A Short Survey of Music Retail

On Wednesday I went to a fantastic gig by KT Tunstall. I had already listened to (and mostly liked) her new album via Spotify but the concert confirmed that this was music worth owning (such an outmoded concept!). Here is a short survey of a consumer’s music purchasing options as of this week:

  • The cheapest price for a physical CD was £8.49 at Amazon. Spotify means I have no requirement for the instant gratification afforded by downloads and a CD also provides the highest fidelity with no worry about digital loss, but there is a lifetime storage cost of such low density physical media.
  • Amazon will also sell me the same album in 256kbps MP3 format for £7.49.
  • 7digital are a competing digital download service and the price was £7.99. I was impressed with their “digital locker” feature which allows repeat downloads of your purchases, automatically providing an offsite backup. The files were also encoded at the higher rate of 320kbps and can be downloaded as a zipfile in your web browser, unlike Amazon which requires you to use a separate application.
  • For an iTunes user the iTunes store is arguably the most convenient method of buying music, and the price matches 7digital, £7.99. Like Amazon there is no option to re-download and the bitrate is the lower-but-probably-not-noticeable, 256kbps. The store is so popular I am assuming that in the long term there should be no significance attached to the files being in the AAC format instead of MP3.

Having enjoyed KT providing some context for the songs on the new album I also looked to see if any store would provide me with electronic sleeve notes. iTunes offers a digital version of the DVD (for the same price as Amazon charges for physical media) but no store offered any non-music extras.

Conclusion? I decided 7digital offered the best combination of convenience, durability, quality and price because physical storage space is at a premium in a flat, and good off-site backup is a significant cost.