It's Bleeping Good
The features I want out of an online music store are:
- No DRM. At all. Seriously.
- MP3 encoded at a high bitrate (diskspace is cheap).
- Optional lossless encoding.
- Reasonable prices.
- Must be legit (rules out allofmp3 for example).
- Decent website with online previews.
- Appropriate embedded meta-data.
Bleep is a spin-off of the hugely influential electronic music label Warp Records. Hence the catalogue is heavy with Warp and similar electronic artists. Not the sort of thing you’re likely to hear on commercial radio.
The website is probably the least appealing thing about Bleep. It looks pretty — thanks to TDR design — but it’s a usability nightmare. No scroll bars, fixed layout, weird coverart-based navigation. However it is quite searchable and there are online previews of all songs in their entirety (but served up in 30 second chunks). Also, you can embed colour-coordinated previews in your own site, like this:
That’s a track from Autechre’s Confield, specifically chosen because 30 seconds is probably all you’re going be able to listen to. (That album is particularly impenetrable to mere mortals, although I am a big fan of some of their other stuff.)
I’d also like to see Bleep provide some user reviews, artist background info, and notable previous works. Preferably outsourced to another site that specialises in this stuff.
On the plus side, all tracks are available as MP3 encoded in LAME using the canonical
--alt-preset standard option. Some are also available with FLAC encoding, which is a nice touch. (Unfortunately FLAC doesn’t seem to be playable in iTunes yet.)
MP3 encoded albums are all US$9.95 from what I can see. FLAC encoding costs a little more. Individual tracks are also available, but I don’t know why you’d bother.
In the name of research I bought an album and EP. The purchase experience was quite pleasant although after concluding the paypal-based payment the download did not start automatically as promised. No worries though, there’s a downloads page where you can download all the songs you have paid for but not received yet.
I would like the ability to re-download purchases but Bleep does not seem to allow this. No matter, just burn a CD and keep it with all the other receipts.
The download is delivered as a big honkin’ zip file. You unzip, import to iTunes, sync to your iPod, and play happily ever after.
This is how music should be sold online. Recommended.