Platypodes: love the relevant avatarness
To chuck in my small soft plastic bag full of the maximum legal tender of 2 pence pieces...
$15-20 a CD? Who the hell pays that price unless they're seriously DESPERATE for a legal, CD-based copy of something that can't be found at a lower price elsewhere? I haven't bought in the last few years a disc that cost me more than £7 - which even at the height of the £:$ exchange rate is $14. OK, maybe once or twice I might have broken into double figures, but that was for something rare. And most CDs have 10 tracks as a MINIMUM, you may have noticed.
In a local closing down sale (FYI for rest of world: UK arm of Woolworths went kaput thanks to a convoluted credit crunch domino effect) I walked away with, over a few days browsing in different branches, more than 100
albums (some were multidisc) for £280. But even if I'd bought them at full price it would have been maybe £500-600 (which is a lot of money to me). Spending the equivalent of 15-20 USD on single disc albums simply isn't in my gameplan. (There's a couple of newer releases I got from there that are stickered between £10-15, which I picked up once the discount hit the 60-70% range; otherwise I would have either waited for it to not be hot-new-release, or just looked online to cheaper retailers). Spending that much money on discs is for mugs, because once you find retailers selling them to you at the lower prices and still, presumably, turning a profit, it becomes kind of clear just how much
of a massive
mark-up from wholesale is contained in the RRP/ARP/SRP.
That was something of a coup for me (OK, there were some gambles on cheap compilations and the like - but at 3 discs for £1.50, if the "60 classic hits!" turn out to be turkeys, it can either go and make more than that money for charity at a local summer fair, or become some attractive, low-cost postmodern drinks coasters; and I still got some absolute classic/essential stuff for chicken-feed prices). But a much more successful and ongoing retailer (HMV) a few weeks later had a "2 for £10" sale (or individually stickered between £6 and £8) where I also purchased a number of good discs - all either new ones that must have not sold well (probably overpriced at launch), copper-bottomed classics that I didn't yet have, or interesting strange things.
At these prices I'm happy to buy, because the artist and record company will have already got their money from the wholesaling of the material to the retailers, and the markup paid isn't so bad - it will hopefully be enough to still cover the upkeep of the store and staff wages, but without thickly lining the pockets of those commanding a media retailing empire. At full RRP? No chance. I'm going to the internet for that one - either to find it from Amazon, CDBaby, CDwow, HMV online, etc etc etc, OR to pirate it until I can do so.
I'm not a big pirating person any more. Now that I'm out of school/college and into a paying job, my legitimate music and video collection is starting to threaten the illegit one for size and breadth of subject, and even some of the ripped off stuff is being replaced (Studio Ghibli and their distributors particularly have the internet to thank for me buying pretty much their entire back catalogue; and probably for the campaign to have it released in the UK/US/Aus in the first place). But I'm not going to pay through the nose to do it.... so if there's something new I quite like the look of, but I can't find it affordably yet ... it's off to the torrents and file-finder sites for a bit of small-scale crookery.
Besides I'm a big subscriber to the "uncompressed PCM, properly laid out as a coherent album, something that you can physically touch and know won't disappear, can lend to a friend with some confidence, don't have to knob about with docks and cables to play it in the car, with some nice included high-rez artwork and possibly some lyrics and interesting info about the band" camp.
Have used iTunes on occasion, but only very, very grudgingly - because a band/label has for some reason (in at least one case, it's a matter of distribution cost as they have a small but committed fanbase and can't find a disc pressing plant that will turn out a low volume of high quality product affordably) turned exclusively to iTunes to distribute their songs, or have uploaded some cool stuff as part of an iT-exclusive promotional deal. And I've paid their quite frankly exhorbitant prices (it's 99p, or recently down to 79p in the UK, which I think is STILL over a dollar-a-track equivalent; work that out for a 16-track remix album and it's more than twice my usual limit), and had to suffer with sometimes plainly substandard compression quality too (sub-minidisc LP2, which is like the bare minimum in terms of acceptable "master copy" fidelity for me). And I've then gone and copied some stuff from my friends' iT libraries to make it up to myself... I've already paid quite a lot, so let's get something more like a realistic money's worth --- I mean, I haven't received anything except a datastream from them, and they haven't paid for conditioned storage space (though I know they'll have to have a big server farm to deal with the demand, most companies provide such FoC, and even 10Tb of storage - enough to hold 20,000 different titles UNCOMPRESSED (if we assume they're all ~50 minute albums, to make up the balance between 10-minute singles and multi-disc but single-jewel-case compilations), or a whole warehouse of discs if you assume 5~50 copies held in stock dependent on popularity - will quite comfortably fit inside a single-rack RAID server these days... you could operate the master store out of a solar-cell clad minivan in the colo's parking lot FFS).
