I’m fortunate to have passed over the horrible period of the previous decade when the major music labels and the RIAA were at their worst. Suing their own customers, wrapping music in heavy DRM, and generally hastening the death of DRM as we have known it. 2007 should actually be known as the banner year for online music. DRM is quickly falling away with EMI being the first major record label to sell DRM-free songs. Today we live in a new world where the consumer has many choices to buy DRM-free music if they are willing browse among independent artists. The Electronic Frontier Fountation lists some DRM-free music stores in their DRM Guide. The guide critizes several popular online music stores because they take away all of the customers’ rights of ownership that they would have if the customer bought a physical CD. Then gives those rights back but only on the labels’ terms. Taking it further, why should I even settle for a lossy mp3. What if an audio format comes along better than mp3 or there’s a new device that needs to be encoded differently? In my opinion, the lossless FLAC format is the only way to go to be future-proof against anything that might come later. To me mp3’s might be something I listen to daily but I need something archival quality that won’t change.
The CDs I buy usually come from garage sales, flea markets, or the discount rack at the department store. When I get them home I rip them immediately to Flac then transcode it to mp3. abcde is an excellent piece of ripping software. Actually, abcde ties together several components such as cdparanoia, lame, etc to rip, tag, and transcode the disk automatically. Once I have the Flac files ripped I’ll transcode them to mp3 with flac2mp3.
Magnatune.com: So far Magnatune is the only online store I’ve bought music from. The site does not maintain any user accounts except if you leave an email address during checkout you can use it later to redownload all the music you bought. The catalog is relatively small but the music is handpicked to always be excellent quality. Magnatune also allows listeners to preview whole songs from the entire catalog. When you buy music you have rights to download any or all of various formats. Finally, the most unique feature of Magnatune is that you name your own price between $5 and $18 for each album you buy. Overall, I really like Magnatune’s attitude. Magnatune gives away it’s entire catalog, no one has to buy the music because you can download the low-bit rate mp3s for free. Yet, Magnatune is successful because it’s customers believe in what Magnatune is trying to do. There is something better than free.