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Quest for online music

I recently decided that online music was worth a shot. For plenty of reasons, convenience, price, vastness of the catalog, etc...

Then began my quest for an online music service. And my discovery of audio formats and DRM. I assumed stupidly that I would be able to just download MP3s that would conveniently play on my already numerous digital music players (Car radio, DVD player, portable CD player, Smartphone, Palm, etc...).

But it turns out there are three type of online music service:

  • iTunes, which probably has the biggest catalog. You can download songs in the AAC format with DRM;
  • Its serious competitors, which propose music in the WMA format and DRM as well;
  • The outsiders, nerdy things that actually propose various formats and no DRM at all.

Now, what is DRM?

DRM stands for "Digital Rights Management". It is a measure to counter piracy. In short, you buy a track or an album, but can play it only on a specifically authorized device (or set of devices). Of course, the vast majority of the portable MP3 players, even when they advertise WMA and AAC cannot play such DRMed files. You can always burn an audio CD though...

Needless to say that any solution with DRM is out of the question for me. I don't want to be locked to my PC and/or a specific portable player. CD audio are out of the equation for me as well: who uses these anymore? Another solution (the only viable one that I can see) would be to burn an Audio CD, rip it back to my HDD and encode it to MP3. But this would be a lot of work and would additionnally induce a serious quality loss.

So the first to sets of services are out for me. Unfortunately, they are the only one suiting me as far as their catalog is concerned. MP3 services are most often reduced to independent labels. While this is cool sometimes, it doesn't exactly fit my needs.

But what of allofmp3.com?

Well, there is another player that combines non-DRM media and a somewhat vast catalog. It is allofmp3.com. Unfortunately, the majors seeing this going out is fighting it hard. Being a russian website, they are safe from a legal standpoint, at least for now. But what of the legality of one of these files? I'd like to buy my music, but if it isn't recognised by my government as a legal purchase, what is the point?


So the only viable alternative for downloading music today is called eMule. P2P being clearly illegal, I will have to wait a bit more before switching to online music - at least for the major labels. And I am wondering how locked-up systems such as Apple's and Microsoft's ones can really be an alternative to piracy.

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Categories : General rambling