(ripping off iTunes: burn a CDDA from iT, rip it back as MP3 at successively higher qualities until you can no longer hear a difference between them ... this was usually at ~192k for the better stuff. It only allows a certain number of copies of a CD to be burnt, but taking it across to a PC with Nero or a similar program removes this problem also)
DRM means little to me, as I've always come down on the side of either circumvention where the result is acceptable (e.g. the burn-rip workaround), buying a physical copy (the various aborted attempts to institute DRM on CDs subverts this somewhat, but we should note that they've always failed), or just getting a pirate version until the whole thing's blown over. It's seemed like a futile and unneccessary thing, and just a way of "mugging" those who don't know any better, i.e. anyone sucked in by the shiny apple adverts. And of keeping prices artificially high - because who are you going to buy from as an alternative, now we've hooked you in with a quite tightly tied player? (Luckily now that iPods can accept self-ripped CDs and all manner of random MP3s, it's not so much a problem if you don't mind sacrificing that promise of "any track in the world, instantly to your PMP" (lol, any... no i don't think so)). Hopefully with it's disappearance, some slightly more realistic market forces will prevail, and prices will crash just a bit. I'm highly dubious of El Steve's claims that iTunes just can't run at less than a 79 cent per track cost, and it would be more comfortable at 99 cents. Where's all the money going, man? I've rarely bought a physical CD (or tape) single that cost more than 99p per track, and their production costs are not significantly less than that for a full album (well maybe for tape, as more material has to run through the high-speed recording machine - but CDs are stamped). Which means if someone's bought a whole album off you, the extra cost is purely going to IP. Or in other words, profit of various kinds. Some of it deserved (artists, the parts of the record company and distribution chain - including apple - that actually scout artists, help them record, develop and promote their work, and get it to the consumers). Some of it not (massive company exec bonuses, the parts of record companies that sponsor junk like X-Factor and PopIdol while good artists who haven't been promo'd effectively are quietly dropped).
After all, AllofMP3.ru has been around for ages selling tracks at BELOW realistic prices (at 5p per song, and a tieried system of price by length and bitrate because the actual data transfer cost becomes an issue, you just know they're not paying royalties). Maybe some kind of medium can be struck?
Say at just below the "2 for £10" level, for the apocryphal 10-track album? How's about starting at 49p/track? Even then, you'll be able to milk people for about £1700 to "fill up" an OLD, sub-£100 20Gb device, if they don't already own any media they can use. (2x10^10 bytes / 5.5mb (2^20) per track (192kbit x 4 minutes) x 0.49). It's probably workable at 30p/track for larger capacity players. And you can then drop the price of music videos to £1 a time, or movies for £5... which drive demand a bit more than the current price structure, and will create a need for players with yet larger storage, so you can sell yet more overpriced hardware also.
(£1700 is about the middle of the range of money I consider buying a used car at... its about 10% of my gross salary. It's still a lot of cash.)
Argh, I've gone on far too long and I fear have forgotten the point I originally needed to make. But, anyway: SUBMIT
(EDIT: yeah, the tl;dr version --- piracy still has a reason, in that the prices are often overinflated. Though you can often - but not always - subvert the need for that by buying at a more realistic, supposedly "discount" (ie not as obscenely profitable) price from a different supplier. Forget gold; think more along the lines of more everyday commodities like food, electricity, alcohol/tobacco*, heating gas)
(* not essentials, but still things that people see as everyday essentials and will happily steal or buy by cheap black market routes if they can't afford inflated retail prices; given the commoditisation of music that you don't make yourself from its once-luxury status, we could maybe assume the same psychological and social mechanisms)
(--- placeholder for something i remembered and then forgot again... back to rebrowse the thread briefly --- )
^^^^ balls, I forget. Completely. It'll come back to me in about an hour when I'm up to my elbows in the guts of some dead piece of equipment on the other side of the site.
Other things that came to mind however:
A lot of artists release their stuff completely independently now. You can buy from their site and they send you a download, or even a CD / vinyl disc (!). Or offer it up free and ask for donations. Etc. I've had a few albums by such means. It's awesome. And not that expensive either. It somehow feels better, having previewed the work and liked it, or heard it elsewhere and gone "yeah, i gotta have that" and googled, to give up even the same money you might have in a brick and mortar store, but directly to the creator of the piece and have them directly (e) mail you the full work.
Re founding of the USA, the constitution, seperation of church and state or otherwise, I can only quote something I saw done as a demotivator on a pro-humanist forum (that had been linked to as an example of how extremism can exist in ALL beliefs, even non-beliefs): TREATY OF TRIPOLI, BITCH!
Internet monitoring for "copyright control" or otherwise. We must destroy this bullshit. It's tantamount to hacking by packet sniffing, and I'm sure that's illegal in all number of ways. Use the strongest crypto you can even for bullshit conversations about the weather and what groceries you need to buy, I guess, then they can't figure out your more subversive thoughts (man, I hate this president, I hope he's voted out...) as easily?
