I’ve loved Ben Kweller for years. One of my favorite shows was seeing him open for Gomez in Toronto five years ago. His new album, Go Fly a Kite, has been a release I’ve eagerly anticipated. After trying to get the album, I’m left wondering how the music industry can expect to compete with piracy when this is how they treat a paying customer.
First attempt: Rdio.com. I’ve been a paid subscriber of this service for a few months. I like the idea of music as a service. I like paying for music. Additionally, this option is more convenient than piracy.
Problem: the album can’t be streamed. OK, fine. I understand that streaming music services may not be a good source of income for artists/labels.
Second attempt: iTunes. It’s not my favorite option, but the one-click option is convenient.
Problem: the album isn’t available for purchase from iTunes. The rest of his catalog is there, but not the new album. OK, whatever.
Third attempt: Amazon. The album can be purchased via Amazon MP3. The process isn’t as convenient as iTunes, but it will have to do.
Problem: after clicking the purchase button I’m told that I need the Amazon MP3 Download app. I already have it installed, but OK. After installing it I am presented with a link to download the album. Clicking the link informs me that due to rights restrictions, the album can’t be downloaded in Canada. The annoyance of the artificially imposed region restriction is compounded by Amazon’s terrible user experience of burying the notification behind so many steps.
Fourth attempt: BenKweller.com. I searched for where else I could buy the album and ended up on the artist’s site. The price was reasonable and while the process wasn’t as convenient, I was happy to directly support an artist that I love.
Problem: I filled out the form, entered my credit card info, finalized the purchase, and the transaction was confirmed via email. However, I was unable to find where on the site I actually downloaded the album from. After spending too long searching I decided to use the contact form on the site to seek guidance. After submitting my request I was presented with: “An error occurred.” A day later I still have no idea where to download the album from.
In a world where a torrent is a few clicks away, this can’t be a sustainable strategy. I’m certain that in the long run we’ll look back on these days and laugh about how hard it was to get music legally. Because of the way they treat their customers, I’m also certain that the existing players will not be around then.