Speaking of Music

I bought a few downloadable music files the other day, and the experience reminded me of one of the baffling aspects of the digital-music controversy. Why is it that, when the format(s) for digital music files are now well-established, music sellers don’t take full advantage of the medium? Why (for instance) do some sell files without full documentation and cover art? Why do no distributors (that I know of) include lyrics with the digital file? It’s not as though these can’t be tracked down elsewhere, and by including them in an authorized digital package the vendor would be differentiating their product from blank, inaccurately-documented files found on the dark net (or on less robust services), or ripped at home from one’s own media?
But instead, the vendors seem content casually to rip files from whatever medium is at hand, slap uncertain ID3 tags on them (track numbers as part of the selection’s title?!), and upload them for sale. Big whoop; what’s the difference between those and the tracks someone could find on a peer-to-peer server somewhere? A digital vendor who wants to lay claim to the marketplace should make the track available in a variety of bitrates, and should include full cover art (any pertinent art files), full documentation of musicians (where available), documentation of the publication and version history of the track in question, and embedded lyrics. Now, that’s a file worth paying for!

5 thoughts on “Speaking of Music

  1. I don’t disagree about these shortcomings. Online music sales have only recently started to rise to the level of ‘decent’ — from years of ‘scandalous badness.’ (Check out the ridiculous DRMed-slap-in-the-face from MSN Music the past few days for an example of that)… I wonder, though, if the record companies prevent them from selling the material from the jacket cover, lyrics, etc. — since these, in theory, would drive some people to still go out and buy the CD.

    I do have to say, though, that I *like* having the track numbers as part of the title; a lot of albums have tracks that only make sense played in order. Putting the track number makes it easy to sort and play the songs such that you don’t get the ‘Ode to Joy’ before the 3rd movement.

  2. Yeah, Matt, the Microsoft fiasco is pretty grim.
    But since the labels are trying to sell digital music, you’d think — I’d think — that they would put their most salable product out there (again, to differentiate it from other options).
    And for the track order, I just go by the embedded ID3 tags. I don’t like having to clean out “03”s from the title of “Country Honk” (or whatever).

  3. A service (or at least the technology) that will help a user put together the associated paraphenalia that surrounds an audio track (other versions, cover art, lyrics, what we used to call liner notes, video clips, etc.) is coming soon.

    Honest, I’ve seen it and know the folks who have built it.

  4. And of course, there’s MusicBrainz and various utilities that promise the capacity to fill in blank ID3 tags. These are helpful as far as they go — but the conundrum I’m wrestling with here is why the vendors themselves seem disinclined to render their product in its most salable form, in a form that clearly sets the “legitimate” files apart from the illicit files.

    On the other hand, I’ll be interested to watch for the service you describe, Jon; where the vendors don’t go, someone will step in to fill the gap.

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