This Took An Hour And Fifteen Minutes To Write

Jan 26 2005

This made me more angry than anything has in a while. As the Scrobbler will attest, a huge chunk of my time is spent listening to YUKI. Her music consistently calms me, cheers me, anchors me, encourages me, and does all the other nice fluffy things music is supposed to do for people. I simply don’t get tired of listening to her. This is pretty impressive for a musician who only has two albums out. Well, she’s got a new album coming out. This is a major event for me. The prollem is as follows:

  1. I am a YUKI fan. I have bought both of her albums at ridiculously high Japanese prices, and have encouraged others to do so as well.
  2. I am not a criminal, or a pirate, or a person with ill intentions toward YUKI or her work.
  3. YUKI is not a criminal, or a jerk, or a person who has ill intentions toward me, any of her other fans, or our enjoyment of her work.
  4. Imagine I order YUKI’s new album, pay the 30+ ameribux for it, bounce around in my chair while I wait for it to arrive in the mail, and finally receive it.
  5. Now imagine I open the jewel case and remove the CD for the first time, like I have hundreds of times before, and insert it into my music device of choice.
  6. Guess what? The CD tray pops back out as if it’s disgusted by the vile thing I’ve inserted into it, or perhaps a useless disk full of gibberish files appears on my desktop, or some other result transpires that is not me listening to excellent new YUKI tracks that will permeate my life for years to come.
  7. “Double-you tee eff?”, you might ask. What happened to giving someone money and getting a product in return? Well, you see, my music device of choice happens to be a Macintosh computer. I use my Mac for everything. In the year 2005 it’s silly to use an old-fashioned CD player when you could have the much richer and more flexible music-listening experience offered by personal computers, particularly Macs. Yeah, well, it just doesn’t work in a Mac.
  8. I rarely feel like giving people the finger. I’m usually vehemently opposed to giving people the finger. I so want to go up to the dorks at Sony Music Entertainment who are responsible for this and flip them two enormous simultaneous birds right about now. “Yes, the Macintosh community thanks you. All 2%-market-share, supposedly-not-big-enough-of-a-profit-generator-to-worry-about disposable income stylish hip music and entertainment loving digital lifestyle living twenty five freakin’ million of us thank you very much.”
  9. Okay. So, if at this point I’ve already paid for the nearly useless plastic shard that might actually have some YUKI music digitally smudged on it and that would probably pass for a CD were you to wave it in front of someone’s face, I might as well see what I can do about getting the frickin’ music off it somehow. Maybe I’m feeling masochistic, and I’ll harass some people at work to see if anyone actually has a Windows box sitting around somewhere.
  10. Okay, I find a Windows box, I muster up my patience, I sit down in front of it and I insert the disc. I get… MAGIQLIP. What the hell is MAGIQLIP? It’s some piece of crap software Sony threw together to decode and play the thing I just wasted $35 on.
  11. Here’s how it works. When you put in the disc, your computer connects to the internet, uploads an identifier unique to your copy of the disc to Sony’s server (assuming the server is up today), and downloads a key to let you decode the (already compressed) music files hiding on the disc. Let me run that by you again. Your computer connects to the internet and exchanges data with a Sony server so that you can listen to a pop song on a physical music album you bought with cash money.
  12. You listen to it in a crappy player cobbled together by Sony underling coders without a whit of user interface humanity.
  13. Actually, no, wait, you actually don’t listen to it at all, because you don’t live in Japan; you live in some barbarian country where it’s not possible to sign up for the online service that lets you listen to the CD you just bought.
  14. Okay, so, say I move back to Japan because, dang, I really like YUKI and I just have to hear this album. Then I can listen to it. Not in iTunes, or Winamp, or XMMS, or any other player of my choice. I don’t hear the CD-quality tracks hidden elsewhere on the disc; I hear versions compressed with settings based on Sony’s whims. I don’t play it on my Mac, or my Linux box, or anything but a Windows box (or a crappy old-fashioned CD player, something I haven’t owned since iTunes was still called SoundJam MP). I can’t put it on my iPod. I can’t do anything but sit back and wonder why Sony hates me.
  15. It gets worse. So I copy the songs to the Wintel’s hard drive using my unique identifier and the downloaded decoder key, and for some reason later I want to listen on a different machine, or the hard drive blows up, or whatever. I can copy the songs from the CD again… for 200 yen each. I hope by now you’re as flabbergasted as I am.
  16. Think about how I, a paying customer, have been treated by Sony in this hypothetical story. Now, I guarantee you that mere days after the album is released there will be a pirate version available online somewhere. Even if someone has to use an analog recording from an old-fashioned CD player, it’ll get out there. That means anyone could get a decent copy of the music to use as they please, to play in any player they want, to put on their iPod, whatever, for free. As soon as one person has gone through the hassle of finagling the music into a usable format, everyone else gets the benefits for free. Any way you look at it, the pirate wins and the customer loses. My first instinct was to intentionally pirate the album and write YUKI a letter explaining why I’d done so. Since then Sean has informed me that he can probably get me a legitimate Taiwanese pressing, which will be an actual standards-compliant Compact Disc and with which I can do as I please. That would at least give YUKI and her band some of the money they deserve for creating excellent music; I know painfully well that it’s not their fault directly. Maybe in fantasy idealism world it’ll boost sales of the open Taiwanese version versus the locked-down Japanese version enough to convince Sony to stop treating consumers like garbage. Maybe five weeks from now I’ll have new YUKI music on my iPod, I’ll be listening to it blissfully, and I’ll have forgotten about how for a whole day I couldn’t even bear to listen to one of my favorite musicians because of her tenuous association with such nonsense.

Oh, the new album is entitled joy.