$0.99 song downloads are here!
November 20, 2002 10:28 AM   Subscribe

$0.99 song downloads are here! Universal Music Group will release 43,000 songs as digital downloads. The tracks will be available to US consumers for $0.99 for individual songs, and $9.99 for the entire album. There's only one little problem, the songs are available as either Liquid Audio or Windows Media.
posted by riffola (41 comments total)
Still too high. I can buy entire brand new CD's for less. I'll buy when there is a reasonable incentive to buy (like 50% the cost of physical media version). Oh, and it's in MP3 or OGG.
posted by blue_beetle at 10:31 AM on November 20, 2002

I agree, blue_beetle. The cost is still too high for a lossy-formatted version of these songs. The record companies apparently can't figure out the difference between a CD quality audio track and a compressed version.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 10:43 AM on November 20, 2002

I don't mind the 99ยข, it sounds reasonable. I don't know where you're buying new cd's blue_beetle, but I'm happy if I can find anything I'm looking for for less than $12.99. [seriously though, where?] Granted, I still have to make my own cover, but it's a great idea for one song downloads. That way I can get all the great J.Lo tracks without all the album filler.

MP3, OGG and WMA all work for me too.

I just want to know what the bitrate is. I would like 320bps if I'm paying for what would be a permanent copy of a song. I doubt that'll happen.
posted by eyeballkid at 10:44 AM on November 20, 2002

Oh, and how is this going to deter additional file sharing? Now buyers don't even have to rip the CD tracks, they can download the songs directly into the folders they've got shared on any of the number of file-sharing apps.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 10:44 AM on November 20, 2002

on preview: what monju_bosatsu said.
posted by eyeballkid at 10:45 AM on November 20, 2002

The songs will be 128kbit AAC or WMAs. I am hoping they improve the encoding to at least 256kbit, because that's CD Quality (according to r3mix). Maybe they should offer options, get 128kbit, 256kbit and maybe Monkey Audio (.ape) or some other lossless format. With 43,000 files it might triple their storage requirements, but it would be worth it.
posted by riffola at 10:52 AM on November 20, 2002

I just want to find old Aztec Camera. Is that too much to ask?
posted by mecran01 at 11:13 AM on November 20, 2002

They won't offer higher bit-rates without excessive DRM in place to protect their content. The music delivery company I currently work for is required by contract with the labels, to use the best currently available protection for the content. Which seems really silly when we start offering CD-burning ability, but it does prevent wholesale sharing, if someone has to burn to CD with the music-service's proprietary software, then take the CD into another program to rip/re-encode in an un-encumbered format....

I could care less about most music on Universal, myself. I find emusic has more music I want to download, than I even have time/disk-space. Of course they can't offer higher bitrates than 128kbps mp3s because of similar restrictions with their label-contracts. I imagine it's near impossible to convince a major label to release CD-quality in a non-protected format.
posted by nomisxid at 11:14 AM on November 20, 2002

Definitely it's still too high cost. Figure, Best Buy sells most new CD's for 10-13 bucks, right? So I can pay basically the same thing and

a) not have the case, booklet or resellable CD (used CD's that are new and in good condition can bring 5 bucks at least at a used store)
b) the music company has no middleman to pay, and cheaper distribution than CD distribution

It's a good step, but something like .30-.50c/song, 5 bucks an album in mp3 would be what finally convinced me to buy a CD online. Honestly, either way, I don't think I would pay for a CD I could get on Kazaa for free, but there's a lot of music I want not available on Kazaa. If such a site had Europe-only electronica releases, early releases of CD (perhaps in 64kbs then you can d/l at 128 once the real CD is out in stores to stop the Eminem style piracy) and stuff like that, I would be all over it.

128 is good enough for me...unless it's a classical symphony in 5.1, average Joe can't even hear the difference. 96 is the first time I can begin to hear any lossiness.

On preview: I assume a service like this would put a marker in the filename and fill the "illegal" file sharing programs with decoy files so that no one even bothers to d/l that type of file?
posted by Kevs at 11:16 AM on November 20, 2002

I think this service was discussed in an earlier thread, although the link in the FPP is broken, so I'm not sure.
posted by boltman at 11:20 AM on November 20, 2002

I make a point of buying most of my music either from local independents or used to avoid giving big music my money. But I can see that paying $9.99 to download an album that I can get from half.com for $6.00 is not a good deal. An even better gesture of good will IMO would involve releasing out of print music at a dirt cheap price (like $1.00 an album). Or even into the public domain.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 11:36 AM on November 20, 2002

I don't think I would pay for a CD I could get on Kazaa for free

I would. And I think many other people would too. But at the right price. And this isn't the right price. I think you hit on the right price: $5. At that price I would gladly pay for the convenience of downloading songs that are (a) complete, (b) contain no errors (c) have the right amount of silence at the beginning and end of each track (d) don't have ads or other trash grafted on, etc. I don't want to have to do my own QC on every track before I download to my player or burn to CD.
posted by probablysteve at 11:40 AM on November 20, 2002

all the great J.Lo tracks without all the album filler

* laughs *

Off topic, where did "lossy" come from as an adjective?
posted by yhbc at 11:40 AM on November 20, 2002

I imagine it's near impossible to convince a major label to release CD-quality in a non-protected format.

