brick would be 99ยข, while Naked City would be $26. Also, I agree with eyeballkid that with the subscription fee, this is way too much. Basically the same price as CDs except with homemade labels and poorer sound quality and physical disc quality.
posted by boltman at 6:17 PM on October 24, 2002

I'm not ever going to buy a record from a major label for the rest of my life.


I will steal their music remorselessly, regardless of whatever concessions they make.
posted by cadastral at 6:26 PM on October 24, 2002

Ayn, if you're encoding your mp3s at 256 and higher, you might be interested in looking into lossless encoding. SHN is a popular format. You'll find that your files aren't much larger (and disk space is cheap anyway, right?), and you eliminate all compression artifacts.
posted by mr_roboto at 6:28 PM on October 24, 2002

Please, my math is bad, I know.

Think about this in other terms: What happens if/when the prices come down? Does this shift represent an opportunity that other businesses are going to use to introduce competitive services? Are enough people going to use this service to warrant interest by other parties?

Basically: This is one of the first times big-label music can be bought and burned at a psychologically comfortable price-point.

Eyeball: The $1.00 offer is different than the one referred to in your quote. The current system allows up to 10 tracks per month burned, depending on which plan you sign up for. It was my understanding that this new offer was stand-alone.

One of the requirements listed on the company's website is as follows:

* Broadband/128+ kbps Internet connection recommended, active Internet connection required
posted by Tystnaden at 6:31 PM on October 24, 2002

Well, I don't really want to burn CDs. I want MP3s or OGGs.

And I don't want DRM software on my machine. But given the masses willing to put up with spyware to get Kaza, I doubt it'll be much of an issue.

Anyway, once it's actualy on a CD then you should be able to take it back off in the normal way to use on anything you might like.

Also, $0.99 is a bit much. I'd go for it if they were a quarter.
posted by delmoi at 6:31 PM on October 24, 2002

As of Monday, more than 75,000 tracks will be available for burning for 99 cents per track, including songs by artists like Bon Jovi, Nelly and Eminem.

Shouldn't that read "limited to" instead of "including"?

The problem is that they want to sell me the same crap that I can get at Wherehouse Music. Do they have the new cd by The Donnas, or that 4th album by the Kinks or the only song I like by Air?

No, it's just more Christina, Britney, P Diddy crap. One day you'll walk into the cd store and you'll show them your card with all your demographics and they'll just hand you what they think you should listen to. "It says here that you're a straight, white, male, from New Jersey, with an ethinic background of Italian, between the ages of 30 to 35, would you prefer the new Bon Jovi or the Sopranos soundtrack?" or, "You're a 13 year white old girl who watches TRL, you'll like Pink."

I don't download because it's free, I download because I can get a much wider selection of music. Also I can sample things I've never heard before with no risk. Who would have known I'd like Paul Van Dyk so much? I certainly didn't until I downloaded some of his stuff back in the days of audiogalaxy.
posted by nyxxxx at 6:44 PM on October 24, 2002

I think the plan I'm referring to is the Rhapsody all access plan that includes a $9.95/month fee. Am I missing something? The article I quoted is the one you linked. Am I misreading the phrase "in addition" in that quote?
posted by eyeballkid at 6:50 PM on October 24, 2002

I suspect that it really sucks. The price is too high, the client software too Windows-only, and the selection too limited.

I'll stick with emusic, which despite its flaws, rocks. (Yes, they have The Donnas, and couple of tracks by Air, not much by the Kinks tho.)
posted by sfenders at 6:58 PM on October 24, 2002

Well... it's almost good enough. I would almost seriously consider it. $0.99 per track ain't bad, considering that you only pay for the tracks you want (as opposed to paying $15 for a CD with only a couple of tracks I like). And as others have said, the tracks would have to be at a good bitrate and in MP3 or (preferably) Ogg format, otherwise I wouldn't even bother. But if there's a monthly subscription fee, that's a dealbreaker.

