Defect-free music

The latest update of the Amarok music player – Linux’s answer to iTunes or Windows Media Player – includes an integrated Magnatune music store.

Magnatune is a record label that has taken a radically different approach to copyright licensing and digital restrictions, compared with its more mainstream, Defective By Design competitors. Its features (as summarised on their “What you get when you buy” page) include:

  • DRM-free downloads
  • CD-quality (lossless) downloads available, not just lossy MP3s
  • CD artwork supplied as a PDF, rather than just a single thumbnail image
  • Full-length sample tracks, not just 30-second snippets
  • Choose your own price for the download, with whatever you pay being split 50/50 between the label and the artist.
  • Most imaginatively of all, the label actively encourages sharing of music: you are permitted, and indeed actively encouraged, to pass the download details on to three friends.

Now it has to be said that, so far at least, much of the music on the site is, how can I put this, not really to my taste, and I was very unimpressed by a sample CD attached to a Linux magazine a few months ago. (It would be ungenerous to characterise much of it, as I did in a previous draft of this post, as “frankly bloody awful stuff by people you’ve never heard of”. Ungenerous, but not inaccurate.)

However, it’s a thoroughly praiseworthy venture, and the Amarok interface makes it much simpler to browse through Magnatune’s wares and identify items worth exploring further. As a result, I found a good album of Russian Orthodox church music which promptly became my first download from the site. Well worth a listen.

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