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Music, To Own or Not to Own

17 Jul 2011

Paths to experiencing music

My music listening habits center about work, exercise and travel with Drum and Bass taking over as my recent favorite category. I enjoy the hell out of discovery through music services like Pandora, but when a song clicks I feel an immediate compulsion to own it free of DRM.

The main purpose for doing so is that music subscription services come and go, and they don't necessarily have to be on my chosen platform of the day. I also like being able to share music freely with friends, in hopes of sparking new (paying?) fans.

DRM Music Subscription

Yesterday I signed up for Spotify, a music subscription service via Louis Gray's open invite to review the state of DRM music. The selection of music is quite broad but it would be little use to me while out walking and without net access. I quickly upgraded to a premium membership to be able to cache songs on my mobile devices for offline mode, but I have a couple of problems with paying for access to DRM music:

  1. There are lingering access rights issues for US accounts
    Another recent subscriber James Fuller had issues getting access to songs that Louis shared out.
  2. If you like being social with your music tastes, subscription only works if you and your friends all have access to the same collection. If I'm on Spotify and you're on Rhapsody we may not be able to exchange our favorite tracks.
  3. The price point of $10/month for add free listening is much higher than my Pandora subscription $3/month. I'm quite happy with Pandora but it doesn't have a play offline mode. Is it worth $7/month to be able to cache songs that I still don't own?
  4. A significant fraction of fantastic music I come across is local or not "big enough" to be on large subscription services like Spotify and Rhapsody. Paying these services doesn't help me share sounds with friends, but services like SoundCloud do.

    great south bay music festival at 7-11 by victusfate

When you own a song you have the ability to listen to it in the far future. Your rights extend beyond dependency on particular provider companies and instead rely on digital formats (mp3). In addition you can share a song with a friend in order to turn them on to a new sound or artist, which is often not possible with restricted digital rights managed music formats.