April 23, 2006
Gas, Electricity, Cable... Music
Exactly two years ago here on Snarkmarket we were talking about music being provided as a service instead of as a bunch of discrete little possessions — CDs, MP3 files, whatever. Well, friends, I have officially switched. Behold, my monthly music bill: $5.
A few months ago iTunes kinda freaked out on my laptop; it would just randomly start skipping. (Yeah, I know — skipping! Very 1995.) Turns out it’s a known issue with the Windows version. I tried some of the suggested remedies, went through a few upgrade cycles, but no luck. It doesn’t always skip, but that’s not the point: The illusion of “owning” all my iTunes music is shattered by the fact that it’s useless when Apple’s app is on the fritz.
So, that and a new computer together prompted me to try something new.
The new thing is Yahoo Music Unlimited. Here’s the deal: $5 a month. You can download all the music you want. (And you actually do download it; this isn’t just on-demand streaming.) The catch, of course, is that if you stop paying, all that sonic gold becomes so much digital lead on your hard drive. But… come on. Five bucks a month? I’ll try anything for $5 a month.
Turns out I love it. Like switching to broadband internet, getting music this way actually changes your behavior. It changed mine, at least: iTunes had made me into a music miser. I’d find a new band and then just buy their top two or three most-downloaded tracks, operating on the assumption that hey, every album’s got lots of duds. If iTunes gives me the ability to skip those I might as well. In general, I bought music very very conservatively: I wasn’t really interested in just experimenting for a dollar a track.
Yahoo Music feels totally different. In fact I was moved to write this post after finding this great list on Metacritic and just going down the line, downloading album after album — and realizing I’d never have tried any of them on iTunes.
Now, there are caveats, of course. The Yahoo Music application itself is not as slick as iTunes, and the service costs more like $10 a month if you want to put tracks on a portable player.
Also, I know I am not supposed to like DRM. And of course I’d love to have naked, innocent MP3s instead of these janky Windows Media cryptograms. But, if DRM is the price we must pay for a service like this — an economic model like this — might it be worth it? I mean seriously: This is really cool. For the price of a few coffees every month, I have all the music in the world. (That’s another thing: I expected there to be a lot of holes in the Yahoo catalog. Instead I’ve found just about everything I want. The one awful, awful exception is Sufjan Stevens — so I just ripped that from CD.)
And here’s what seals the deal: If Yahoo’s app ever flakes on me, or if the service changes and I don’t like it, I’ll just switch to a competitor, and I’ll have lost nothing.
(Of course then I’ll have to re-download all this music… an operation that is expensive in hours if not dollars. Therefore I submit to the LazyWeb my request for a Yahoo Music plugin that exports a full run-down of my music library in some sort of generic XML-ish format. Done and done.)