Nice try,, maybe next time.
posted by RylandDotNet at 6:58 PM on October 24, 2002

(forgive me for the broken link. I'm new to all this) emusic

The "there are only one or two good tracks on a cd anyway" argument doesn't really work for me. I tend to prefer bands that can put together an entire good album. To each his own, I guess.
posted by sfenders at 7:02 PM on October 24, 2002

I'm still going to continue to pirate music and other software just out of spite. The big recording companies have proven time and time again that nothing they do will ever heal the wound inflicted upon us the consumers and the music industry. Yes, I have a grudge.
posted by spungfoo at 7:15 PM on October 24, 2002

It'd have to hit $0.50 or less to be worthwhile, and have to be CD-quality encoding.

And even then I'd hesitate to participate, because if RIAA is involved in any way whatsoever, I'm so angry at them that I've resolved to never, ever give them a g.d. dime.

If it were direct-to-artist, I'd pay a buck a track, though. I'd love to support my favourite artists without benefitting RIAA.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:18 PM on October 24, 2002

use soulseek.

and then purchase the artists that you like.

if they don't carry those artists at your wherehouse or sam goody,

order them from forced exposure.

this easy system has worked great for me.
posted by luckyclone at 7:19 PM on October 24, 2002

I'm still going to continue to pirate music and other software just out of spite. The big recording companies have proven time and time again that nothing they do will ever heal the wound inflicted upon us the consumers and the music industry. Yes, I have a grudge.

That's the most idiotic thing I've heard all day, and that's saying a bit.
posted by oissubke at 7:38 PM on October 24, 2002

That's the most idiotic thing I've heard all day, and that's saying a bit.

It's not the most idiotic thing I've heard all day, but that's probably because I've been interviewing people at the Stupid Convention.

For what it's worth, I second the motion there. My feelings toward the Big Five labels are irrational and full of hate. Sometimes I feel like just downloading files on my 10mb connection and then deleting them, just to piss off Lars. I'm not interested in finding some alternate, high-tech way of paying record executives gobs of money they don't deserve.
posted by Hildago at 7:51 PM on October 24, 2002

The new system is more expensive than CDs.

Why should I pay for bandwidth to get a more expensive, lower quality product?

Bring the price down to $0.25 CDN (ie: 1/8th of the current price) and we'll talk.
posted by shepd at 8:16 PM on October 24, 2002

I'm still going to continue to pirate music and other software just out of spite.

Is this akin to stealing watermelons from a fruit vendor whom you know is a real jerk and a liar? Maybe s/he has enough money anyway.

Hey, since when is it okay to steal because someone deserves it?

Note: I'm usually very much for loose copyright control, but this is too much.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 8:19 PM on October 24, 2002

Hey, since when is it okay to steal because someone deserves it?
Not to be snarky... at all... but one could ask just the opposite... "Since when has it not been okay to steal because someone deserves it?"

I'm guessing it was one of those Magna Carta relics, though I'm not sure.

Makes all the sense in the world to me to steal from those who deserve it, but YMMV.
posted by cadastral at 8:23 PM on October 24, 2002

If you goto you can get a FREE 7-day Trial before you pay $9.95...

Now that begs the question: How much music can you download/burn in 7 days?
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 8:44 PM on October 24, 2002

Ack, this is bunk... They are still trying to control you...

You have to down load their custom software to listen to the music or burn to disc... No mention of file or bit rate...

What a load of huey....
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 8:48 PM on October 24, 2002

One more thing:
System Requirements
- Windows XP, ME, 2000, 98, or NT (4.0, with service pack 4 or later required)
- Microsoft Internet Explorer 5.0 or later

posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 8:49 PM on October 24, 2002

Not to mention the consumer profiling and inevitable torrent of ads that will follow once they have your name, address, email and know your buying habits....
posted by jpoulos at 8:58 PM on October 24, 2002

I liked the idea that when digital music becomes the only format, listeners just pay a royalty each time they hear the song. Something small, just a couple of cents each time you play the song. New mp3 (or similar) players could come with a chip that records your song choices, and as with pay-as-you-go cellular minutes, you pay each time you hear the song. I'm sure there are drawbacks that would have to be worked out (I know, I know, albums you love to listen to over and over....maybe you'd only pay the first 100 times or something...).
posted by Salmonberry at 9:05 PM on October 24, 2002

This is too restrictive. I am currently with Emusic and they are very liberal (compared to the alternatives) about their music at the moment. They don't try to limit what I download and how much. They do require that I don't share the files I download.

