As far as I know, there are currently no online digital music retailers which satisfy my needs and wants as a consumer. They all have some curious and annoying restrictions, or a general lack of features and services.
A good online digital music retailer would let me download the music in several different formats and bitrates, like FLAC, mp3 VBR, mp3 320 kbps, and so forth. It would let me download the music as many times as I like. It would let me still download music I’ve purchased that may no longer be available to buy for others (as in, the artist / label might have deleted the release for some reason, or maybe not paid the renewal fee). It would let me sign into my account where I can conveniently access and download any music I’ve purchased, and it would let me log in and download music I’ve purchased on any different computers and IPs. It would let me transfer my music to DAPs, memory sticks, and let me burn it onto CD-Rs, ie. be DRM free. And it would have occasional sales.
A nice added bonus would be if you could access your music account and its content through your video game console, so you could be able to use your music in different rhythm games, or have it play through the in-game radio in a racing game.
I’m warming up to the idea of having media only digitally, having used gaming services like Valve’s Steam client and the Good Old Games site (GOG for short), both of which satisfy most of the criteria listed above. (You can’t be given the option to download games in different bitrates. That would be silly.) The site bandcamp is becoming popular, letting artists easily (and freely) sign up and sell their music and letting consumers download the music in a variety of formats. But a big problem is that there’s no account to sign into to easily access your past purchases so you’ll have to find the download links in your e-mail folder, and the download links will actually expire – so you’ll have to re-purchase your digital music if your hard drive gets wiped out. I think also you’ll be unable to download your purchase if the musician or label deletes it. Very un-cool.
A lot of retailers and corporations fight piracy by trying to make things inconvenient for both pirates and potential consumers alike. GOG and Steam, GOG in particular, try to attract consumers by making it as convenient as possible. Sure, I could get these games for free, but purchasing them means I can easily re-download the games whenever I want, and you’ll have easy access to various bonus features like the user manual and the soundtrack, you’ll get the latest iterations of the games when you download them, and being able to contact costumer support if anything’s wrong is always nice. Consumers might not mind paying for extra perks and the general convenience of it. But forcing them to jump through hoops and putting up silly restrictions might deter them. It certainly has deterred me.