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UW Free Music Downloads October 11, 2006

Posted by gordonwatts in university.

Last year, if you were a student, you had free access to Napster. This year they have partnered with a company called CTRAX. And people like me can sign up for 6 bucks a month. Not a bad deal until I read the fine print. I can’t download anything to my portable media player (I’ve got a wma player)! The thing I love, however, from the point of view of students, is that Macs and, specifically, iPods, are not supported. Even if you buy the tracks, you can’t use them on your iPod. Considering Apple has cornered the market this makes this service of limited use to most UW students, I suspect.

An article I saw a while back on ars-technica pretty much sums this up. And where I think this deal is going to end up going:

I doubt it. The University of Rochester, which was one of the first schools to get on board with Napster, conducted a survey last fall (PDF) that cast some light on how Napster use fares on campus. To refresh your memory, Napster’s campus deals typically feature streaming audio and so-called tethered downloads, among other things. Tethered downloads are music files that users can store on their own computers, but those files cannot be transferred to a portable device, nor can they be burned to a CD. They also stop being accessible once a student is no longer a Napster subscriber. Students have to pay extra to burn songs to CDs, or keep songs beyond their time at school.

How’s  it going? Napster is used as a streaming audio service, and that’s about it. Of the nearly 350 students surveyed, not one of them actually bought a song off Napster. They’ll stream music and some will use tethered downloads, but no one is buying. Let me rephrase that: no one is buying from Napster. 56 percent of students are turning to other services when it’s time to buy music. Of those, 71 percent are buying from the iTunes Music Store.

Note that last line — when people purchase music they go to the iTunes store. Why? Because an iPod is what everyone has! Yes, it is a monopoly, but there it is; it is reality. Of course, I say this, but I have a Gigabeat and a subscription to Yahoo and I love it. You can not convince me that purchasing music is better than renting it. I just wish their music selection was a bit bigger (like the recent Bettie Serveert album).

You know what we need? When you purchase a song you should get it, automatically, in all formats. If I have a iPod and I buy a song with DRM, and then later get a WMA player I should automatically get the same song. And future formats too.

Of course, that won’t happen; no one wants that to happen! 🙂 So frustrating.



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