Digital Music: Format

If you’re new to buying digital music, you’ll want to pay very close attention to what format it is. This will determine what players it will work on and what you’re allowed to do with it. The ideal format to look out for is plain MP3s, however sadly most digital music is sold in other formats, along with protection. Basically, the record label fat cats don’t want you spreading the music you just bought (fair enough) so they add protection which restricts what you can do with it (not fair). All in all, this punishes those who do the right thing by buying their music legally.

There are two mains types of protection. First is Apple’s method, where files are sold in AAC format, which will only work on iTunes and iPods. This is what you get from the iTunes music store. All other stores selling protected files must use the other type of protection, ie Microsoft’s method. This gives you files in WMA format with DRM (Digital Rights Management) protection. Apples method works smoothly, but limits you to their products, while Microsoft’s method is more flexible, but unreliable. In other words, they’re both bad. It’s in your best interest to avoid buying protected music whenever possible.

Best Performer: eMusic

All of eMusic’s songs are unprotected. No exceptions. This puts it leaps and bounds ahead of the others. You are given regular MP3s which can be put on your iPod as well as every other MP3 player on the planet. It’s as it should be.

Runner Up: 7digital

7Digital gets an honourable mention because it is clear that whenever possible, they do their best to offer the files in an unprotected format. In most cases it is not the store who decides whether the music is protected or not, so it is hardly fair criticise them (though they do play their part). On top of this, 7Digital offers many files in multiple formats and at various levels of quality, allowing you to choose the one that suits you best.

What’s Needed:

For starters, protection needs to be removed completely. Illegal file sharing will take place regardless, so there’s no point making the legal option any more difficult. Thankfully the backlash from consumers is starting to turn things around, and soon this dream will be a reality. Secondly, other stores should take 7Digital’s example in offering multiple choices in file format and quality. In one hand I might want small MP3s to cram onto my player, but also high quality FLAC files to enjoy at home. When you buy a CD you can have both. There’s no reason why digital music shouldn’t be the same.

1 comment:

Ann said...

Many a times you may want to remove DRM from your iTunes music collection for the simple reason that you want to play the songs that you legally purchased over the internet to work in your home-thearte system or just in any other player other than your iPod and iTunes.

When you legally download music from services such as iTunes and Musicmatch Jukebox, the files are protected by Digital Rights Management (DRM). This prevents you from playing the music on unsupported players. I use MelodyCan software ( to remove protection. But remember distributing these files is illegal.

Well, usually you can't- why? Because the songs you purchased are DRM protected, that means you can only listen to them on specific computers and devices. For most folks the limits of a few computers or devices are fine, but for the gadget geek- nope, we have too many computers and devices. It would be like buying a DVD but only being able to watch it in some rooms, or only some TVs.

Now to be clear, this isn't a way to take music you bought and give it to someone else, this is so you can listen to your own purchased music on other systems or devices. In fact, your personal info is still in the file.