Music Industry Self-Immolation

I'm working from home today. Earlier in the week, I got a wild hair to buy a pile of CDs from Amazon. I've done that a couple of times since I unloaded my vinyl on Craig's List. I find myself, in equal measure, replacing missed favorites and acquiring classics that escaped my collection. So I've been multitasking between my day work and the occasional trip to the living room to switch a CD in the ripping tray.

Somehow, this whole process is making me feel dated and archaic. Little discs of aluminum—how precious!

It's clear that the days of CD purchasing, let alone CD ripping are numbered. Some recent articles in the news suggest the process is hastening.

First, there is the big, recent news that EMI is going to allow their catalog onto iTunes with higher fidelity and no DRM, albiet at a higher price. I'm unwilling to purchase digital music that's licensed and tethered to a device. This, suddenly, makes things interesting. I'd be curious to hear how the higher fidelity recordings (256-bit AAC) compare to the (FLAC) lossless compression I'm using. And I'd need a web-based iTunes store, so I can access it from my Linux workstation. If those happen, I'll be ready to start buying digital downloads instead of the aluminum discs.

Then, there is this op-ed in the Times that lays out just how bad and stupid the music industry is being.

The major labels wanted to kill the single. Instead they killed the album. The association wanted to kill Napster. Instead it killed the compact disc. And today it's not just record stores that are in trouble, but the labels themselves, now belatedly embracing the Internet revolution without having quite figured out how to make it pay.

The final thing, not related to CD marketing but to general music business stupidity, is the new royalty scheme that threatens independent net-based radio. This is one of the last remaining ways for me to discover new music. I think once that's gone, it's game over.

All this makes me wonder what the hell I'm doing still buying and ripping CDs. What's the sense when the music enjoyment comes wrapped in such a crappy experience?

5:15pm update: Christopher Beam at Slate weighs in on the 256-bit AAC issue and suggests it's mostly not noticable. I'll believe it when I hear it. Sure, it probably makes little difference when you are listening on a portable player with $12 ear buds. I want digital tracks that are good enough to play on my home stereo.


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re: Music Industry Self-Immolation

I rip all my music at 192 Kbps AAC. I can't speak for you, but if I listen really, really carefully, I can hear some subtle differences between that and the original CD.

I've heard it said that 320 kbps MP3 is as good as CD; I've also heard it said that AAC at a given bitrate is as good as MP3 at the next higher bitrate. If both of these assertions are valid, that would suggest that 256 Kbps AAC is about as good as CD.

re: Music Industry Self-Immolation

Yo Chip, Mike Coker here - the dude that bought the little black server from you on Friday. Just wanted to drop in and say thanks again, and that I got everything on that box and couldn't be happier. That little guy serves up my blog if you wanna check that out - Oh and if you ever wanna get a Tux tattoo or something, I'll give you Larry's # :-)


re: Music Industry Self-Immolation

Thank god for the Internet Archive:

I have found some wonderful new bands on this site and the recordings, for the most part, are good quality.

Another point, while you may be unwilling to purchase digital music that is tethered to a device, I am unwilling to buy a shinny disk for nearly $20 that contains 12 lousy tunes when all I am looking for is one single. Now if I could just go online and purchase a "custom" made CD with the specific tracks of my choice...that is a goldmine!