You mean on a non-protected format like, say, a CD?

nomisxid: I'm not being snarky at you here, just to be clear. You're 100% right. I'm just saying that the labels are 100% stupid.

Now I can pay $15 for a new CD, rip it and put it on Kazaa, or I can pay $14 and avoid the hassle of ripping?

As Bob Dylan said: "Whoopee."
posted by Fabulon7 at 12:01 PM on November 20, 2002

eyeballkid: $9.99 USD works out to around $16 canadian Which is about right for a CD here. Occasionally I can get sales of $13.99 CDN on new stuff. For an american solution, umm, maybe order from Canada? Even Wal-Mart in Canada has those kind of prices.
posted by blue_beetle at 12:08 PM on November 20, 2002

My eMusic subscription ran out today, and I was typically downloading 25 - 60 songs a month for $9.99. I haven't looked to see if Universal has anything I'm interested in, but I imagine I would only download songs I knew I wanted, whereas with eMusic, I found a lot of new stuff that I had never heard before, some of it that I will purchase on CD.
posted by strangeleftydoublethink at 12:08 PM on November 20, 2002

Alternatively, try Amazon Canada. You americans should love the exchange rate (just divide canadian prices by 1.6)
posted by blue_beetle at 12:10 PM on November 20, 2002

yhbc..lossy has always been a computer term - like "lossy compression" for images or data files. It just refers to that fact that some forms of compression "lose" some bits, usually unnecessary ones, to make the file size smaller. Most compression schemes have certain weaknesses, though, which is why certain things look good in low-quality jpeg, while others don't. The same applies to music - very high and low frequency sounds are chopped right out.

There's "lossless" compression, which makes a perfect copy but compressed (by, for instance, writing a string of 10 black pixels at 10B rather than BBBBBBBBBB), but the compression doesn't quite reach the same small file size.
posted by Kevs at 12:16 PM on November 20, 2002

yhbc, From the OED, lossy ('lQsI, -O:-), a. Electr. [f. loss sb.1 + -y1.] Characterized by or causing dissipation of electrical or electromagnetic energy.
1948 H. A. Leiter in Smullin & Montgomery Microwave Duplexers ix. 378 Lossy cables are used..in order to isolate the oscillator from effects of mismatch in the unit under test. 1949 L. L. Langton Radio-Frequency Heating Equipment v. 76 A lossy capacitor. 1969 Sci. Jrnl. Dec. 44/3 At optical frequencies a metal transmission line structure would be very `lossy' and only transparent dielectric materials such as glass can be considered. 1970 J. Earl Tuners & Amplifiers iv. 94 Most transformers are `lossy' at the sub-bass end of the spectrum.

posted by riffola at 12:18 PM on November 20, 2002

Thanks, both - I always assumed it was some sort of slang for "lousy" and never thought it would actually be in the dictionary (or have even have a technical definition!)
posted by yhbc at 12:28 PM on November 20, 2002

To play devil's advocate here, I see a lot of you commenting on how you'd pay for music if it was offered online. Now it's being offered online, and it's too much.

The $5 range was being thrown about...Can you really expect them to put out a full near CD quality album for that much? And if they did, would you complain further about the price being too high?

I'm not saying anyone would...but it's interesting how P2P has shaped people's ideas on how much music should cost.

Devil's advocacy aside, until I can get some lossless tracks, I'm not buying. Just because working with MP3's in sound design...you can hear the difference.
posted by Be'lal at 12:32 PM on November 20, 2002

I refuse to buy music with DRM built in. If, I'm buying downloads, I'll only buy MP3's. That's the way I listen to all of my music these days, and anything that gets in the way of that isn't something I'm even willing to consider buying at this point. 192 is a high enough bit rate for me, but I can see why other people would prefer higher.

I refuse to buy any more music from the major labels. If they want to fight to enact laws that steal rights I've traditionally enjoyed in order to protect their business model, then I have no interest in supporting them.

If I stumble across one of their artist's CDs on Usenet, that I may just grab it. 33 years of free radio has made music a commodity in my mind, and no amount of spin can change my mind. If they bring copyright back to 7 years, then I'll consider budging from my extremist position.

