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Author Micah Cambre

99 cents is a ripoff

Welcome to the world of digital music. In today’s world, we can go online to download software such as iTunes, Rhapsody, Napster, MSN, as well as a few others and buy music from these digital stores. You can buy a certain song, just about any song you like for about 99 cents. However, I do not support those ventures for the following reasons:

  1. When you pay around 99 cents for a certain song on one of those sites, the artist gets maybe 2-8 cents per song, if even that. It’s very likely that the artist doesn’t get but fractions of a penny for those purchases. Most of that money goes to the RIAA, which I will continue to try and never support.
  2. The RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) says they represent the artist and tries to protect his or her rights, but in fact they are only looking out for number one and are actively taking the money away from the artist.
    When you download a digital music file from stores online, you are downloading a compressed, inferior quality file than if you would had you bought the CD. But it’s only 99 cents you might say! Well, let’s say you bought the CD from the store for $15. The CD that you buy from the store is straight from the record company and the songs on the CD are uncompressed and in their original forms. The digital music that you download from the Internet is compressed, which means its of poorer quality. What this means is that random digital information from the song is deleted so that even though you’re hearing the song like it sounds on the CD, the quality of that song is nearly 60-80% less than what it is on the CD.

    Let me make this comparison. You have a whole cake, and it costs $15. If you divide that cake into 15 pieces, you have the equivelent of the 99 cent download, right? Wrong. Take one of those pieces, cut about 40-80% of it off. Now you have the equivelent of a 99 cent download. It tastes the same, it smells the same, it looks the same, but it’s only a fraction of what you should be getting.

  3. So, assuming that a CD costs roughly the same as the album costs online, you should be purchasing a CD or song for about 40-80% less than you pay for a CD in the store. Yet, you’re not. Why? Because of convenience. But is convenience really worth that much of a premium? You don’t really get the complete, full version of the song and it’s for sale at a bloated price, nor does the artist really get any benefits from your purchase. You’re just making rich people richer.
  4. A lot of the music that you buy online has something called DRM (Digital Rights Management). This means that it’s protected from things such as pirating, copying, transferring to another computer, etc. I’m not sure what MSN does in terms of DRM, but it’s likely that it has some heavy protection so that you can’t really do much with this file once you download it. If you were to buy the CD instead, you could legally and illegally do with the songs what you want. You can make your own digital copy and have full control over it.
  5. Let’s assume you only want one song from a CD. Why buy the CD when you want only one song? Yeah, this puts a little more justification into downloading it from iTunes, but not too much more. I can possibly even find that soundtrack for free online at one of hundreds of sites. Then I could take the one song that I want and delete the rest. And it didn’t cost me a thing except time.
  6. For someone on a modem (unsurprisingly, there still are plenty) trying to download a file, what’s the chances that your modem connection gets interrupted and you lose the download? Would you have to go back to iTunes and pay 99 more cents to download the rest of the file or redownload it again? I’m not sure I’d want to take that risk.

So for these reasons, why would you bother paying 99 cents? I don’t think the convenience is worth the premium nor do I want to support companies which use a digital lock to prevent you from doing much with your files. You pay the price of honesty for the few that are dishonest out there. By dishonest, I’m not talking about someone downloading this song for free off of “illegal” sites. I’m talking about someone purchasing this music, copying/burning it to lots of CDs and pirating the music CDs to others for a few bucks per CD. That’s wrong. But downloading a copy of a song is just like, at least in my opinion, recording a song off the radio and listening to it. You shouldn’t be prosecuted for that kind of stuff. Which is exactly what the RIAA is doing by suing all of these thousands of people. It’s absurd.

what’s wrong with my iPod?

Apple's iPod
I have now owned my iPod since June of this year and I believe I can finally give my thoughts on this whole iPod obsession. I think it’s a nice innovation but I’m not a big fan.

In theory and practice, the Apple iPod is a really neat toy. It can hold hundreds of your favorite CDs all in one place. It’s instantly on when you hit a couple of buttons; No more waiting for the CD player to load. If you want to automatically load music (AAC or MP3) on it, there are multiple ways of doing it. You can connect it to both USB and Firewire ports to transfer files. And it’s light and small and very portable.

