JB Hi-fi’s music download service is one of many run by Destra. Destra don’t have a store of their own, however they provide the catalogue and back-end for anyone else wanting to set one up. Their customers include other big stores such as Harvey Norman’s and ABC’s. It’s quite an intelligent business model because it allows them to build off the brand names of other franchises. One downside of this is that other than the interface, all the Destra stores are pretty much identical. So while we appear to have some choice in this market, we don’t.
There’s no denying that JB Hi-fi shops have become a great place to find music. They’ve got a huge range, consistently lower prices and these days there’s always one nearby. Not only this, but they are beginning to rival smaller, independent retailers by stocking more obscure releases.
Sadly, however, anyone thinking they’ll have access to this expansive catalogue in digital format will be disappointed. You see, other than the name, this digital store holds no relation to JB Hi-fi stores. The range, while large, is mostly mainstream and ‘Top 40’ stuff. For anyone who’s become used to JB Hi-fi’s reputation, this is a bit of a let down. Still, its not all bad. You should be able find any artist who is relatively popular and the occasion smaller local release will also pop up.
I’m not 100% of this, but I think you can buy vouchers, similar to iTunes ones in JB Hi-fi stores. Otherwise, you can always buy online. Thankfully, they have included Paypal, which makes paying a breeze for those who aren’t fans of using their credit cards. You can either buy an online voucher or pay for each item directly. Be sure to do the latter or you may end up with $1.50 useless credit like I did.
Like all digital download stores, JB Hi-fi has a rather rigid price structure, with standard prices for tracks and flat rates for albums. However, whereas other stores might offer the occasional variation, JB Hi-fi is rock solid. Each track is $1.69 and any album with ten or more tracks is $16.99. No exceptions (that I saw). This is great news for fans of Explosions in the Sky, wishing to pick up an album for under $10, but to me it seems lazy. Either they don’t care or haven’t put any thought into it, neither of which instils much confidence.
For the most part, JB Hi-fi sells their songs in Microsoft’s protected WMA format. This is the most common way of doing things and also the most controversial. The idea of being restricted to Window’s Media Player, required to download licenses and limited in how I used the files certainly didn’t appeal to me. I joined the masses in demanding its demise. But maybe, just maybe, I was complaining about nothing. Maybe things would all go nice and smoothly. Ha!
I downloaded one song as a test. Getting it was easy enough, listening to it was another matter. First I had to acquire a license. This failed. I was then told I needed a security upgrade. Which I got. Then I reloaded the song and was told the license for this song had already been issued and I’d have to do it again. These messages just kept on coming and kept on failing. I even tried redownloading it as well as using another computer, all to no avail. In the end I gave up. I had paid $1.69 for a useless piece of code. I couldn’t help but laugh at how dismally it had gone. Imagine how disappointing it would have been for someone who was actually eager to hear their newly PURCHASED music.
But the woes didn’t end there. JB Hi-fi also sells some music as unprotected mp3’s (though they are fingerprinted so they can track who spreads them – scary). This is a good sign and it seems as if they are trying to move more of their collection to this format. I bought an EP worth of mp3s and everything seemed to go fine. That was until I got to the last track and found it was corrupted. In other words, unlistenable. I sent an email to support, but got no reply. I gave up. JB Hi-fi sure weren’t making a very good impression on me.
Yet another problem with JB Hi-fi is that after you’ve bought your files, actually downloading them can be quite a hassle. They are all collected nicely in the ‘My Media’ section, allowing you to easily see and reacquire them, however, you must download each individually. When you have a number of files (like an album), this can get annoyingly tedious, especially since the page reloads each time you click one. It really makes you appreciate the ease of the eMusic and iTunes download managers.
I almost feel sorry for JB Hi-fi’s music store. The problems I encountered are probably incredibly rare, and in the case of the WMA file, possibly my fault, but it’s a painful reminder of the potential hassles associated with buying songs online. Three weeks later I managed to get my song playing and the corrupted file had been fixed, but it doesn’t change the fact that they messed up in the first place. The only really positive feature of this store is the inclusion of Paypal, which while handy, is always bypassable and isn’t really a unique feature. Sadly, I can’t recommend this service, other than as a last resort.
Next: The rest