This week we’ll examine impediments to accessing music in three realms: the digital, the fiscal, and the lithic.
On the digital front, Steve Jobs seems about to walk the talk with regard to getting rid of digital restriction management (DRM). Last week Apple sent word to iTunes content providers that soon they will be able to offer songs without iTunes DRM, and at higher quality. This would bring Apple closer to the ideal I outlined here in my first posting, where I suggested that the three most important criteria for online music purchases are ease, affordability, and choice of format.
There is no word of songs coming down in price, so it’s likely they’ll still be too expensive. And choice of formats is still limited. But a choice between mediocre and better than mediocre is at least something.
In that first post I also wrote of allofmp3.com which satisfied all three criteria admirably. Sadly, through no fault of its own, it has now slipped with regard to the first criteria, ease. The Russian Government is showing no signs of shutting down the company, despite pressure from the US government, acting on behalf of the RIAA. (Perhaps this is because allofmp3.com is perfectly legal in Russia, and extra-judicial solutions like assassination are reserved for critics of Putin.) What sort of screws were put to the credit card companies I don’t know, but they continue to disallow credit card purchasing from the site. I believe this started with the US, but recently I discovered that, as a Canadian, I also could not fund my account with a credit card.
So what to do? Because allofmp3.com is perfectly legal in Russia, and because it is perfectly legal for Canadian citizens to purchase from them, I was seriously pissed off by this interference of the corporatist power structure. Europeans can still use a credit card gateway, but this isn’t even presented as an option if you visit with a Canadian (and, I assume, American) ip address. So fine, I disguised my Canadian identity by using a European web proxy, and sure enough, I was offered the option. However, the payment processor refused to process the request.
The final option for funding our allofmp3.com accounts is to wire money to them. I was sufficiently peeved by this point to actually try this, though it seemed like overkill. As it turns out, it’s not that difficult. Select this option and the allofmp3.com site presents you with all the info you need to take to your credit union or bank. Mine charged me $20 Canadian for the wire, and allofmp3.com gave me a 20% bonus for transferring by wire. Since I wired $100 US, I actually wound up some cents ahead on the deal. And it was fun, since the address referred to in the wire information is in Latvia, and it all seemed sinisterly underworld, like I should have been wearing a trench coat and dark glasses.
But perhaps the most interesting example of restricting access to music that I’ve come across recently is the claim by a father and son team to have discovered a musical code locked in the very stones of Rosslyn Chapel, the mysterious church featured in The Da Vinci Code! This will be an interesting story to follow. Have they really discovered a piece of music, or are they discovering music in otherwise unmusical patterns?
Whatever the impediment imposed — digital, monetary, or pure, hard stone — if there’s music to be had, people will defeat the forces that interfere with its free expression. Let the music play!