But that’s pretty much where my enjoyment ends. I know what I’m looking for is more like a portable hard drive which I can carry around with all of my data and media. But, unfortunately, this’ll have to do for now. Nothing seems to do what I want because everyone is afraid of DRM, or digital rights management. If the copyright laws weren’t such a big deal, I’d probably have exactly what I want. Basically what this means is that Apple requires that its iTunes media files be proprietary, or in other words you can’t use their music on any other device without illegally modifying it. So, there’s no reason to buy music from iTunes if you don’t have an iPod (unless you don’t care about portability). Simple as that.

Another problem that I have is transferring music to and from the iPod to the computer. The iPod can copy one one way: from the computer to the iPod. Apple doesn’t want you to “pirate” media to and from your friend’s or family’s other computers. Which means you can only use your iPod on one computer. Why would I want to use it on more than one computer, you might ask? For many reasons, but foremost because I listen to podcasts! I want to be able to transfer podcasts, which are completely free and legal, to and from any computer I use whether it be work or home! Why can’t I do that?!

One other thing: I hate iTunes. Can you believe it? I seriously think it’s over-bloated crap that installs extra features, icons and services onto your computer without your approval. I still prefer Winamp and use it almost exclusively. It’s smaller, faster, and does what I want quickly. It could certainly use a few features that iTunes has (and vice versa) but other than that, I’m still satisfied with Winamp. To the contrary, I must state that using iTunes on a Mac really isn’t all that bad (since I’m still used to applications being rather slow anyway), but using it on a PC is horribly slow and uncomfortable to me. It’s not designed for PC use and it wastes my resources (check your task manager and you’ll see that there are typically two or three different services running at once when iTunes is running) and time trying to figure out how to use it with my iPod. I typically have a nightmare when I want to copy over music from my playlist to the iPod. Instead of it being a click and drag, it’s more like go to the iPod playlist in iTunes and import what you want. It’s tedious, a waste of time and effort, and I can do exactly what I want with Winamp with no effort or thought.

So, I stated a few problems that I hate.

  1. It only holds music, not other files
  2. It requires iTunes to transfer music to it
  3. I can’t transfer music off of the iPod
  4. I can’t use it on multiple computers, and only one iPod per computer
  5. iTunes sucks!

Is there a solution to this mess?

I’ve been using a plugin to Winamp called mlipod. It allows me to do everything that iTunes does, but the way I want to do it rather than how iTunes forces me to. I can transfer everything using Winamp and I don’t have to have the bloated iTunes software to use it! So I just uninstall iTunes all together. Thank God!

To one up that, there’s even slicker software called Anapod that allows you to use iPod like a separate hard drive, pretty much exactly what I’m looking for. It requires a fee to use it but if you’re looking for a really great alternative to iTunes, this might be in your answer.

One more that I found in May 2009 is called Rockbox, which is an open source solution! It’s more of a complete makeover for your iPod but its features completely blow the regular iPod software functionality away. For instance, it supports multiple codecs other than mp3 and AAC, it actually has a real 5-band equalizer, crossfading, on the fly playlists, and many open source plugins.

So are there any good alternatives to the iPod that allow me to do all of these things with fast software? Not that I know of. I think the best thing to do is find out what has the best bang for the buck and then see if there is alternative software for that player. Otherwise, you’re stuck with a pretty toy that has extreme limits from its maker.

bad present for Christmas

I would like to pass on a certain link to anyone who is shopping or has shopped for Christmas presents already. I hope it wasn’t a CD. A CD is bad for many reasons:

  • The RIAA gets all the money.
  • The artist gets no money.
  • It costs just a few more cents to buy the DVD equivelent.

It could go on and on. But rather than me sitting here typing all my reasons out, why don’t you just click on this link to a humorous website explaining the same exact thing I just stated. Because, hey, it’s time we all learned a little about how crappy the RIAA really is.

Oh yeah, you think you’re safe with the iTunes music store? Nope.

is iTunes Music Store worth your money?

Probably not. It seems that those big bad guys at the RIAA are once again taking all the profits directly. How much? All 99 cents per song is going to the RIAA and Apple is losing money in the process. Why does this not surprise me?

So I guess the question would be where is Apple making its money? From the iPod. Not a bad product if I do say so myself. But definitely not worth it for the majority of everyone. We’re talking about .0005% of anyone who might even have one, and that’s probably a little liberal of an estimate.

If the RIAA doesn’t cut some slack, change their business model, do anything that helps the artist/consumer relationship, iTunes will probably fold in a few months/years. Same goes with Napster 2.0, Rhapsody, and any other pay-per-use download service.