Pay for music online?
There are quite a few online music sellers these days. I occasionally wonder if I should start using one or the other, but they’re obviously not at the point where I get much out of them. So I get to thinking, what would work for me?
My music comes primarily from downloads right now. I don’t download a ton of music, but it’s a significant amount. I also buy CDs, though I buy fewer CDs than albums I download (I buy more CDs than I would if I didn’t download, however). I also almost exclusively download whole albums. The process generally goes I download an album, I like or don’t like it, if I like it enough I buy the CD at some point in the future. I buy CDs for essentially two reasons: supporting the band and sound quality. I don’t get to go to many shows out here, so buy a band’s CD is the best way I have to support them. As far as sound quality, I like having the option of popping a CD in my home theater setup and listening with my Sennheisers. Burned CDs from MP3s don’t cut it.
So the current online models don’t help me much. I don’t download music to have digital copies of it, I download it because it’s easy access to a lot of music and I don’t have to waste money to hear a new album I may or may not like. So I shy away from actually buying digital copies of songs. I also run Linux, which means DRM essentially ends any compatibility with existing services. Of course, if I weren’t running Linux, I still wouldn’t put up with DRM. The selection on some of these services also sucks. My taste runs from pretty mainstream (Radiohead, The Decemberists), to less popular but widely available (Opeth, Porcupine Tree), to pretty obscure bands (The Pineapple Thief, Do Make Say Think). It’s hard for any online service to span that range.
What would I support, then? A subscription based service might work. A monthly fee and I can download a certain amount of good quality MP3s, DRM-free. On top of that, the option to purchase lossless copies and/or CDs of what I’ve downloaded would be good. It would have to be a pretty significant discount from typical store prices, but it could work. The selection obviously has to be wide enough to make it worth the cost, which is maybe the biggest problem. The store also has to work on my OS, meaning it should probably be web-based and not an application like iTunes.
I’ve bought maybe 7 CDs this year so far. That’s probably $80-$90 in four months. That’s $20-$22 a month. At $8 a CD, that’s $56, leaving $30 or so for a monthly fee, which works out to $7.50 a month. $8 a CD and $7.50 a month? That doesn’t seem implausible to me. If you go less than that, I’m probably saving money by switching to the service.
Maybe it is implausible. I don’t really know. But that’s what it would take.