Although emusic is becoming difficult lately as they introduced a new download manager and seem to be canceling the accounts of users who don't use their downloadmanager (aka non windows users).

Emusic also has a lot of neat music.

$1 a song is too much, you need flat rate per album. I'm not going to pay $50 for some punk album.
posted by abez at 9:05 PM on October 24, 2002

i second the call to emusic. i'm rather baffled why hardly any of the articles written about online music sources mention it. i've been a member for about a year and a half and it's saved me thousands of dollars.

a while ago someone here linked to an article about pressplay's launch. i wrote the author and asked why he didn't mention emusic and he said that he didn't mention them along with the others because they don't carry records by the Big Five record labels. i wrote back and said 'yeah, that's the reason it's great!'

to each his or her own i guess.
posted by dobbs at 9:09 PM on October 24, 2002

Thanks, but no thanks. I will continue to exercise my right of "fair use"; to take and use copyrighted works of art for my own personal use and distribution to a limited number of friends without any commercial intent. Eventually, the music industry will evolve to adapt to that basic principle (which has been around for what - 75 years now?)and still make money, without the interference of the RIAA.

Oh - and hi, there John. Welcome back.
posted by yhbc at 9:09 PM on October 24, 2002

"Steve_at_linnwood" and I are on the same side on this issue...!

Common ground, people! we have commond ground.


posted by cadastral at 9:29 PM on October 24, 2002

Big shout-out to jpoulos, burned into the heart and with bells on it! :)
posted by MiguelCardoso at 9:31 PM on October 24, 2002

RIAA and record execs: You want us to pay? Do this:

Make a list of everyone involved in the production. Artists, Mixers, Roadies, whatever. Estimate their costs, including cost of studio leasing, equipment. Add all this together. Add fair artist bonus for him / her to spend on bacchic pleasures, that he/she can continue to rock the Kasbah. DO NOT add any lawyering fees or your own coke habit to the tab. DO NOT add craft services, car services, gift baskets, personal assistants, psychiatrists, or groupies to the tab. Most importantly, DO NOT add promotion to the tab. I like to find my own music, through word of mouth and on the net.

Add two points above prime for your stockholders. Divide the sum by the number of expected patrons. (this is the tricky part, but you could've used the napster logs if you hadn't shut it down) THIS is your per user price. Show all your math. Make it public. Then host a pledge drive. If no one ponies up the cash, your artist is attracting an irresponsible and selfish crowd, and they can go without another studio release for a while. Put the artist on tour until he/she's got enough money to do another album, or has driven the demand of an album to such a fever pitch that the fans agree to chip in. If none of this works, you didn't have anything valuable to begin with.
posted by condour75 at 9:38 PM on October 24, 2002

abez - there are MacOS and Linux clients for the emusic download manager, or you can turn it off. See their faq.

I think any significant cost per track or per album downloaded would kill the whole experience. I like to start my machine downloading on the slightest whim, then once a week or so actually listen to whatever it's grabbed.

In theory I'm in favor of the p2p apps, but haven't bothered with them since finding Emusic. I'll check out soulseek. Meanwhile, I don't see why anyone would care about
posted by sfenders at 9:43 PM on October 24, 2002

Seriously though, now that it's been a while, and we've used alternate services, from P2P (audiogalaxy, kazaa, etc) to more "legitimate" services (, pressplay), how much do you all miss Napster? I mean, ut's been a year or two, but I seem to remember a service that had, at it's peak usage, damn near every rare, ridiculously obscure tune I could ever think of, easily available round the clock. It was better than anything I'd used before, such as Hotwire (for the mac) or FTP search engines, and it's still better than anything I've used since, in terms of total number of rare files available.

