BuyMusic.com? MusicMatch Jukebox 8? The Washington Post’s Rob Pegoraro says, um, hell no:
- After years of chances for developers to get this stuff right, digital music on the PC remains a “yes, but” proposition.
Yes, Microsoft provides free music software — but its Windows Media Player can’t save your CDs as MP3 files.
Yes, other developers provide free MP3 jukebox programs — but they’ll spam your desktop with ads, defy your comprehension with illogical interfaces, or both.
Yes, you can download most of the songs you want from the Internet — but you’ll be taking music without paying for it and incurring security risks.
Yes, you can try several legitimate download services — but all impose bizarre restrictions on your purchases, and most demand monthly subscription fees.
(Lest a quality MP3 program and music service seem like too much to ask for, both are available on the Mac.)
This dismal state of affairs isn’t improving, to judge from two recent examples: MusicMatch Jukebox 8, an update to the widely used music program, and BuyMusic.com, a new service advertised as an answer to Apple’s iTunes Music Store.
MusicMatch, often bundled with new PCs and digital-music players, gets a few things right. Both the free and $20 “Plus” versions will save CDs in MP3 format (as well as Windows Media Audio or MP3Pro), manage playlists, transfer music to many portable players and make mix CDs with nicely formatted labels. For $5 a month, MusicMatch can also tune in to custom Web broadcasts.
But this is also an exceptionally ugly, clumsy chunk of code.
….BuyMusic.com, which debuted Tuesday under the unfortunate slogan “Get Loaded,” breaks ground as the first Windows-based site to sell major-label songs without charging a subscription fee.
But its advertised prices — “from 79 cents per song” and “from $7.95 per album” — are misleading. CEO Scott Blum said 150,000 of the 300,000 tracks available retail at 99 cents, and 52,000 of them cost $1.04 to $1.99. Many albums cost $9.99 each, and a few go for $12.95.
BuyMusic’s catalogue exhibits the usual annoying omissions (no Rolling Stones, for instance) and some unusual ones (22 of 201 U2 tracks and 69 of 143 Bruce Springsteen songs listed here can’t be bought).
Shopping on BuyMusic.com is best described as Soviet. Purchasing a song required using Internet Explorer for Windows, clicking through a lengthy user agreement, entering payment info, checking out, then returning to an “order summary” page to download each track.
Four songs arrived as promised, but the download link for another song I’d bought didn’t work on my test computer.
Wait, did I say “bought”? As the site’s Orwellian user agreement states, you never buy anything, you only license a limited right to listen to it: Songs “are sublicensed to End Users and not sold, notwithstanding use of the terms ‘sell,’ ‘purchase,’ ‘order,’ or ‘buy’ on the Site or this Agreement.”
Downloads, provided as 128-bit Windows Media Audio files, enforce widely varying limits on copying to other computers, portable music players and audio CDs.
Each time you move a song to a new PC — if that’s allowed at all — you’ll have to enter your BuyMusic.com user name and password so Windows Media Player can fetch a license from the site.
Songs can only be copied to “SDMI-compliant” players a set number of times. (The “Secure Digital Music Initiative” was a copy-control scheme that the recording industry gave up on years ago; good luck finding out whether your player supports it.)
And the litany of woe continues.