Just like everyone else, I have been listening to music for the vast majority of my life. I am not the most musically literate, I like music that is widely considered not good and I hate music that is widely considered good. This is fine and normal, we all have different music tastes. What does matter however is the manner in which we as consumers can and do acquire said music.
I’m not really unique in my listening routes, I use Youtube for music discovery and easy listening, when I dont use Youtube I will listen to my own collection via the Strawberry music player. This music I have is acquired via CDs and previously purchased via the listed services below. I know most people use Spotify and other streaming services for music, however I typically use a cheap mp3 player for my walks, so paying for a subscription service doesnt fit my needs.
I am not a picky person, I cant really tell the difference in quality between the different filetypes or anything audiophiles care about. Frankly, I dont wish to gain such an ability, as it would ruin my current experience with music and as they say “ignorance is bliss”. What I have major preference for however, is ownership. I want the files of my music and I want to be able to do whatever I damn well please with it. I am one of a couple people I know IRL that still purchase music CDs. I find they are nice to have, relatively cheap and a good value. I can do whatever I please with them. (usually some variant of ‘rip them lol’) Owning CDs is what I have done the longest, however for a growing chunk of music I like, either CDs cant be bought at all or they are ludicrously hard to acquire. This in itself, whilst sad, doesnt have to be the end all be all. Digital music marketplaces have been a thing since the 2000s. (probably late 90s too but it as a concept caught on in the 2000s) There have been many different storefronts, some that I have used, others I havent. The landscape has been changing in the past few years and I wish to go over it in this blogpost.
The google play music store has been shut down as of the end of last year (2020). The service had been going downhill in the past couple years as they had been limiting the usability for the end user, presumably in order to push youtube music as its successor. They had done similar to google play movies, however where with the movies, your library was transfered to youtube, this was not the case for Google Play Music. I had used Google Play Music lightly for a few years, as it had some content that you couldnt buy anywhere else, and since I had used android phones throughout my mid to late teens, it was easy and convenient. Whilst convenience was a reason to use it, the other main reason was that I could download the mp3 files from the phone or browser, and it was easy to do. I didnt spend a huge sum of money on the service, but it was good to me for the majority of its life. They started to impose restrictions on the user however prior to shutting it down. The restrictions were as follows: > You can only download this track 2 times from web based devices, download the google play music app or use the chrome extension for unlimited downloads The chrome extension changed from a little widget that you could use to control your music with a shortcut to a special webpage to a huge bloated chromium webapp. In the final year of its existence it stopped working entirely, presumably because it hadnt been updated and it, still relying on another chrome that was incompatible with the one installed, broke. At least that was my final experience with it, even on a windows machine. Were the death of Google Play Music an isolated incident, I would probably not care much, I’d just (try to) download any music I hadnt done prior and let bygones be bygones. Youtube Music is its successor and I have no interest in using it. There seems to be little benefit to using it over just pirating music instead.
I had used Itunes for about as long as I had used Windows Media Player “back in the day”. I have fond memories of rummaging through my fathers external hard drive with hundreds of songs on, having imported them into itunes, and listening to them whilst playing the original star wars battlefront and sonic fan games on an old Pentium 4 desktop. Itunes changed a lot over the past 20 years, it got bigger and more bloated, so I stopped using it over time. The music purchasing experience was actually fine and remained that way for years. The m4a file format is a bit of a pain, so I convert anything I bought to mp3. After I got an iPad as a gift from my family a few years back, I started to use iTunes again, as you are forced to do with any device in the apple ecosystem. This was slightly before I had fully commited to the tech related principles and relevant worldviews that I hold now. Although I would say that the changes made and the overall inconvenience of trying to use said iPad and iTunes gave me part of a final push towards aiming for FOSS software and at least actually usable hardware. The thing that really grinded my gears was that after an update, the music ‘app’ was changed to further incorporate their “apple music” streaming service, with a UI overhaul that removed the lovely album layout with HUGE BOLD TEXT COVERING MOST OF THE SCREEN LIKE I’M A RETARD WHO CANT SEE (Yes I sold the iPad before it tanked in value)
Aside from being whipped by the hand of “try apple music for muh streaming” constantly, the ability to purchase music and download it remains, however the software is so bad that I dont think its worthwhile anymore.
Amazon Music was the latest ‘service’ I purchased music from, and to be honest, for the first couple years, it was lovely. Most music I wanted could be bought there, the prices werent outragous, and they let you download the entire order as a zip file immediately after purchase. It was about as good an experience as I could ask.
The other feature that was fantastic and I was sure to make use of was the ‘AutoRip’ feature, when you purchase some CDs sold directly by amazon warehouses, you would receive the mp3 copy at point of purchase. This, coupled by some albums actually being CHEAPER to buy the CD of, made it a no brainer for when i couldnt find the CD in local stores or I had to buy other things I could only get on Amazon.
The problems began as they started changing this service, and integrating their Amazon Music services. At first they just added a little notification to say that you could download the application on mobile for an easier experience, this was fine. However over time, they started gimping the web service. Many artist pages stopped working almost entirely. hyperlinks were removed. And even the ability to download music via your purchase history was removed. They even stopped letting you download music immediately at purchase from a ZIP file, instead prompting you to use the ‘web app’. This itself got worse though, not only was it far slower this way, as all web apps are poor performers, even on good machines. You also lost the ability to download albums, instead having to download tracks one at a time.
The straw that broke the camels back was when they made it so that you HAD to download either the mobile application or the windows one, in order to download music. As a near exclusive linux user, I could not do this without extreme hassle on my end. So I have stopped buying music via Amazon, unless it is the ONLY option. It is still better than the likes of iTunes, but not by much.
There isnt really an adequate replacement for these services for those who wish to just have an easy way to purchase music and do whatever they want with it. There are other services that are similar, however many either dont match the requirements for freedom, or they dont have quite the bredth of content that the bigger services have.
However, if you are into music, perhaps you have a couple smaller bands you like and want to purchase digital or physical things of theirs, Bandcamp is pretty decent. Their site isnt very good in terms of discovery or personalisation, however if you just stick to your following page, it can be a decent alternative/complementary storefront. You can download music in numerous formats, straight from the web without any “install this app” crap.
You can of course sail the seven seas forevermore, which I of course DISAVOW. However if you just want to purchase an album digitally and recieve the mp3/flac files with ease, there arent many options.
Aha! I managed to finish this just as the month ended, it was pretty much done for most the month. I have just been very lazy. I have recently garnered an interest in physical analogue music media, cassettes in particular. I may write about that eventually once I get more experience with it.