So, while I wouldn't be willing (and it looks like I'm not alone) to pay for this service, I most definitely would have paid upwards of $20 - $25 a month for an unlimited downloads, no spyware, feel good about paying artists royalties version of Napster.

Oh well.
posted by jonson at 10:00 PM on October 24, 2002

I'm not ever going to buy a record from a major label for the rest of my life.

amen, cadastral. amen.
posted by lescour at 10:08 PM on October 24, 2002

They do require that I don't share the files I download

How does that work? The honor system?
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 10:18 PM on October 24, 2002

Yep, the honour system.

How does EMusic protect against piracy? Very simple -- we trust our customers. We believe that if downloadable music is presented in an inexpensive and flexible way, most consumers will do the right thing.

EMusic does not include any type of Digital Rights Management or complex security rules in our music files -- just pure, open MP3. In addition, we provide our customers with extremely flexible rights for the music they purchase and download, allowing them to easily transfer their music files to portable MP3 players and burn them on to compact discs using CD-R.

See their General Questions FAQ for more.
posted by maudlin at 10:29 PM on October 24, 2002

Oh, and here's a few things from their User's Rights and Responsibilities page:

EMusic believes in a consumer's lawful rights to encode, copy, collect, purchase and listen to their personal music collections in the MP3 format. We fully support an MP3 user's right to:

"Rip" and encode their own CD music collections ... Make as many copies of their digital music files as they would like for their own personal use. ... "Burn" their music files onto compact discs for their own personal use. ... Copy and distribute their music files to members of their immediate family.

posted by maudlin at 10:33 PM on October 24, 2002

This honour system works for me, mostly. I will not share my EMusic mp3s to the net, though I'll gladly serve up most of the others. I'm so damn loyal to them it's starting to creep me out.
posted by sfenders at 11:04 PM on October 24, 2002

To add to the din ...

OK, here's something. A great idea. But what I want to know is, what's the bitrate? I can't find that on's site, though only gave it a cursory once-over. If it's $1/track, it better be CD-quality, not mp3-like-quality. ... nevermind, found it. It's 128kbps, which is lame. Sure, it'll pass for sharing and such, but not for buying. But it's a streaming service, originally, so that's to be expected. And, because this whole thing depends on streaming to keep it "secure," it's the short end of the stick for dialup users. From their page: "We recommend using a broadband connection with Rhapsody. Broadband (DSL, Cable, LAN) connections to the Internet are faster and will experience buffering considerably less, or not at all." Ya know, this whole thing might fly better if they just acknowledge the portability of music file formats, and just charge for providing that, rather than insisting on streaming. They could even get by the royalty issue with mp3 (not the artist) by using ogg. Still, since you're buying it, it should be better than compressed quality. Since there's no restriction on the upper-end as there is with CD, make it even better than that - really take advantage of what digital in high bitrates can do. But what do I know? This is all major label schtuff, though some of it's good. If Miracle Whip can generate millions, perhaps this can as well.
posted by krinklyfig at 12:16 AM on October 25, 2002

I had some hesitations with sining up for eMusic because of its 128kbps encoding, but honestly, the files sound like they were encoded at a higher bitrate. I would just pass it off as subjective foolishness if it is weren't for some of my other friends (who are semi-serious audiophiles) saying the same thing. I don't rip my CD's at anything less than 196kbps, but I've downloaded an eMusic MP3 and ripped the same track from a store-bought CD, and damn if I can tell a difference.

Anyway, I think eMusic is fantastic, and like sfenders, I find my loyalty to the company extends past rational explanation
posted by thewittyname at 5:58 AM on October 25, 2002

Rhapsody/ claims "CD-Quality sound". From a quick google, it appears to be a 64- or 128-bit stream, probably roughly the same as good Real Audio, but "CD-quality" only in Marketingworld. Also, it is of very limited use; only their player can play the streams, even when saved to CD. No MP3s, no SHNs, no digital jukeboxes, no portable players, no tunes for the road.