And the shutting down internet radio things - I've been wary of this sort of thing as a maybe backdoor reason for bringing in digital TV & radio for quite a while. Regular analogue TV & radio, at least in my area, is perfectly fine. A nice clear uncompressed 720x576 display (well ok, probably more like 540x576), or 15~19khz stereo feed on FM (dropping back to mono for slightly weak signals) which if it suffered interference, was mainly of an easy-to-ignore perceptually-insignificant (and for TV, purely-intraframe) white noise type. Digital's only boast over that is that it suffers no white noise interference, and has allegedly better resolution, and some data services. Oh, and it can fit a lot more channels into the same airspace. I suspect the resolution is either the same or lower for a lot of material, it suffers a HELL of a lot of nasty MPG artefacts, particularly interframe motion ones, sometime becomes unwatchable/nightmare fuel when the signal finally succumbs to interference that would have just been a little snowy on analogue, the sound (particularly for radio) is an awful, low-bitrate MP2 mess (15khz if you're lucky and all manner of compression and stereo image artefacts), and the data services are not definably better than what you got with Teletext or RDS. The whole "photos of the presenter or scenes from the webcam", etc promise for radio never came true - just a station logo and a readout of which show is on (not even a head-up of what song's being played), which you can figure out from the frequency/RDS name/channel number/jingles every 10 minutes anyway. Digital text is like old teletext, just prettier, somehow chunkier (ie less info on each screen), and slower. Plus, the majority of the new channels shoehorned into the digital bandwidth are utter trash. There's an interminable number repeating old shows made by other channels, of which maybe two are reliably watchable (Dave and Virgin1), and even so they have to further bulk themselves out with showing the same episode more than once in a day AND having a +1 companion. Lots of shopping channels, music, and other stuff no-one should really care about. All taking up bandwidth that the good ones (the doubles of existing analogue channels, their decent "3" and "4" counterparts (well, OK... BBC 3 & 4, and ITV2), non +1 versions of the good repeaters, and 24 hour news) could use instead, rather than being a macroblocked mess. When you count up the number of "new" good channels on digital, oddly it seems to work out to about the same as the number of inbetween analogue-channel-width bands (5 - as BBC3/4 only broadcast 12 hours a day, sharing with children's channels, they could all be glomped into one - all 4 only have about 6 hours of decent, non repeat material each anyway) that the digital multiplexes use. So we could have had these additions on analogue instead, with them maintaining decent per-channel viewing figures (wow, a lot of them have very low viewer numbers and have trouble making enough ad revenue to buy and show decent programs... and there's like 10x as many channels as we had 10 years ago... but the oldschool ones haven't lost even half their original audience... I wonder if there's any connection?), good image and good content quality. Pfeh.
However, any old johnny can set up a pirate radio or even TV station without a great deal of complicated equipment, you just need a source signal (composite video, or a soundwave) and an RF encoder (every VCR yet made, or one of those iPod adaptors, plus a suitable amp which can be homebuilt from - duh - Radio Shack components, and public-library schema... if you don't have a VCR or iTrip you can still make the encoder from parts, it's just more complex); I've even previously managed to broadcast a (weak ass) analogue TV signal from my DVD player via the VCR's RF modulator, a signal booster and a big wire loop. AM radio is even easier - an RF sinewave source and a circuit to gate it according to the input audio. Which makes for easy subversion of any ethnic group/music genre/spoken content type gaps in the commercial wavebands (cf the international-waters pirate stations of the UK & europe in the 60s), government or commercial forum censorship, or even out and out oppressive regiemes.
Not so much digital TV or radio, which go out on multiplexed signals and are found/indexed by a master signal broadcast from the same transmitting station. You can *only* get what the central transmitting consortium want you to choose from.
Now I've never been a big pirate radio listener, except late at night when the only thing that can keep your eyes open and focussed on the road is the never ending cascade of odd, badly-MC'd Bhangra and Drum'n'Bass bedroom stations that the car aerial starts picking up when going through an unfamiliar urban area. But I'm quite pleased that they exist. And even though pirate TV is little more than a legend/theory for most (outside of Waynes World), the possibility of it tweaks the pleasure gland of my civil liberties centre.
Apparently the interweb has taken over most of the functions of these stations. That's just not good. One traceable, easily blocked IP that people have to actively seek (so can even be blocked at THEIR end), vs a transmitter you can hide in the back of a minivan, shutdown and make "invisible" in a second (and drive quickly away) if you think you're being traced, and is instantly available and accidentally findable by anyone rolling through their radio band or retuning their TV? I'll throw my lot in with the talentless MC if you don't mind, rather than the reactionary blogger. I know which one's more likely to be going to jail and never heard from again, and be less obviously missing.