Insound are an online Vinyl / CD store that has recently branched out into selling digital downloads. What makes them special, however, is that only full albums are available. This is great to see at a time when downloads are driving the popularity of individual tracks. While getting single songs can have some benefits, it also degrades the value of the album. If fans are just buying tracks and shuffling them, albums cease to become relevant. This is bad. That’s why I have plenty of respect for Insound. They’ve even setup a ‘Save The Album’ website, which features videos from popular indie artists, championing this cause. Check it out!
As an indie music store, they have a range that caters to my tastes pretty perfectly. This is the kind of shop that puts Grizzly Bear and Battles on the front page, while requiring you to search if you want Kylie. They have an excellent selection of music, however, there’s a catch. Most of it isn’t available for download. Even a search for The Shins will come up blank. By all means, check if you’re favourite release is available, but unfortunately Insound’s digital catalogue is far too small to be a viable option. Hopefully in time it will expand.
The download method at Insound is quite simple really. You add the album to your cart, just like a real CD. The prices are reasonable, less than physical purchases, of course. Once you’ve got what you want, you go to checkout and pay for it just like anything else. It does require a credit card, but that’s not a problem for most. Afterwards, you’re given a link to a zip file with all the mp3s inside. Done! You can download the file up to three times in case you delete it.
These mp3s are unprotected and 192kbps, which is great, but also strikingly similar to what you’d find on a peer2peer network. And that’s a problem. Other than legality, this purchase offers nothing over downloading the files illegally. When you buy a CD, you at least get SOMETHING. It’s colourful, it’s physical and it’s yours to treasure. But when you buy digital, the experience is rather hollow. You merely get a few files, files which are quickly lost amongst your thousands of other files. It’s not a critique of Insound directly, but digital downloads in general. I think they either need to be made cheaper (so you feel like you gained something, rather than lost money) or perhaps you should get something more. Some scans of the liner notes wouldn’t have gone astray. Is that too much to ask?