Also, it's expensive. Since I can get the newest bubblegum pop for $13 (CDN), or a worthwhile album for under $20 (CDN), even if I buy 2 albums a month, this is a bad deal.

I'll wait for the next permutation, thanks.
posted by bonehead at 6:16 AM on October 25, 2002

Yeah, emusic is good. I am a non-windows user, don't use their download manager, and have had no problems.
In fact, when I asked, they said that they would be doing something to let Linux users 'enjoy the benefits' of their download manager. (Basically that thing seems to be making Zinf compatible with their new d/l management system.)
Still, I have had no problems, and I love that they don't force me to use any special software at all.
posted by Fabulon7 at 6:26 AM on October 25, 2002

I will steal their music remorselessly, regardless of whatever concessions they make.

* knock, knock *

Mr. Cadastral?

posted by gottabefunky at 6:52 AM on October 25, 2002

My feelings toward the Big Five labels are irrational and full of hate. Sometimes I feel like just downloading files on my 10mb connection and then deleting them, just to piss off Lars. I'm not interested in finding some alternate, high-tech way of paying record executives gobs of money they don't deserve.

Likewise. Reminds me of my feelings towards insurance companies: they need more of my money?

Appeals to the Robin Hood/cheapskate/victim in each of us, I guess.
posted by gottabefunky at 6:56 AM on October 25, 2002

Oy! Next time I will pick a better topic.
posted by Tystnaden at 9:59 AM on October 25, 2002

25 cents per minute (e.g. a 4-minute song costs a buck) with a $5 cap per album would be a good pricing strategy.

As for the bitrate of the eMusic/ files, well, it depends on what encoder they're using. You only need 192kbps for good sound with crappy encoders. The Fraunhofer encoder really does quite well at 128kbps. The downside is that it's a lot slower than other popular codecs, but then, if you're selling MP3s, it pays to do it right to get the highest quality product. is selling Windows Media files, it looks like, which are optimized for lower bitrates. To my ear, 128Kbps WMA is easily the equal of 192Kbps MP3 made with LAME.
posted by kindall at 10:08 AM on October 25, 2002

Add my vote for eMusic.

The restrictions for non-US users (introduced at the end of last year seeming at the prompting of the record labels) are infuriating but, ah, not impervious to circumvention. Their backend also seems to have some strange logging-in problems and front-end web site could use improvement both in usability and in presentation of the ever-grwoing catalogue (I'm really surprised they haven't updated this in the last year).

But. They sell you music. Actually sell you it, no DRM shite. And they have good stuff. They deserve to be supported. Okay, I'd prefer a range of bitrates and OGG format, but their encoding quality is generally very good - better than's Rhapsody, which I believe is WMA-based, but whoever encoded it must be totally inept. I found so many audio errors in the few days I tried out the dreadfully inconvenient Rhapsody service; some tracks sounded as if they had been "ripped" from a skipping CD player's analogue output and re-digitised. Very poor.
posted by BobInce at 9:27 AM on October 26, 2002

128 just won't cut it for me. As much as I like what emusic has to offer, I ended my free trial subscription just two days into it because the artifacting on many of the tracks was annoying. 128 can sound good, but a lot of the high end has to be lopped off in order to do it. I can deal with that, if it is a track I'm going to have trouble finding somewhere else. I've only got a handful of 128kbps mp3s, and they're all super-obscuro things that are impossible to find, either in a higher bit rate or in a physical format (CD, LP).

98% of everything I have on MP3 is from my own CD collection. Apart from the fact that I can seldom find anything that interests me anymore (since AG bit the bullet), I'm simply anal-retentive about sound quality and I know what I like.
posted by at 5:23 PM on October 26, 2002

« Older A secret industrial plot to curb male aggression?...   |   Why has the attack of Parisian Mayor Bertrand... Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments