I like to buy music. I buy it from emusic (where I pay $23/month for use it or lose it credits for music downloads), Amazon, and when in a pinch, iTunes. I also have two Rhapsody music subscriptions that cost an additional $20/month. My kids also regularly spend money on iTunes for music (often for tracks we already own somewhere else in the house). I suspect between all of this, our family spends well over $1000/year on mp3s, probably closer to $2000/year.
And yet, today I find myself pirating an album on the Internet. I thought I'd outline how this happened to showcase what a fucked up system we have for content sales on the web.
Last week, I saw a tweet from my friend Anthony:
I'm a huge fan of Mike Skinner/The Streets so that was an instant click. It turns out The Streets had uploaded their new record, Computers and Blues, to Soundcloud and the Hype Machine was featuring it. I gave it a listen and was smitten. I tweeted it out myself.
Then I searched the Internet for the record. It was not even listed in iTunes or emusic. It was listed on Amazon US as an import that would be available on Feb 15th, but only in CD form. I'm not buying plastic just to rip the files and throw it out. Seeing as it was an import, I searched Amazon UK. And there I found the record in mp3 form for 4 pounds. It was going to be released on Feb 4th. I made a mental note to come back and get it when it was released.
I got around to doing that today. I clicked on "buy with one click" and was greeted with this nonsense (click on the image if you want to read it).
So then I went to find a VPN or proxy service that would let me grab a UK IP address so I could buy the record. That was an exercise in frustration. All I could find was monthly or daily services that were 2-3x the cost of the record. I could not find a free service that would let me change my IP address for a few minutes so I could download the file. As much as I wanted to pay the 4 pounds and pay for the record, I wasn't going to lay out $10 or more to do that.
So reluctantly, I went to a bit torrent search. I found plenty of torrents for the record and quickly had the record in mp3 form. That took less than a minute compared to the 20+ minutes I wasted trying pretty hard to buy the record legally.
This is fucked up. I want to pay for music. I value the content. But selling it to some people in some countries and not selling it to others is messed up. And selling it in CD only format is messed up. And posting the entire record on the web for streaming without making the content available for purchase is messed up.
I don't know whose idea this is of the way to market a record but I'm hoping they read this and never do this to a fan again. Fans love music. They want to support the musicians and they want to pay for music. But if you put enough hurdles in front of them, they will become pirates. As I did this morning.
When The Streets and their record label choose to make the Computer and Blues mp3s available for purchase in the US, I will go buy the record legally. Until then, I'm a pirate.