I don't consider mp3 sharing to be theft, but if I could actively steal money out of the RIAA's pockets, I'd seriously consider doing it.

I recently bought some music from CD Baby, and I have to say, I love that store to death. I wish they sold mp3 files too instead of just physical media, but they probably have everything I could ever need in new music. If you haven't checked them out recently, please do. That's music sales done right.
posted by willnot at 12:37 PM on November 20, 2002

For an american solution, umm, maybe order from Canada?

Has anyone tried this? It looks like HMV ships to US addresses, though amazon.ca doesn't. I put in a test order with a fake address (got to the point where they gave me shipping costs, then aborted), and it looks like I could get three CDs, each at under $US10, shipped to my US address for $US5 in shipping costs. Shipping prices seem to scale less than linearly with order size, implying that a large order could save you a significant amount of money. I'm all for supporting local retailers and everything, but I think I might be ordering my CDs from Canada from now on. I wonder how my credit card handles currency exchanges...
posted by mr_roboto at 12:46 PM on November 20, 2002

The $5 range was being thrown about...Can you really expect them to put out a full near CD quality album for that much?

When they're not paying cost of goods or distribution on any sort of physical object? Yeah, I'd expect the cost to drop considerably from what I pay at Tower Records for a CD.
posted by Inkslinger at 1:09 PM on November 20, 2002

I'm happy if I can find anything I'm looking for for less than $12.99. [seriously though, where?] - eyeballkid

Best Buy: I've been able to get new release CDs for as low as $5.99 - $8.99. I'm in Texas, though. Location may have an impact on prices.
posted by eclectica at 1:15 PM on November 20, 2002

I've ordered DVDs from Canada in the past, and certainly saved a few bucks via conversion rate. In fact, I ordered two movies from DVDBoxOffice.com that were, at the time, unavailable in America (The Boondock Saints and Ravenous), paid as much for both as an American company would have charged to "import" one of them, and got free (and fast) shipping to boot.

I have friends who shop at HMV online with similar stories of success.

I've said this before in older threads, so I'll just summarize: P2P has dramatically increased my spending on CDs by exposing me to new artists and allowing me to determine whether an album is actually worth the investment. It's also allowed me to access hundreds of songs that are otherwise unavailable commercially. The RIAA has *more* of my money than they would have gotten otherwise, were it not for filesharing. Fancy that.
posted by Danelope at 1:21 PM on November 20, 2002

I just want to second willnot and tell people to run, not walk, to CDBaby. Most stuff between $10-12, a fair amount of which goes back to the artist, free ground shipping if you order more than 6 at a pop. I've brought home so much from there I'm in trouble with the missus...
posted by jalexei at 1:22 PM on November 20, 2002

When they're not paying cost of goods or distribution on any sort of physical object?

Which costs more:

1) CD media and the process involved with the creation of the discs/sleeves (I have no idea what this costs)

2) Scalable back-end servers to deliver media with an *unknown* load, network infrastructure, and the manpower to maintain these systems (I have an idea of the cost, and it is FAR from free)

I do not want to come across as defending the Content Cartel's position in how much they charge, etc. However, I think it is important to understand that there are still costs involved with the distribution of the media.
posted by dbl0busa at 1:33 PM on November 20, 2002

dblObusa - I'm not sure, but you should also add to #1: Warehousing Costs, Transportation Costs, Retail/Rental Costs.

The media conglomerates would claim that most of the cost of a CD is in the gamble they have to take and the need to support all of the other acts that don't make it. Since the internet is ideally suited to niche media consumption (see all the blogs out there), then this would seem to be a strike to reducing the cost when looking at internet distribution, but I doubt any of the big media companies would agree with me on that.
posted by willnot at 1:46 PM on November 20, 2002

43,000 tunes? what with the entire discography of lawrence welk, the collection of polkaman dan classics, and digitally remixed masters from art balough's accordian army, there's gonna be about 23 elvis and early beatles tunes. and those are b sides.
posted by quonsar at 1:51 PM on November 20, 2002

mr_roboto: credit card companies do exchanges with best available rates at the moment you charge. In Europe, for example, they were about 1.5 times the rate at the local (cough, ripoff) bureau de change when I was there (January), and 1.25 times the rate of the bank, minus the extra fees. When abroad paying by credit card is a huge savings, ordering online should process similarly.
posted by whatzit at 1:55 PM on November 20, 2002

willnot: Exactly.

The real fear here is that the majors won't survive if music distribution decentralizes. They make their money by being the money-sucking bridge between artist content and fans. They will tell you that the price of a cd is part of the new talent gamble, but ask the new talent how much money they are actually making. New bands hardly make a dime on the first outing. That's why record companies love one hit wonders and barely suppor sophmore releases.

