thought I was the music industry's dream
As a 40 year old male with a long-standing
passion for "all things music,"
I've spent a bundle on my collection.
In college most of my waking hours were
spent wandering around record stores,
swap meets and record conventions, much
to the dismay of the women I was ostensibly
dating. Then again, the fact that I also
worked as a DJ at the radio station and
hung out with obsessive record collector
types probably didn't help matters in
the romance department.
Then while in grad school in the 1990s,
I became busy replacing many of my vinyl
releases with CD's. At the same time,
entrepreneurial music industry types began
to exploit the market for out-of-print
reissuing long out-of-print records on
CD formats, which of course I instantly
So here I sit circa 2007 with a house
filled with over 1000 vinyl records and
around 800 CD's. If you figure about $12
per recording as an accurate average,
that's somewhere around $20,000. Not a
bad chunk of change
for the music business, I say.
Last week while I was busy importing my
CD's into iTunes so I could listen to
them on my iPod (a most tedious task),
I hopped on the internet. iTunes was busy
importing a Luna CD, one of my favorite
bands, so I decided to see what they were
up to since they disbanded a few years
back. After a few clicks in Google, I
found a blog site describing a posthumous,
internet-only release of a collection
of covers the band had recorded
throughout their career. While I already
had many of the songs (they were often
featured on b-sides and imported singles,
etc.), I couldn't resist tracking down
this compilation. As I read further on
the blog site I encountered a link to
a .zip file containing the entire collection
ripped as 128kbps mp3's.
While I must admit being tempted to simply
click away and download the collection,
I though to myself, "Well, if I buy
the music it's only $10, and this way
I will get high quality .WAV files. Besides,
it's not like Luna were getting rich off
of their careers, they could use the money..."
So I headed to Rhino's online store, purchased
the music, and downloaded the files.
A little later that evening, I tried to
move the .WMA files into iTunes, when
I received an error message telling me
that iTunes could not import them because
they were copy protected. I downloaded
the files again (which
took another 12 minutes) and again, the
So I called Rhino customer support and
after an 8 minute wait spoke with a representative.
She informed me that the files were indeed
copy protected so that I could only play
them on specific music players, most notably
"You don't understand," I said,
"These files were not copied or pirated,
I actually purchased them."
"Well" she responded, "You
didn't actually purchase the files, you
really purchased a license to listen to
the music, and the license is very specific
about how they can be played or listened
Now I was baffled. "Records never
came with any such restrictions,"
She replied, "Well they were supposed
to, but we weren't able to enforce those
licenses back then, and now we can"
She later went on to explain that I could
burn the songs to a CD and listen to them
in a regular CD player, but I would need
an additional Windows based music player
to listen to them on my computer. But
she suggested there was no way the files
could be played on my iPod.
Frustrated, I hung up and began my search
for a Windows application to allow me
to burn the music to a CD. After downloading
Nero and firing it up, imagine my frustration
when I receive another error message telling
me it cannot locate the licenses for the
music I purchased.
I call Rhino again, and this time speak
to a young male CSR. He explains that
I need updated licenses in order to burn
the music and often the problem is that
many firewalls will allow the music to
pass through the
firewall, but not the licenses because
of their encryption schemes. Lest you
think I am exaggerating, I included below
the following text from their website
(apparently this is a big enough problem
that it warrants mentioning
in their FAQ):
1. Temporarily disable all firewall and
pop-up blocker software you may be running
on your computer.
2. Attempt the download again
If the Licensing portion of the download
is still hanging, please update the Digital
Rights Management (DRM) component on your
computer via the
following URL: http://drmlicense.one.microsoft.com/Indivsite/indivit2.htm
The friendly CSR representative then suggests
that I try once more to download the files
and licenses and if I still have no luck
to try accessing the internet from other
providers such as a local coffee shop,
library, or work computer.
"Basically, just keep downloading
the music until you find a gateway that
let's your licenses through without problems"
While I would like to say I responded
with something witty, I must admit to
being completely flummoxed. There I sat,
a loyal music fan who has shelled out
actual money to a business that is supposed
to be having
financial problems, and the best they
can do is tell me to wander the streets
of Seattle looking for different internet
providers who might allow me to download
the music that I have already paid for,music
that I have spent the better part of three
house trying to listen to, and which is
How on earth have things come to this?!?!?!
Honestly, if this is the best you can
do, you're business is in really, really
I mean, could you imagine the consumer
response if Coke could only be consumed
from specific Coke-approved equipment,
and then only in the specific ways that
the folks at Coke wanted the product to
be consumed. "Drinking Coke with
fast food is no problem, but we must warn
you that your license forbids the mixing
of Coke with any alcoholic beverages..."
In the end, I never was able to get the
music to play on anything--my computer,
on a CD or on my iPod. I invested $10,
several hours of my time, and my reward
was, well, nothing.
I'd like to say I was outraged, but in
the end I must admit to feeling remarkably
sad and deflated over the whole process.
See, the thing is, I was raised on music.
I was saved by music. I (used to) live
for music. Lester Bangs wasn't my idol,
he was my soul mate (in a matter of speaking).
I've devoted a not-inconsequential chunk
of my life to collecting music; to tracking
down obscure records, cassettes, 8-Tracks
and CD's of all genres and styles. And
now apparently that is all but over. Music
evolved from tangible things into amorphous
collections of 1's and 0's guarded over
by interested parties as if they were
gold bullion. How so very sad.
I would like to think that someone at
a place like Rhino would care enough to
not let these kinds of things happen.
But alas, my suspicion is that anyone
who would have been cool enough to work
at Rhino in their heyday
some twenty years ago would never be so
callous, foolish or shallow to allow these
kind of absurdities to occur.
Since I've resigned myself not to waste
any more time with the music business,
I suppose I'll have to resort to purchasing
used CD's & records, or having my
friends occasionally make me a copy of
one of their newer CD's.
Call it piracy. Call it whatever you want.
But at least I tried. I gave you several
chances and you failed miserably at every
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