Dave’s Lounge #65: Why You Shouldn’t Buy a Zune

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I didn't include the following rant in the show this week, because… well, because Dave's Lounge isn't really a ranting kind of show. Nevertheless, I felt this was something that needed to be said…

You may have heard about Zune, Microsoft's new portable media player that will attempt to knock the iPod off its perch. What you might not have heard was that Microsoft struck a deal with Universal Music Group, one of the Big Four major labels, that will pay UMG approximately one dollar for every Zune sold. This was a result of UMG's refusal to license its catalog to Microsoft without a deal like this in place, because as UMG Chairman and CEO Doug Morris put it, “These devices are just repositories for stolen music, and they all know it. So it's time to get paid for it.” Some reports indicate that similar deals with the other three major labels are forthcoming, though that hasn't been confirmed.

Honestly, I fail to see how anyone at Microsoft could think that this is a good precedent. All this deal does is legitimize the RIAA's stance that all online music is “stolen” music, which is about as far from the truth as you could imagine. Plus, this deal basically gives money to an organization that now makes a good portion of its money by extorting file sharers through lawsuits and intimidation. Paying for a Zune now means funding more RIAA attacks on consumer rights through any legal means they see fit.

And how much of that money will end up in the artists' hands? UMG says half, but the way most record deals are set up, that half will end up going toward recouping the advance, which means the bands themselves will never see a dime. And what about the indie artists, who get shafted by default because of this deal? Think about this: if you give a song to a friend through the Zune's wireless connection, the Zune software automatically puts a DRM wrapper on that song that prevents your friend from listening to it more than 3 times — even if the song is legitimately available for free on the Internet. If the song is available under a Creative Commons license, as Dave's Lounge is, the Zune might violate that license with this DRM.

I won't even begin to discuss Microsoft's stubborn refusal to include any sort of podcast support in any of its software…

Folks, if you were thinking about buying a Zune, please don't. We need to send a message to Microsoft that we refuse to give money to any business that shows no respect to its customers, even if it's just the tiniest fraction of each sale. The only way to stop the RIAA is to stop giving them money. Anything else is just lip service.

If you'd like an alternative, consider this. For the price of a new Zune, you can get a very capable 20GB Archos media player that can play MP3, Windows Media Audio and Video and DivX video, and still have enough left over for a one-year subscription to eMusic. And if you sign up for that eMusic account through any of the links on this site before November 21, that one year subscription will include 25 free downloads and 40 songs every month. That's 505 total downloads — all in DRM-free MP3 format, none of them “stolen.” Most importantly, though, your money will go to companies that respect your rights as a music lover.

Of course, if you already have an MP3 player, more power to you. Just remember that the Zune is not an upgrade. We should be moving forward, not backward. You can read more about this horrible Zune-Universal deal here.

Okay, rant over. On to the music, none of which is stolen, despite what Doug Morris would have you think…

Playlist for Dave's Lounge #65:

  1. 8mm, “No Way Back”
  2. Roisin Murphy, “If We're In Love”
  3. Yoko Solo, “These Are The Beeps” Available on eMusic.
  4. Mr. Frendo, “Musiqo”
  5. Molotov Elysian, “No More Deserts”
  6. Sunset Room, “Smoke” Buy this CD at CD Baby.

Enjoy the show!

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