updated 01:00 pm EDT, Tue July 29, 2003
Last week Buy.com tried to burst into the online music sales scene, taking cues from Apple's successful iTunes Music Store. Like iTunes, it features no monthly subscription fees and charges a small fee to download a song.
BuyMusic.com claims to offer a low-priced song-download service said to be simple and reliable. Unfortunately, many users are encountering while using the service, according to USA Today:
But in an example of the technological trickiness involved in offering users the freedom they desire while giving music labels the protections they demand, early customers have found they can't transfer the tunes they buy on BuyMusic.com to digital portables.
The Mac-only iTunes has won raves for ease of use, both in burning CDs and transferring songs to Apple's iPod players. But BuyMusic's tracks have started out as unplayable, even on portables lent to the press in a promotional blitz.
The problem: Unlike MP3 music tracks plucked from the Net from pirate sites such as Kazaa, music on BuyMusic is encoded in Microsoft's Windows Media Audio format. The "digital rights management" coding limits what can be done with the files.
BuyMusic.com's tech support staff was of little help when contacted Thursday. An e-mail response read: "We are unable to provide technical assistance after you have downloaded the music ... to your primary computer. In addition, we are unable to credit you back for failed or damaged copies once you have successfully downloaded the music."
Apple has sold 6.5 million songs since April; BuyMusic won't release figures, but "it's not millions," Blum says.
Jody Whitesides, a musician, wrote to us about BuyMusic.com's acquisition of content:
I did a search for one of my old CD's that will be going onto iTunes and It turns out my CD was there on BuyMusic.com. As were the CD's of several other bands that I'm friends with. All of whom were not contacted about being placed for sale there.
Here's what I've deduced... BuyMusic.com (which I will refer to as BM) got their "vast" music library of 300,000 plus songs from a company called the Orchard. The Orchard is a distribution company that has consistently shafted artists by not paying them for CD's sold nor returning unsold CD's or canceling contracts. So, without the express consent of what is likely all of the Orchards catalog, BM has put it up for sale at the bargain price of $.79 a song.
So now, they can tout they're selling tracks at $.79 and they can say they have a library of music of over 300,000 songs. But what they don't tell you is that it comes from musicians/bands that were not asked for permission, and who will likely not see a penny of any sale made through BM. By their very own site policy they are committing copyright infringement. They have done this to lure PC/windows users to their site in hopes to sell the few major label aquired songs they do have, at a price that is much higher than Apple's $.99.
I'm currently looking into legal means to have my music removed from their site and strongly encourage users to not browse BM's site nor purchase from it.