PC music still doesn't play well

An article in the Washington Post takes on MusicMatch (one of the most popular Windows programs for managing music, and Apple's partner for their iPod device on the operating system) and BuyMusic.com as being misleading and difficult to use.

In particular, her calls attention to misleading advertising on the BuyMusic.com site and discusses the difficulties of dealing with the WMP 9 copy protection system.

An interesting part of this article is that it barely mentions the iPod, iTunes, and the iTunes Music Service. In fact, the only comparison is in the last paragraph, where he says:

"Both MusicMatch and BuyMusic.com trail far behind the best efforts on other platforms. Yet these products are somehow considered "good enough" for the vast majority of the market that uses Windows. That's really sad."

From this, we can take that he is probably a frustrated PC user and not a Macintosh user who's out to bash Windows and its cohorts (unlike some previous reviews).

Here are some of his complaints about BuyMusic.com:

  • Despite advertising that the songs start at $0.79 each, 150,000 of them (half) cost $0.99 (just like Apple's service) and 52,000 of them cost between $1.04 and $1.99 each.
  • Albums run from the advertised $7.95 to $12.95, when they are available (which isn't the case with every artist or album).
  • There were problems getting one of the five songs he "bought" to download correctly.
  • The usual complaints about license vs. purchase (both in terms of variable rights, shifting from computer to computer, and the fact that you never really purchase music in this model) However, it is the last two comments about licensing that concern me. One is that you can't back up your music. I've not heard of that, but I could imagine that it might occur if the music is locked to the computers UUID (a unique number generated when the computer is initially installed with Windows). When a hard drive kicks the bucket, or you re-install the operating system, it is common for this number to change, so if you restore during a disaster recovery, you might well lose your UUID and therefore the ability to copy your music back and make it work.

The second issue raised is moving the music from one PC to another. On the Macintosh, using iTunes, Apple allows you to authorize and de-authorize computers for the system. It's a bit clumsy because you have to be careful to de-authorize before you get rid of the older computer, lest you reduce your prescribed number of concurrently licensed machines from 3. However, there are still questions about how the authorization works and whether it survives a complete restore from backup or a partial restore (that would be reinstalling the operating system and then restoring up your preferences, etc.)

In the end, the author's final statement sums up the state of online music sales in general, and in the PC in particular in the short but accurate phrase, "That's really sad." I have to agree.