Category Archives: MP3

Reply from AmieStreet

Yesterday, I sent AmieStreet a link to my blog post regarding their decision to disallow multiple downloads of your purchased songs. Here is their response (bold added by

Thanks for getting in touch with the post you made about Amie Street’s forthcoming change in download policy.  Although I know this isn’t necessarily an ideal change for you, I hope you might understand that as a digital music retailer we have to walk a fine line between keeping our customers satisfied and still respecting the wishes of the record labels that provide us with music.  With regard to this relationship we have with record labels, I was hoping to clarify some things with regard to ‘licensing’ and the cost of internet sales.

Although many users see a qualitative difference between the sale of a digital album and the sale of a physical CD, the legal framework surrounding royalties and payments is not different – a digital album is still considered a ‘product’ accompanied by license for personal use as opposed to a ‘license to a product’.  As you might not be aware, that means that every distributed download of a song (note: download, not purchase) is considered equivalent to the creation of a physical CD and so accompanied by a mandatory mechanical license fee of 9.1 cents per song, an amount set by the US Copyright Royalty Board.  (To be more specific, I believe the rate is technically 9.1 cents or 1.75 cents per minute of playing time, whichever is greater.)

Within this legal framework, your purchase is for one copy of the album in question and a situation such as a hard disk crash is seen by record labels and publishers as roughly equivalent to breaking a compact disc; just as you would have to repurchase the CD in such a situation, you would also have to repurchase the MP3 if you haven’t backed it up elsewhere.  We will continue to offer DRM-free MP3s to all of our users, however, and provide no hindrance to making backups of your content as you desire.

I understand that you might not see it this way but as a business we must respect the laws of the country in which we operate; although we would prefer to continue with our existing manner of handling downloads, this is a policy change about which we have absolutely no choice.

Once again, I appreciate your understanding with regards to this situation, and please let me know if there’s anything else I can help you with.

The luddites at the Copyright Royalty Board apparently fail to realize that there are millions of songs available for free on the internet with no limit on the number of downloads.

Sigh. I am just going to let the bold parts of the letter speak for themselves. I wish AmieStreet and all other digital media vendors the best of luck in this market. They are doing their best to provide an excellent service in the face of true adversity.

AmieStreet removes ability to re-download your music

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 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.

StreamRipper on Vista

StreamRipper is an excellent open-source plugin for Winamp that allows you to record streaming mp3 directly to your hard drive. It’s very similar to recording songs off the radio onto audio cassette tapes, which is a technology that some younger readers my be unfamiliar with, but it worked well enough at the time.

StreamRipper has a very nice feature where it creates a “relay stream” that you can listen to. Instead of creating two separate streams (one for Winamp for you to listen to, and another for StreamRipper to record from), you can have StreamRipper create a “relay Stream”, which his cuts down on the required bandwidth and allows you to listen to the same stream that you are recording.

I’ve always had a problem getting StreamRipper to create the relay stream properly on Vista, and like everyone else, I was all too keen to blame Vista for Winamp’s inability to connect to the relay stream. However, it turns out that everything is working exactly as it should, and there is a very easy way to get a working relay stream in Vista…

Instead of connecting Winamp to http://localhost:8000, which is the default host and port for the relay, you have to use the local loopback IP address of your local machine instead. In other words, connect Winamp to and it will work perfectly!

The reason for this, is that localhost under Vista resolves to an IPv6 address and not IPv4 address that previous versions of Windows used. StreamRipper only understands IPv4, and Winamp is apparently trying to connect to it using IPv6. By specifiying the local loopback IP address of your machine explicity, rather than referring to it by name, you are forcing the use of IPv4, which means everything works as it should.

Happy ripping!

iTunes and long file names

iTunes doesn’t allow me to add files with long file names. It doesn’t tell me why, it simply doesn’t add them to the library.

Actually, it only added one out of thirteen files, causing me to wonder if the other twelve were somehow corrupted. It was only when I looked at the files in explorer that I realized only the one with the shortest name had been added.

Some kind of error message, warning or other indication that iTunes couldn’t add them would have been nice, but I guess it’s too much effort for software that “just works”.

I really ought to change the name of this blog, but I’m sure there are enough anti-iTunes blogs out there already.

iSuck vs Winamp

Well, it only took 15 days for iTunes to corrupt my library again. Which is really pretty good, considering that I only ever run iTunes to sync my iPod once or maybe twice a week. I am constantly amazed at how bad this software is!

So, after completely erasing my library again, it then went ahead and synced the one item that was automatically added to the library by 3GP Converter, resulting in an 80Gb iPod with a single episode of Battlestar Galactica on it. My plan this evening was to run for 45 minutes on my elliptical trainer, while watching the aforementioned TV show. Instead, I’m once again sitting at my computer, swearing at iTunes.

Ironically, while I was in the middle of typing this post, Pablo added a comment to another of my posts about iTunes! It seems that there are a great many people out there that are similarly fed up with the software engineering tragedy that is iTunes.

The upshot of all this is that I have decided to ditch iTunes. I really didn’t want to have to use some half-finished open source thing that doesn’t do half of what I need, but then I saw the new release of Winamp (and besides, I think I just described iTunes!). I’ve always liked Winamp – it’s small, full-featured and plays virtually any type of media you can throw at it, so I’m quite excited to try it out and see how well it works with an iPod. Previous versions didn’t have integrated podcast ability, which put me off a bit, but it seems that version 5.5 might just have everything I need!

I’ll be sure to write about my experiences with Winamp – just as I do with iTunes, so keep an eye on the site…

Hurrah! Good riddance iSuck!