Monday, April 12, 2010

The Ubuntu One Music Store is coming

I've been listening to Tommy and the Fallen Horses lately. They're well worth checking out. One review I read had their new album as the best kiwi album of the last decade.
But I had my patience tested trying to download that same album. First of all their website returned a 404 when I went to purchase the album for download. Thankfully that's fixed now, but is symptomatic of the problems faced by smaller bands who shouldn't ever have to maintain their own websites in order to put beer (or honey-flavoured smoothies) on the table. There should be a friendly third party out there could take away the stress of e-commerce- oh if only such a third party existed :-). So then, under some stress, I ended up using the iTunes store, redeeming a gift card a colleague had generously given me. My reservations were two-fold: 1) the iTunes store files are proprietary and full of DRM rubbish that restrict my purchase so much that it's really no longer a purchase, more of a loan, and 2) only a measly 10% of the purchase price makes it to Tommy and his horses. The rest goes to Apple and their lawyers.
That's why I think it's brilliant that Canonical are launching the Ubuntu One Music Store: DRM-free music for the people, by the people. It's criminal that not only is Apple getting 90% of the purchase price of a DRM single, they want to cut it to 4%. I know where I'll be buying my music from.
Oh, and if you see Tommy any time soon, buy him a honey-flavoured smoothie from me. Just don't tell him I gave all his money to Steve Jobs.


  1. xkcd has a great cartoon on drm and how it encourages piracy:

  2. Sorry, but I don't think some of your criticisms of the iTunes Store are valid. Music files purchased from the iTunes Music Store are no longer DRM restricted like they used to be, but the AppleID of the purchaser is embedded in the file. The AAC files Apple now sells are no longer restricted to Apple devices. AAC is an industry standard (but is still proprietary) . I think it's unfortunate that Apple does not give the option of an open source format like Ogg Vorbis (yet what portable players can handle those). I'll point out however that the Ubuntu One Music Store will be selling music in mp3 format, which is proprietary and is not free either.

    I think to make a purchase from the store where the artist will get more for their work is very noble. Most references to the topic however state that Apple keeps 30% and the artist and record companies divide the rest. Some independent artists may get more exposure and make more money through the iTunes Store than they would if they did not sell through iTunes.

  3. Hi Hamish,
    Thanks for your comments. Which references refer to Apple keeping 30%? BBC, The Independent and The Times Online all refer to 90%:
    Even Macrumors and Macworld say Apple keeps 90%

    Good points about the proprietary file format. I'm looking forward to the day when I don't have to re-encode my ogg and ogv files to play them on my portable media device.

    This is my favourite 'production companies are out of control' cartoon at the moment:

  4. I think you are confusing the royalty rate issue and the portion of revenue Apple passes on to record companies who then pay royalties to artists. From the BBC ref above: "Apple pays an estimated 70% of digital music revenue to record companies which in turn pass on a percentage to artists. It is that percentage that is expected to be changed on Thursday." From the macworld reference, record companies are "widely believed to take around 70 percent of proceeds from the iTunes Stores".
    The argument was on who would pay for the increased royalties for artists and songwriters: the consumer, the record companies, or Apple.

    When the gizmodo article talks about 90% going to greedy sleezebags, they mean the record companies and music store owners combined, leaving artists with only 10%.