I’m a bit of techie-nerdy-gadget type. And when I saw the Apple iPod for Windows, I wanted one. My family laughed at me. After all, I already own a portable CD player, and rarely use it. What in the world do I need an iPod for? Well, whatever! I bought it and enjoyed transfering my CD collection onto it. Okay…. so that was fun. But what about new music? Well, lots has been happening on the digital music front … so I went out to explore.
First, a little background. An iPod is an MP3 player, which means (duh!) that music must be in MP3 format (or AAC, AIFF or WAV) to work. Okay — not really a problem, except that alot of what is happening in (legal) digital music is happening in Windows Media Audio (WMA). Why WMA and not MP3? Because WMA includes security measures that allow the publisher to restrict what you do with the music. For example, one publisher may allow you to store the song file on three computers, a digital music player and to burn three CDs. Another publisher may allow ten computer copies and ten CD copies. So WMA offers record labels more control over their digital properties than MP3 does.
So, back to my digital music adventures, with a quick run down of what’s available in online music.
eMusic.com is a subcription MP3 service with a catalog of +250,000 songs. Pay by the month, and you get a fixed number of downloads with no restrictions (ie you may burn them to CD, or transfer to your player). I joined for three months thinking I would cancel at the end of my commitment, but I just may end up keeping the subscription. It is great for older music: jazz, blues, folk music, classical. And I am always able to find something that interests me there. But it doesn’t have much that interests my pre-teen daughter, who only wants to hear current pop hits.
Musicmatch is the software that came with my iPod. It manages my digital music collection and portable player. Recently they started selling digital songs and albums, from a collection of +200,000. Cool! But, oops, since they are in WMA format, I can listen on my computer, but can NOT download them to my iPod.
BuyMusic.com also offers single and album downloads at a reasonable price. But their catalog of +315,000 songs is, again, in WMA format.
Napster 2.0 will be unveiled this week with both per-per-download or pay-by-the month options. And their library will boast a whopping +500,000 songs. Preliminary press suggests that CD burning and portable player transfer will cost more than just downloading to a computer, and that the format will be WMA (not MP3.)
But, wait. MP3 is not dead yet. The iTunes Music Store sells +200,000 AAC iPod-compatible songs at very reasonable prices, but is available only to Mac users. A Windows version is expected on October 16. Yeah!