A bend in the Amazon

Well, by now everybody in Trinidad and Tobago must have realised that Amazon has sealed up the leaks in their new MP3 service that allowed people outside the US to buy music from their new digital store.

I suspect that Amazon wasn't behind the move, which required the company to start checking whether the bank that was clearing the credit card was located in the United States and to deny the transaction when it wasn't. Frankly, I don't think that Amazon much cares where their money comes from, as long as it comes promptly and without fraud.

Music labels are much more concerned about policing the Chinese walls they've built to keep music sales zoned. In a world in which some music recorded in a foreign country only is available to fans of a band in their native country as a costly "import", the idea of music flowing back and forth across national boundaries must be a wild concept to embrace.
It is, of course, the reality on peer to peer networks, where music gets traded freely around the globe and Rupee can be as popular as Rammstein.

So here's the situation.
You can steal music by almost any artist freely without restriction, except, for you know, the law, but if you want to buy it digitally from an authorised source, well no, you can't do that, no sir.
According to the music labels, to listen to an album, I need to buy a CD, pay to ship it to the West Indies, pay VAT and duty on it on arrival and then rip it to my Mac so I can listen to it.
Clearly, that centre, like the middle of the discs they are still hooked on hawking, cannot hold.

It's just a matter of time before labels realise that the only way to sell music in the 21st Century is to sell it the way that customers want to buy it.
Radiohead, who don't have a record contract right now, get that. They released their newest album,
In Rainbows on a "pay what it's worth" basis.
I bought the album, or at least tried to two days ago. I intended to pay five pounds for it, a fair price for an album by a band that I like, but an oddly configured registration and payment system ended up giving me the album for free.

I wrote the vendor handling the transaction to advise them of the problem and to suggest that they consider a 'donate' option for folks who want to pass through the turnstile again and drop some money on the band. I was denied a second chance to pay because only one transaction is allowed per e-mail address and I just got ticked off at the system by then.
The files are ripped in 160kbps at a fixed bit rate and the metadata is somewhat scrappy and basic. Many fields aren't filled out at all and there's no album artwork, but anything you pay for it goes directly to the artists, less transaction fees.

It isn't the first album to be released digitally direct by an artist, but its existence makes an interesting point just as the labels insist on locking down the potential of Amazon. DRM-free music was the first step and it was a good one, arbitrary geographic zoning is the next hurdle that needs to be jumped.

In the eight years between Napster and today, music distribution has inched forward at a pace that can only be described as glacial and all the big jumps have been made by Apple and Amazon, while Universal, Warner, EMI and Sony cling desperately to the diminishing source of their power, mass produced plastic discs that are a vestigial way station for bits desperate to be free.
blog comments powered by Disqus