They are lying to the fans and ripping off the bands.
posted by eyeballkid at 1:58 PM on November 20, 2002

that word would be "support"
posted by eyeballkid at 1:59 PM on November 20, 2002

$0.99 is a good jumping off point. When more of the other Biggies step into the market, you'll see the 3ferabuck deals and the blue light specials.
posted by blogRot at 2:19 PM on November 20, 2002

i bought a new cd yesterday (Audioslave, with the members of Rage + Chris Cornell, i highly recommend it) for $11.76 after GA state sales tax. that makes each song worth about 84 cents. so, now i have high quality songs. the jewel case art, and a physical cd i can play in any cd player. and the "assurance" (giggle) that the artists will get about $1 of that money for their work.
so for 15 more cents, i could get a lesser quality copy of the song, minus the cd itself (add 10 cents if i want to burn it, oh wait, that will be more difficult because its in one of "those" formats...) and minus all the art... how did this seem like a good idea?
sigh, i suppose it's a start...
posted by sixtwenty3dc at 3:15 PM on November 20, 2002

You mean on a non-protected format like, say, a CD?
I should have been more clear, "a non-protected electronic format". The CD has the, albeit minimal, protection of having to be converted from physical CD to electronic mp3. This versus downloading 100's of mp3s from emusic and immediately turning around and sharing them on kazaa.

As for the distribution costs in retail vs online...

1. A slice of the retail pie is going to the local store to pay wages, rent, etc. None of those expenses are charged to the labels/publishers/artists, so they probably shouldn't be included in your fairness calculations.

2. As mentioned by some, the hardware infrastructure of an online music delivery service is quite expensive. And because you are using proprietary/DRM'd media, you have to hire a software dev staff to write your content management system. There is not standard format actually in use, for labels to supply an online-music retailer with product. Many retailers buy physical CDs online (or in a rush, from the local store) and rip/encode them inhouse.
Tracking all the metadata from those albums requires a great deal of data-entry. Someone has to QC all those tracks before they go up for sale, since you definitely don't want to let it get around that you're charging for files that sound like crap, or don't match the artist they are attributed to, etc. Adds up to a lot of hourly wages.

3. A significant portion of a major label's take on a CD goes towards promotion expenses. payola isn't free ya know =p

And on a side note, I was among the many people Emusic sent nastygrams to, accusing me of leaching from their service. In response to our outraged response, they have qualified their "unlimited" plan as 2000 tracks per month, which even I have to admit is probably more than I would listen to (once added in to my pre-existing 40,000 tracks, heh).
posted by nomisxid at 4:53 PM on November 20, 2002

personally, I think it's a good idea.

Several reasons:

1) $9.99 is still cheaper than I pay now. I'm not gonna worry about burning it, because I only listen to CDs on my computer anyways.

2)$0.99 per song isn't bad. Often I buy CDs for one or two songs anyway and am sorely disappointed with the rest of the album. This way, I don't have to be. It COULD be cheaper, but in the beginning, it's not gonna be.

3) By giving this site business, it will give the other houses incentive to do it as well, and will give the RIAA less ammo against the P2P networks.

As for the format, I could care less. WMA still plays on winamp and that's all I really care about. Sound quality... it'll do.

What they SHOULD do is give a bit more of an incentive to the consumer though. For instance... after buying a song, take $1.50 off the price of the CD (physical), etc.

Oh well, they'll get my business if they have any music I like on the site.
posted by lasthrsman at 5:11 PM on November 20, 2002

Windows media, blech!
posted by ericrolph at 9:40 PM on November 20, 2002

WAY too expensive. I can get CDs for less than that, and they come with media, art, lyrics, and a case.

With this I have to pay for the CD-R, I get no art, and my music is guaranteed to be USELESS within a decade, since we all know how good MS is with future compatibility, and Liquid Audio was dead before it got off the ground.

Make it MP3, make it 192 kbps (or more), make it less than $5 CDN per disc, and I might be game. That is, assuming eMusic quintuples in price.

To put it simple, this is an effort by the Music companies to prove that online music sales are impossible. Just like BMW could prove they can't sell a Lada if it's priced for $1 million.

The RIAA et al. can go stuff themselves. Either give me what I want for the price I want it for or I'm taking my money and putting it where my mouth is -- eMusic. I haven't bought a CD since my subscription to it, and I never, ever plan to do it again if this attitude continues.
posted by shepd at 11:22 PM on November 20, 2002

I don't care how cheap it is. I won't subscribe to such a service until a) it's in an open format, ie mp3 or ogg, and b) it's not protected by DRM.
posted by salmacis at 2:06 AM on November 21, 2002

posted by Hackworth at 8:45 AM on November 21, 2002

« Older Condoms bad! No sex, good!   |   Mount Athos, The Holy Mountain Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments