A brief look at the current prices of some of the longest DRM-free music mp3s on the marketplace at two major vendors, and why you should or should not buy them from either vendor based strictly on price.
Today we compare some of the longest DRM-free offerings of Amazon and ShockHound, in an attempt to completely fill an iPod nano with as few songs as possible. (You guys remember ShockHound, right? Hot Topic Inc’s scrappy DRM-free MP3 site that launched last fall, we hosted that party at the Troubadour with Titus Andronicus and No Age, yours truly was mumbling belligerently onstage briefly…ringing any bells? No?) Turns out maybe I should have added a clause to that good ol’ ShockHound contract, because all of the suddenly I’m giving them mad publicity today.
I was shopping around for Miles Davis mp3s out of curiosity yesterday morning, and I discovered that one can in essence buy a $20 album for less than two bucks, once you figure out who’s got what tagged “Album Only”. (N/B: You are an absolute fool not to download both tracks off Pangaea below for a whopping $1.98, but I’ll save the speech as tastes differ in these waters.) Many commercial digital offerings on the market will throw one or two songs into the dreaded “Album Only” category, rendering your digi-album or playlist incomplete unless you kowtow to the ugly ploy which forces you to buy a full album at a higher price just for one song (how very 20th century). Well, fuck that. As you’ll soon see, the labels don’t even properly manage “Album Only” tracks on a vendor-by-vendor basis.
Why the long songs?
After I’d finished with Miles, I stuck with very lengthy selections for this exercise in order to see who was pricing on a weighted scale based on song length (Amazon), and who was foolishly giving away 45-minute 80mb files for 99cents (both, to my surprise). Unfortunately you still can’t buy something like the hour-long opus Sex by The Necks anywhere digitally (and jesus! I’m holding onto that CD, because the fucker is apparently selling for $36 retail, go figure); nonetheless, I feel I’ve managed to amass a somewhat well-rounded cross-section of ridiculously long mp3s below. Note that every so often I threw a curve ball just to gauge the libraries of both vendors.
Regarding MP3 Quality
Amazon claims to have 256kbps mp3s; Shockhound claims 192kbps minimum. So both of these options already beat the pants off of iTunes (128kb with DRM) and iTunes Plus (256kb DRM-free - but AAC, not mp3, not exactly universal out of the box and often pricier to boot).
WITHOUT FURTHER ADO…
|BUY IT AT AMAZON|
|Miles Davis||Pangaea||Zimbabwe||41:49||$0.99||$18.99 (Album Only)|
|Miles Davis||Pangaea||Gondwana||46:51||$0.99||$18.99 (Album Only)|
|Frank Zappa||Disconnected Synapses||King Kong||31:38||$0.99||NZ (No Zappa!)|
|Metallica||Ride The Lightning||The Call of Ktulu||8:53||$0.99||$9.99 (Album Only)|
|Tortoise||TNT||Everglade||8:45||$0.99||NT (Seriously No Tortoise?!)|
|Jaco Pastorius||Word of Mouth||Three Views of a Secret||5:55||$0.99||$9.99 (Album Only)|
|Can||Tago Mago||Halleluwah||18:28||$2.90||NC (No Can! weak)|
|BUY IT AT SHOCKHOUND|
|John Coltrane||Ascension||Edition II||40:56||$7.99 (Album Only)||$0.99|
|John Coltrane||Ascension||Edition I||38:30||$7.99 (Album Only)||$0.99|
|Brian Eno||Ambient 1/Music For Airports||1/1||17:21||$2.90||$0.99|
|Jethro Tull||Thick as a Brick||Part 1||22:40||$3.87||$0.99|
|Jethro Tull||Thick as a Brick||Part 2||21:09||$3.87||$0.99|
|Rush||2112||2112||20:32||$7.97 (Album Only)||$0.99|
|Charles Mingus||Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus||I X Love||7:41||$7.99 (Album Only)||$0.99|
|The Who||Tommy||Underture||10:09||$10.97 (Album Only)||$0.99|
|The Who||Tommy (Deluxe)||Underture||10:03||$14.19 (Album Only)||$0.99|
|The Jimi Hendrix Experience||Electric Ladyland||Voodoo Chile||14:59||$9.49 (Album Only)||$0.99|
|The Jimi Hendrix Experience||Electric Ladyland||1983… (A Merman I Should Turn To Be)||13:39||$9.49 (Album Only)||$0.99|
|Pat Metheny||Works||Every Day (I Thank You)||13:17||$9.49 (Album Only)||$0.99|
|Sonny Rollins & Thelonious Monk||Prestige Profiles: Sonny Rollins||More Than You Know||10:48||$11.98 (Album Only)||$0.99|
|Sonny Rollins||Prestige Profiles: Sonny Rollins||Tenor Madness||12:18||$11.98 (Album Only)||$0.99|
|Sonny Rollins||Prestige Profiles: Sonny Rollins||Moritat||10:04||$11.98 (Album Only)||$0.99|
|Fela Kuti||Sorrow, Tears & Blood||Sorrow, Tears & Blood||10:16||$9.49 (Album Only)||$0.99|
|Sun Ra||Space Is the Place||Space Is the Place||21:14||$9.49 (Album Only)||$0.99|
|Pharoah Sanders||Karma||The Creator Has A Master Plan||32:47||$9.49 (Album Only)||$0.99|
|BUY IT AT EITHER|
|Miles Davis||A Tribute to Jack Johnson||Right Off||26:55||$0.99||$0.99|
|Miles Davis||Bitches Brew||Pharaoh’s Dance||20:06||$0.99||$0.99|
|Miles Davis||In a Silent Way||Shhh/Peaceful||18:16||$0.99||$0.99|
|Yes||Relayer||To Be Over||9:05||$0.99||$0.99|
|Serge Gainsbourg||L’Histoire De Melody Nelson||Cargo Culte||7:38||$0.99||$0.99|
|BUY IT AT NEITHER|
|Black Renaissance (Harry Whitaker)||Black Renaissance: Body, Mind and Spirit||Black Renaissance||23:40||NBR (No…)||NBR (Ditto.)|
|Ornette Coleman||Free Jazz||Free Jazz||37:04||$11.49 (Album Only)||$13.99 (Album Only)|
|Fela Kuti||Roforofo Fight / The Fela Singles||Go Slow||17:22||$9.49 (Album Only)||NA (unfathomably weak Fela library)|
|Jaco Pastorius||Word of Mouth||Liberty City||11:57||$9.99 (Album Only)||$9.99 (Album Only)|
|Bill Cosby||Wonderfulness||Tonsils||15:07||NA||$9.99 (Album Only)|
|R Kelly||Trapped in the Closet||Chapters 1-5||16:34||$7.92 (Album Only)||$7.99 (Album Only)|
|Yes||Relayer||The Gates Of Delerium||21:50||$9.99 (Album Only)||$9.99 (Album Only)|
|Yes||The Yes Album||Perpetual Change||(Note: Way too fucking confusing, this one, with the multiple releases and wavering published running time between 8-14 minutes. Suffice say discrepancies exist.)|
|The Grateful Dead||Note: All Dead files appear synced across the board, generally $0.99 with the occasional “Album Only” thrown in. I found the pointed absence of a digitized One From The Vault at both e-tailers surprising.|
So there you have it. Those prices are valid as of January 27, 2009, and big labels are clearly still shooting themselves in the foot. By not forcing the same tracks to be “album only” across the board, the policy becomes a laughable joke. Granted, most or all of the above is back catalog, but still: Who’s managing what out there!? And now please excuse me, for I’m off to cherry-pick some more of that sweet, sweet fruit before one or more of our label contacts reads this, flips out and yanks the goods.