Any Way You Want It?
In honor of International Day Against DRM yesterday, Jenny Levine had a great post about her ongoing battle with portable music and video technology. I had some notes on online music in the draft file, so here we go.
I'm one of the 47 (now 48...welcome to the club Jenny!) people in America who use a non-iPod(tm) mp3 player. Although I don't really have much of a commute to speak of, I do use my Zen Sleek at home and on the road. I download music from a couple of different sources:
1. Emusic: Emusic tends to get overlooked in many discussions about online music sites. Their service is great, my plan is 65 tracks a month for $15. Not as good as back in the day when it was unlimited, but still not bad. They have stuff from a wide range of indie labels in all genres. I can always find my 15 bucks a month worth, unless I forget to use my downloads. All of their tracks are also non-DRM mp3s. No problem downloading or adding to any flavor of player. Downside: no Journey.
2. Rhapsody To Go: Another 15 bucks a month for unlimited streaming and downloading. A huge selection of indie and major label music available. For the price of the 1 cd I would buy a month and listen to once I can listen to pretty much anything. Journey at 1am rocks! Ask my wife. Rhapsody also lets you listen to your library through the Web instead of having to download their player on multiple computers. And they have RSS feeds. Downside: DRM. You have to sync your player once a month to renew the rights for as long as you keep paying for the service. As Jenny found out, this has as many potential problems as you think it might. Most months it works fine, but sometimes there are weird license renewal issues that pop up.
Add in Naspter and other sites that use Windows Media DRM (not to mention iTunes) and you have a whole mess of competing plans and rights management systems. This really sucks for libraries as well as individual consumers. If you want to provide a download service for ebooks or music or video (which would be great!), the number of options you have to consider are staggering. Claims that player X will work with provider Y are really more of a guess than a guarantee. The number of obstacles make me glad I don't work in media librarianship.
I guess one solution would be to accept iPod(tm)/ iTunes as the standard and forcably collect all the iRivers (does Apple own the lowercase "i" yet?) and Creative Zens. There are only 48 of us using them. But a better solution would be for media companies to stop treating consumers like criminals with "anti-piracy" schemes that don't work. From my experience, DRM causes pretty much all of the tech problems that can make listening or watching frustrating. I think it's going to take more than one Day Against DRM for that to happen though.