This is not quite a library technology blog entry, but it is related to libraries since among the materials we provide is music.
One of the publications I have a subscription with is The Linux Journal. This month's issue has an article about a company called Magnatune. Their motto is "We're Not Evil."
First, a little history/technical lesson.
I'm sure anyone who uses Myspace has at least heard of the iPod and iTunes--and their online music store. I have only used the iTunes store once, and was to download, for free, the pilot for a now defunct tv-series called "Conviction" (I'm a fan of the main characters from "Law & Order: SVU"), and a music video from the same series. I never downloaded or bought another track from their store. Why? Three Words: Digital Rights Management.
It's a technology that is supposed to (in theory) protect copyrighted works from piracy (people who make copies of music and movies and sell them for a profit, which mainly happens in Asia). In practice, it's both a pain and a joke.
It's a pain because you can only play what you downloaded on Apple's iTunes (Windows and Mac) and their iPod--that's all. Linux? Nope. There's this encryption scheme (part of DRM) that prevents it from playing. You don't have the freedom to play your purchased material on any device you want, or any platform. If you lose your files, you may or may not be able to re-download them without buying them again. Some services have some rather restrictive or harsh user agreements.
It's a joke because there are some very ingenious hackers (computer enthusiasts, not to be confused with pirates) that have found ways around DRM. DVDJon succeeded in 1999 with CSS (Content Scrambling System), that's used in movie DVDs (making it possible to play DVDs on anything, and copy them freely for anything), and is working on the next-generation DRM tech being used on High-Definition movie discs. The same goes for iTunes DRM audio files; the DRM data can be stripped away with a free utility found on the Internet.
Recently, Apple and EMI started offering music tracks without DRM for thirty cents more than the DRM-enabled tracks. They're touted as higher-quality too. At first, I was happy and felt it was at least a step in the right direction. But then I realized that you were paying more for freedom, which isn't right. Which lead me to Magnatune.
Actually, it lead me back to Magnatune because I already heard of the online music store but never really tried anything out. That's because you'll find that there are no mainstream artists on the site (yet). Their store is all independent artists. But, after reading the recent article in my beloved Linux mag, I decided to give it another look.
I'll simply sum it up by saying that they have some good quality stuff. You can download an album in any format--from a full-quality CD to MP3 (plus OGG, FLAC, WAV)--that are DRM free. The pricing is varied by you--meaning you can pay what you feel the music is worth, starting at $5 up (average is $8). 50% of the sale goes directly to the artist. Plus, they offer a track a day, 128kbps MP3 on their site, for free download. They offer licensing for commercial use as well.
I've already bought four CDs--a compilation of Mozart piano pieces, some new age, pop, and a Heavy Metal compilation. You can preview entire albums in either high or low quality audio streaming.
If you're into music, you might want to check out Magnatune.
Below is a short bibliography. You can find the latest Magnatune article in the August 2007 issue of The Linux Journal at your local bookstore. Please note that the Love's article has some objectionable language in it; the rest are G-Rated:
Information: about Magnatune. Magnatune. July 1, 2007. <http://www.magnatune.com/info/> July 11, 2007.
Magnatune, an Open Choice, iTunes an Expensive Choice. Lees, James. July 1, 2007. <http://interactive.linuxjournal.com/xstatic/abstracts/2007-08/bt9722> July 12, 2007.
Magnatune, an Open Music Experiment. Buckman, John. February 1, 2004. <http://linuxjournal.com/article/7220> July 12, 2007.Salon.com Technology | Courtney Love Does The Math.
Love, Courtney. June 14, 2000. <http://archive.salon.com/tech/feature/2000/06/14/love/
> July 12, 2007.