Why does hi-def equal high price?
Through a random series of links, I read about a new service called MusicGiants, which recently opened its “high definition” digital music service. The online store offers tracks in Windows Media Lossless format (450 – 1100 kbps) instead of selling compressed MP3, WMA, or AAC tracks, as other music services do.
Good idea. On audiophile-quality equipment (including a Windows Media Center PC), I can hear the noticeable difference between a 128K MP3 and an original CD or a track ripped in lossless format. Those lossy files are fine on a portable player, but not in my living room.
And I really wanted to like MusicGiants. But after reviewing the terms of the deal, I give it a big thumbs down. What’s not to like? Plenty:
- The software only runs on Windows XP or Windows 2000. Not a deal-breaker for me, but still, not a user-friendly approach.
- There’s a $50 annual fee. The fee’s waived if you buy $250 worth of music per year, and you get a credit equal to the value of the fee for the first year, but still…
- Each track costs $1.29. An entire album costs $15.29. By contrast, I just paid $10.99 for the new Neil Young album, Prairie Wind, from Amazon.com. I regularly buy used CDs from Half.com for much less. Charging this price is ridiculous. Especially when …
- The tracks are “protected” with Windows Digital Rights Management. In exchange for accepting the restrictions on my right to listen to the music I’ve purchased, I should get a hefty discount, not pay a premium.
In fairness to the company, they’re probably not setting the price. Since they have deals with the big record labels, they’re not going to get a deal that’s any better than Steve Jobs got.
But then I read this profile of the company in Business Week:-Is This Digital Music’s Future? And I think the company may be truly clueless:
That’s why MusicGiants plans to sell a $9,500, 400-gigabyte device called the SoundVault that would sit in the stereo cabinet, just like a CD-player or receiver. (The package includes hardware, a high-end sound processing card, and networking gear.) That way, MusicGiants’ customers could bypass their PCs and load songs directly into their living room stereo. “It’s hard to sell gas, if no one has a car,” says [founder and CEO Scott] Bahneman, who hopes to get out of the hardware business as soon as other gear starts to appear.
$9500? And then another $6000 to fill it up? Please send me a bag of whatever this guy’s smoking, because it must be truly mind-bending shit. If anyone out there is willing to pay 15 grand for this product, I’m in the wrong business. I can build a super high-end Media Center system and fill it with perfectly legal lossless music for … oh, let’s say about $5000-6000. And it would also replace the TiVo and the DVD player and do digital photography too. If I can sell one or two of these babies per month for the price that these guys want to charge, I can make a pretty fabulous living.
Anyone want to take bets on how long this company lasts?
[Cross-posted at Ed Bott's Windows Expertise.]