Warning: this post gets a little technical but I would love to hear some feedback.
I was pretty staunchly against buying music from iTunes for a long time. The music was too controlled, the “digital rights management” (copy protection) not only meant it was a pain to move the music around, it also didn’t work with serato (the program I dj with). On top of that the quality was way too low. In iTunes, you can transfer music from CD at qualities that range from 16 kb per second to 320 kb per second. 16 to 96 sound like varying degrees of listening to the song on a broken speaker in an elevator. The folks at iTunes picked the quality level that just gets out of the broken speaker arena (128 kb per second) but would still sound awful if played through large speakers at a concert.
Recently, Apple and the major labels reached an agreement which allows Apple to remove the copy protection from all songs it sells on the iTunes store (and also upgrades the quality of those songs to 256 kbps). The songs also work with Serato now. It definitely makes it harder to rail against them.
I say all that to say that, I bought this song on iTunes after I got hooked on it when my friend Geraldine from the Bay sent me a lower quality version. I’m a little trepidatious about posting it because my name is embedded in the file as the purchaser (and therefore the sharer) but the tide seems to be moving in the direction of less (or no) random prosecution of individuals and some sort of attempt at giving people music when and where they want it in an attempt to rebuild some kind of consumer loyalty, so I think I’m in the clear.
Still, I have to ask, where is this fast moving negotiation of policy and quality going to end up? Download speeds are only getting faster and hard drives are only getting cheaper. This paragraph from the Times article is emblematic of the entire digital music quandry as far as I’m concerned:
Apple said customers would be able to pay a one-time fee to strip copying restrictions from music they have already bought on iTunes, at 30 cents a song or 30 percent of the album price. ITunes customers can achieve the same effect by burning all of their music to a CD and then reimporting the music into the iTunes software, although this reduces sound quality somewhat.
Hmmm, so let me get this straight, I can re-buy the mp3s I already bought (in some cases, to replace my CDs which were replacements for my…cassettes…records) at a discount and then in 3 years you’re going to announce that you are selling 512 kbps mp3s (or the “lossless” format of the day)? Can I pay again then? How about when you announce full CD-quality 16-bit AIFF files in 2015? Those must go for a premium! And my mouth is just watering to pay again for the 24-bit and 32-bit remastered recordings of 2020!
And through it all, I can’t help but feel that we are guaranteeing the eventual extinction of recordings that don’t get widespread distribution. The opposite argument could easily be made – the chances of obtaining the song are better if it’s on 10 computers than if there are 10 hard copies strewn around the world but what’s missing in that argument is that someone has to be looking for that song/album/artist by name. If no one knows the name after 10 years then no one will be looking. No one will “come across” that recording in 40 years and be surprised at how good it is.
Songs are available for two weeks.