I just bought Bob Mould’s new album Silver Age from Amazon.com (US store), my first solely digital music purchase ever. I had listened to it a few times on Grooveshark and knew I liked it so it was a no-brainer. Especially at five bucks. (Which, incidentally, is what an album should cost.) I bought it through my Amazon US account for a few reasons:
1. I have a Kindle Fire and it only connects to the US store (thanks Amazon!).
2. The US store has a cloud player where I can keep my music and stream it on my devices.
3. Fuck Apple.
After purchase, it was immediately available for me to download or to stream through the Amazon Cloud Player built into the Amazon site. It was also immediately available in the same ways on my Kindle Fire as its music player has a native cloud player. Brilliant. All very simple, friendly and handy. Until I stepped outside the narrow bounds of digital “ownership”.
My Kindle Fire, of course, was purchased in the US as I Am Canadian and living in Japan. As such, all my digital purchases must be made through my American Amazon account. This requires me to consider currency exchange rates which is naturally something I’d prefer to avoid. But so be it, the banks have got to make money somehow (or everyhow). But that is not what annoyed me here. What pissed me off with this purchase was that when I went to listen to it on my Samsung Galaxy S3 (Japan Edition) I discovered the Amazon Cloud Player is not available for this device. Because… I am in Japan and The Cloud is… not really “the cloud” as perpetuated by all these cloud companies. Granted, it is not a huge hurdle for me to listen to my purchase on my Galaxy. I simply need to download the MP3s of the album and transfer them to my phone. But that is not the point.
The Cloud: Your data. Anyplace. Anytime. (Available with internet connection only. Some restrictions apply, including international boundaries, model of phone, model of PC, model of portable media player, model of economics, model of particle physics, country of purchase, country of residence, bandwidth restrictions, whims of the artist, whims of the capitalist, and/or whims of the pirate. Some charges may be incurred depending on service provider, location, time of day, weather, and genre.)
In a time when Newsweek has just announced that it is shedding it’s dry, paper skin and going purely digital next year, the move from hardcopy to softcopy is but a foregone conclusion for most. After all, dead tree media received its unflattering sobriquet for a reason. However, traditional industry thinkers have been scrambling about for the past 15 years wondering how they are going to charge people for their product if it’s not something tangible you could use to squash a bug. And they think Digital Rights Management (DRM) is the answer. It is not. All DRM does is piss off the people who are paying for their product. If The Pirates had to devise a scheme in which they could convince everyone to eschew paying for content and download their free stuff instead, they could not come up with something better than DRM.
Other content companies could learn something from Comedy Central. While watching The Daily Show (legally, online, for free, in Japan) I was inundated with MTV ads featuring American pop duo Karmin. As I am not a huge fan of such pop music I complained about the annoying ads to a friend of mine. She’d never heard of them before. Later, she searched for them online. Then heard their music. And bought their album. In Japan. Because of an ad from America viewed online in Japan by a Canadian who didn’t even like it.
To be continued in Part Two.