I just recieved the email below from AmieStreet, an online music store that charges increasing amounts for songs as they become more popular. You can often pick up a great album for next to nothing, recommend it to others and actually make money back as the songs grow in popularity. It’s a great website and a very novel way of distributing DRM-free digital music.
In several weeks we’re going to be making a change to how Amie Street handles downloads, and we want to be certain you are fully informed in advance about this change. In brief, starting on August 5th we’ll only be able to offer a single download of your purchased music unless you’ve encountered a technical problem.
Although most people only download their music one time, we’ve noticed that you have done so more than once on occasion. We realize that the ability to re-download files has been important to you, so it’s understandable that you might be disappointed to see this no longer available. Unfortunately a number of factors beyond our control, including legal and royalty concerns, have made this impossible going forward.
We’re very happy to say, however, that you can continue to stream all of the music you’ve purchased on Amie Street. That means wherever you have access to the internet, you also have immediate and unrestricted access to stream the entirety of your Amie Street music collection from your library.
To make sure that downloading music continues to be as easy as possible, we’ll be keeping a close eye on the user experience and making updates to the site as needed. The primary voice that directs any such changes will be yours, so if you have suggestions based on your experiences using the site, we’d love to hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org. Tell us exactly what you like and don’t like, and we can make Amie Street even better!
The truth is, that I have only re-downloaded music on a couple of occasions, most likely because I purchased the music while at work, forgot to take it home with me and then re-downloaded it when I got home. The other re-downloads have been due to technical issues involving pop-up blockers and an old design of the AmieStreet website, that was fixed long ago. In other words, this is not a service that I use a great deal. Once I have downloaded my music, I know where it is and I do not (generally) need to download it again.
However, I can’t help but feel a little irritated by this move. It’s not that I want or even need to download my music multiple times – it’s that it feels like a step backwards. The days of purchasing a physical medium are drawing to an end and more and more services are provided as digital downloads. I haven’t purchased a physical CD for months, probably years, and yet I bought two digital albums from Amazon a copule of weeks ago.
I have dozens of old CD’s that are scratched and no longer play without skipping. To obtain new copies of these albums requires that I buy them again, either digitally or as physical items. This is a constraint of the media, and one that I was perfectly happy with when there was no other alternative. If you break something, you have to buy a new one – it works the same way with all physical property.
On the other hand, AmieStreet (and all other digital media vendors) already know that I purchased the music. Or at least, they know that I purchased a license to listen to the music, which is something entirely different and yet completely meaningless to most people. If my computer bursts into flames or something, why can I not re-download music that I have already paid for? It isn’t going to cost any more to throw a few megabytes acrosss the internet to my new computer, as it would cost to create a new product then package and ship it to me.
Perhaps the idea is that I bought a license to listen to only the version that I downloaded, and no other digital copy of the same song? So by copying it to my iPod or another computer, I’m breaking the license agreement? I would like to think that this line of reasoning is nonsense, but by allowing customers to download a song only once, this is the model that is being applied. AmieStreet (or more likely, a team of lawyers barking at their heels) is trying to apply a physical model to a virtual world which is not constrained by the laws of physics.
Whatever the reasoning behind this move, it is an utterly pointless restriction and ultimately self-destructive. People that actually pay for their music are once again being hampered for doing the right thing. Why add artificial barriers for people that actually want to give you their money? When there are unlimited free downloads of almost everything you can imagine, why make the paid version worse?
Those people that do not want to pay for their music will continue to recieve high-quality, DRM-free, re-downloadable media whenever they want it. Those of us who choose to do the right thing and buy their music, will end up with an inferior service and in many cases DRM-encumbered music that treats the customer like a thief .
It doesn’t matter who you are, or how powerful you think you are – like King Canute, you cannot stop the digital tide.