Friday, January 26, 2018 [Tweets] [Favorites]

Recommendations for Buying Music

Ruffin Bailey:

Seems like folks like me are being underserved. It’s not that we don’t like to buy music. In many cases, it’s the opposite. I buy more albums & tracks each year than I’d like to count.

Why don’t any of these music cloud services provide good, ad-free recommendation services for music buyers, not renters, like me? They’re sitting on millions of people’s listening habits. Why not convince me to buy more with spot-on suggestions?

[…]

Why can’t folks who are stuck in 2007 get good recommendations from Apple Music? Why can’t I play even the stuff I’ve purchased from Apple on the Android Apple Music app? Why doesn’t Apple try to sell and sell me good music? Why does Apple Music feel like a closed system, and the iTunes Music Store feel a little Tower a month or two before they started discounting for clearance?

Previously: Eliminating iTunes Store Music Downloads.

7 Comments

In conversations like this it's important to consider that there's really little difference between “renting” and “owning”—the distinction is just a marketing conceit. Beyond that it relates only to the venue for caching of bits (remote vs. local). In both cases a licence is being granted to the listener: no ownership of the song, the performance, nor the recording is ever conferred.

Therefore, the salient issue is one of meaningful services provided to the user. Whether the music is “bought” or “rented” should be immaterial, except as a smokescreen.

"In conversations like this it's important to consider that there's really little difference between “renting” and “owning”—the distinction is just a marketing conceit. Beyond that it relates only to the venue for caching of bits (remote vs. local). In both cases a licence is being granted to the listener: no ownership of the song, the performance, nor the recording is ever conferred."

This is an utterly baffling and nonsensical thing to say. Are you aware DRM has not been present in music downloads for about a decade now?

The important difference is not the "venue" for cached bits, but "control" of those cached bits.

> Are you aware DRM has not been present in music downloads for about a decade now?

That supports my point. What I meant by "venue for caching bits" is whether the waveform data is stored locally (my file, on my disk), or remotely (someone else's server disk, downloaded on demand).

The licence I spoke of being granted is one of permission, a concept of law.

"DRM" is not involved in my argument.

"The licence I spoke of being granted is one of permission, a concept of law. "DRM" is not involved in my argument."

So then we can assume your "argument" is purely semantic to a degree that leaves it without meaning?

If I purchase a CD, I don't own the music. I own a physical CD which I am permitted to use.

If I purchase a downloaded DRM-free MP3, I don't own the music. I own rights to the MP3 which I am permitted to use.

These forms of ownership are not just legally relevant, but more crucially, functionally relevant.

The only difference between the two as "concept of law" is that MP3's don't benefit from the first sale doctrine, and thus I cannot legally re-sell my MP3 in the way I can legally re-sell my CD. But that minor point aside, I get the precise same "meaningful service" from buying an MP3 as I do a CD.

If I subscribe to a streaming service, I own nothing.

But if you think that subscribing to a streaming service provides the same "meaningful service" as buying MP3's or CD's except for where the bits are cached, well, cheers, mate.

I agree with everything you've said.

Bailey distinguishes himself as a "buyer", not a "renter", and he puts blame on the businesses catering to "buyers" (as opposed to "renters") for offering a lack of useful service. My argument is that while those observations are true, the "rent" vs. "buy" distinction is germane only insofar as the vendor has the "renter" by the balls and not the "buyer". They extract an ongoing fee, and therefore see an incentive to provide a useful ongoing service. Bailey argues that were Apple more inventive with its music business, they might also see a case for improving sales to occasional purchasers who don't wish to be roped into ongoing fees. I agree with that, too.

My point was really just about the terms "renting" and "buying" being red herrings in regard to the licensing of music, when what we're really talking about (it seems to me) are the incentives and services offered to those who buy in to a subscription model versus those who don't.

it seems that the goal is to slowly erode listening experience of owning music and get everyone to pay subscriptions.

"it seems that the goal is to slowly erode listening experience of owning music and get everyone to pay subscriptions." -Dmitri

Well, it certainly looks like the erosion is winning (link from The Verge):

"Best Buy is abandoning the humble CD and will no longer sell them in its stores starting on July 1st, 2018, reports Billboard. The move comes as CD sales continue to decline; revenue from digital music downloads eclipsed it back in 2014.

Target, on the other hand, says it will only sell music CDs under a consignment basis, shifting inventory risk back to the labels. That means Target would only pay labels for CDs when customers buy them, rather than buying the CDs in bulk and paying for shipments of unsold CDs back to the label for credit."

It's hard to predict what's next. The same article says, "Sources suggested that Best Buy’s music CD arm was only generating $40 million annually," which I think means profit. I can't tell if this means more customers for local record stores or fewer, long-term. Add in vinyl sales staying reasonably strong [relative to recent vinyl sales], and do we have "real record" boutiques as our long-term alternative to streaming?

Any way you slice it, this means we're losing one [and a half?] major suppliers of the highest fidelity, DRM-free music we had left in the US. And that's probably not a good sign for the future of music ownership (or, for Ben, "non-subscription based" or "indefinitely licensed" music ;^D).

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