Grauw’s blog

Okay, so it was in all the papers and even on the news: Free Record Shop has started selling music online. But *by golly* what does their site suck! It’s ugly, a mess, and slow (nothing new, really). Oh, and it is also badly categorized and the only resort – the search function – works as crappy as it possibly can. And don’t even think ‘advanced search’ is any better. Wherever those 1.5 million of supposed setup-costs went to, they clearly didn’t go to the web designers. Take a look at this page by the way. FYI, that was 2002...

But, tough as I am, I won’t let that get to me and insist on downloading a few songs legally! So after a few minutes ploughing through the site, I finally found a few songs among my mp3’s which I can actually buy. Bah, they boast with ‘over 250.000 hits’ and still I can’t find the majority of what I looked for so far. In any case, the next step is to go to my shopping cart, register, and check out... or so I thought.

So here I am at the registration form. In the introductionary text of the form it says ‘’ instead of (?), and while everything is in Dutch the password field has the label ‘_chosen_password’, evidently some name only intended for internal use. Er, did you guys fire the frontend guy while he was right in the middle of translating the labels to Dutch or something? (Judging by the looks of the site they probably don’t have a frontend guy... -_-;;). Anyways, I filled everything in, pressed the ‘next’ button, and it says... Er is geen zoekterm opgegeven (‘no search term was given’). Repeatedly, after more tries. Arf, fuck this. I give up. Any random P2P network is a hundredfold easier to use than this.

Seems there is a job to be done here for Backbase *grin*! (that’s where I work ;p)

Ah well. I wasn’t looking too forward to downloading WMA’s anyway. If you ask me, the whole WMA protection thing is pointless. They restrict the number of computers you can play it on to only one (nice, so I can’t listen to my legally purchased songs at work?) (and what if I reinstall Windows?), and three MP3/WMA players, yet you can also burn it on a CD! Hello! So actually the only way to properly listen to my songs involves having to burn them on CD’s? Yuck, I can see the unorganized stacks of burned audio-CD’s already... They aren’t protected of course, so I could rip them again (which is legal). But that’s a lot of hassle, and all that to have my music collection I paid for on my work’s computer. Bah, I hate that.

I say yay to user-friendlyness, instead of making life uncomfortable for the user in fighting a battle they already lost. People who really want to download are going to do it anyway, nothing’s going to stop that. Or at least stuff like this isn’t :).

They just said on the news that the popularity of illegal downloads in the Netherlands dropped 30% mainly because of the emerging of legal alternatives (although I wonder which of the few online MP3 shops might then be that popular). Well duh! All these years the record companies have been complaining about illegal downloads, but there was never a good legal alternative. And as far as comfort is concerned, FRS shows there really still isn’t. Aside from that I have my doubts about the impact the record companies claim illegal downloads have on their CD sales, we’re in a recession after all, what I really don’t understand is why they couldn’t see that complaining is not the way to solve things? Instead they should just have kept up with the times and those legal alternatives should have been here years ago already. Napster was already 5 years ago, ya know...

To clarify, I am really am pro-legal downloads. I can already imagine some walhalla where I can easily search and select every mp3 I might be looking for, download them quickly without queues or whatever in guaranteed high quality. I’m entirely willing to pay money for that kind of service, and to the artists of course. It’s only a euro per song (if you ask me still pricey compared to what you pay for a real CD with booklet, etc., but alas), and I don’t download mp3’s that often anyway. It’s just that, they seem determined to make it as hard as possible for me to find a good legal alternative for P2P networks, and what there is available is pretty much still sub-standard. I guess the Netherlands being a small country and everything happening on a small national scale doesn’t help either.

But really, those legal alternatives could have a lot of points on which they can beat illegal downloads... Having a thorough and complete database, offering easy searching, quick downloading, high quality, legality, etc. Combine that with a nice broad media campaign, and you’ll probably be an instant success. So it’s a shame that hasn’t happened yet.

I guess I will just have to wait until iTunes goes live here in the Netherlands.