Journal: News & Comment

Friday, July 16, 2004
# 2:03:00 PM:

Not buying

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On several occasions recently, I have listened to albums in stores, liked them, and then left without making a purchase. Specific examples include Joss Stone's The Soul Sessions, Norah Jones's Feels Like Home, and the Chemical Brothers' Singles '93–'03.

The reason I didn't buy them is simple: the discs are copy controlled. While they're supposed to play on most CD players and computers, they're intended to prevent conversion to MP3 and sharing over file-trading networks. They're not even CDs, by the strict definition, and I can't rely on being able to turn the albums into digital files that I can listen to on the various devices I'd like to use—MP3 players, computers, MP3-playing car stereos, and so on. Even though I would be perfectly entitled to do so under the law.

I like digital music files. They let me rediscover the music I have in new ways. As Salon's Andrew Leonard writes (subscription or daypass required for full access):

Thanks to computers and the Internet, I am now a better, happier and more productive consumer of music than I have ever been. I am exposed to more new music, I listen to more old music, and I purchase more of all kinds of music. I've spent more money buying music this year than in any of the previous 10 years.

The music industry hates this. By their every indication, record executives appear to be unhappy that I am more engaged with popular music. They are busy cooking up half-baked copy protection schemes that will prevent me from ripping my own newly purchased CDs. They are pushing legislation intended to criminalize all kinds of behavior and technology. Rather than make it easier for me to spend money, they would rather I return to the neolithic times when if I heard a song on the radio I liked, I would have to trudge to the record store and spend $18 on bloated filler. Why am I not excited?

Never mind that the original discs might have given me better sound quality, plus artwork and credits and lyrics and such—I'm now more likely to get lower-quality MP3s from friends or over the Net if I want some of those tracks. Joss Stone, Norah Jones, the Chemical Brothers, and their respective record companies and representatives could have had my money by now. But because they treat me like a thief, they don't have my money, and they're unlikely to get it. Does that sound like a good business model?


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