Thursday, June 02, 2005

The Music Pricing Maze

So the band Gorillaz just came out with a new album - Demon Days, and I wanted to go get a copy of it for an upcoming flight to San Jose. Seems to have been generally well received by fans and critics.

Here are the (dizzying) *LEGAL* options available to me today to meet my need.

Amazon - $13.49 + shipping. I get uncompressed files and the ability to rip to whatever format I like to play back on my PC, iPod or RIO.

iTunes - $12.99
I get 128kbps AAC files of all 15 tracks on the album. They are copy restricted. I can burn to a CD and transfer to my iPod.

MSN Music - $11.88 - cheaper if I take advantage of their "buy 1 song, get 5 free promotion" - by my math that would be buy 10 for $9.99, get the other 5 free.
I get 160kbps WMA files that can be played on my computer, but can't be copied or transferred to my iPod. I can burn them a CD. - $9.44 - I get 128kbps WMA files. No copies. No transfer to iPod. Burn to CD. - not available yet. Would be $5.99 for a CD. - $1.54 - I get MP3 files (or other formats) that can be copied, burned to a CD and played on my PC, iPod or RIO

Rhapsody - "free"
Thanks to my $9.99 a month subscription I get to download all 15 songs from the album to my hard drive. I get 160kbps WMA files that will keep working as long as I maintain an active subscription. I can't copy the files, nor can I burn a CD or copy to my iPod. But I can listen to the files off line on my PC.

Yahoo - "free"
If I pre-paid a year for $60 ($5 a month), AND I had a WMA compliant portable device, I'd be able to download the album and transfer the songs to a portable for "free."

Is this confusing or what? Granted we are in a really unique time in music and technology history, but this wide range of prices for what is basically the same product (a few full length listens to a full album) only serves to confuse the consumer and raise questions as to the underlying value of the music.

No wonder people choose the relative simplicity of the MP3 and P2P.

In the end, I chose Rhapsody and within a couple of minutes had downloaded the album.

I'm all set for a few serious listens on the flight out to the coast.