DRM-free downloads in the UK, redux: hooray for Play.com

My ceaseless quest for DRM-free mp3 download files in the UK appears to be over! A while back I tested Amazon’s mp3 store, which was fine except that you have to be in America. Fail. However, Play.com have just opened a similar store in the UK. As usual, my canonical test song for these things is Feelin’ Good by Nina Simone, and…I’ve just bought it from Play. As before, I have a list of requirements for these services:

  • I can download one track, instead of a whole album; I don’t want ten Nina Simone songs, I just want the one I’m looking for - PASS
  • No DRM. None. I don’t mind what the format is, if there’s no DRM, as long as it can be played on Linux (which is pretty much everything). Bonus points for oggs. Half a bonus point for just plain mp3. - PASS
  • A track costs a pound or less. I’m not paying more than a quid for one song. - PASS (99c is about 50p)
  • I feel comfortable putting my credit card number into the site. This means, in practice, that if it’s called something like mp3downloads.haxx0r.ru, I am not interested. - PASS
  • I can just buy a song by putting my credit card number in and getting it for download. I don’t need to sign up for an account, give them all my details, none of that. - FAIL
  • My music tastes aren’t very eclectic, so I’d expect the service to carry most of what I’d want to listen to. This means that a service for one label alone isn’t really what I want. I don’t want to discover new music with this; I want to get the stuff I already know about and want to listen to. - PASS
  • I’ll get, probably, about five songs a year. So a subscription service is out, especially since with most of them your music stops working when you unsubscribe. - PASS

As with Amazon, Play fail on the “don’t need an account” idea. However, there are two extra thoughts concerning that:

  1. They let you re-download the track later (an indeterminate number of times, depending on the record company) if you lose it or delete it. This is a good feature, and I can’t think of a decent way of doing it without some sort of authorisation process.
  2. I have mailed them with a suggestion. If someone’s just buying downloads, why not have a “buy this without signing up” button, which just asks you for all the information that’s required on the “buy it” screen? (You can’t just enter a CC number; they need billing address and so on for the credit card companies, more’s the pity.) Then, quietly sign them up for an account under the covers, and when you send the “you have bought a download, go here to download it” email, say “oh, and we signed you up for an account, with password GF78F\$0.Fsf;” and they can use it or not care. No idea whether the Play people will take this suggestion or not, though.

Anyway, it works. I can get songs and listen to them. Well done, Play. That will do nicely.

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