Why the old-style record business is circling the drain

Last weekend I bought a CD in HMV’s sale, Yes’ “90125″, a record I owned on vinyl but a gap in my CD collection. When I tried to play it using the CD drive on my laptop, it was unlistenable, with horrible distorted buzzing sound all the way through.

I assumed the disk was faulty, took it back and HMV exchanged it without question. The replacement disk played without problems on the big stereo in the living room, with all that big 1980s Trevor Horn production reproduced perfectly. But when I tried to play it this morning on the computer in my home office, that distorted buzzing was back. Just like the first disk, and along with another album purchased at the same time, the record was effectively unplayable.

Turns out, after a little research in Google, that the reason that distorted buzzing was that they’re both crippled with DRM. Significantly neither disk carries the Compact Disk logo, so technically speaking neither are actually CDs, since their encoding is not compliant with the Compact Disk specification.

In the year 2013, when I purchase music, I don’t expect to have to pay twice just for the privilege of being able to listen to it in more than one room of the house. Since DRM has fallen out of favour even with the most clueless of labels I can only assume it’s old stock which should have been withdrawn from sale and ground up for use as road foundations in China. Most technically-savvy customers would consider format-shifting of legally-purchased music to be an basic consumer right in 2013, regardless of what Warner Bros’ lawyers would like the situation to be.

So what should I do? Return the two not-CDs and demand my money back, which is a bit of lose-lose situation since I won’t have the music and HMV won’t have my money. Or just go and do what everyone else would do and bittorrent the bloody things?

Yes, musicians. This is why people bittorrent rather than buy music legally. But I assume that most of you already know that.

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11 Responses to Why the old-style record business is circling the drain

  1. Ed says:

    I’ve got a few CDs that do that on my PC, but I never knew why. A lot of them seem to be Warner label releases, as far as I can recall. I’ve had ’90125′ on CD for some time, but it’s only on my latest PC (1-2 years old) that they sound like that. If I want to put them on my mp3 player, I have to use a different PC. Any idea why only certain players are susceptible?

  2. Tim Hall says:

    I’ve got an old USB external CD-Rom. Maybe I should see if they play on that?

  3. Sam Lewis says:

    I honestly think I had this problem with Dimmu Borgir’s latest album! Played fine on everything but iTunes couldn’t seem to read it to be imported :( So yeah, torrent helped out!

  4. Tim Hall says:

    Sam – Shows that DRM is no deterrant to piracy, and all it achieves is to bugger things up for lawful paying customers.

    One big reason the record industry is record industry is in the toilet right now is because they gambled their business on consumers accepting DRM, and lost.

  5. Chriz says:

    had the same problem with some of my so called Cds .. however I have found they play on my son’s laptop so we put them on there and burn a copy.

  6. Tim Hall says:

    Are they Warner Bros records?

    Some comment theads on Microsoft help forums suggest the problem is WB disks manufactured between about 2007 and 2009, which won’t play let alone rip on Windows 7. Seems to affect some but not all makes and models of PC DVD drives.

  7. Tim Hall says:

    Looks like HMV are going into administration tomorrow morning so taking the disks back is not going to be an option.

  8. Ed says:

    So it’s more likely to be a Windows 7 problem with such discs than the actual drive?

  9. Serdar says:

    Return them, hit amazon.co.uk, and buy a used copy of the earlier, non-DRM pressing.

  10. The Other Tim Hall says:

    I hit this (or at least something with the same symptoms) recently, and at the time had no idea what was going on. The “CD” did, however, rip on my iMac, even though Windows wouldn’t do anything helpful with it.

  11. John P says:

    Could you play them on your stereo and jack it into the computer for recording?
    I know it’s a bit old fashioned but it would work and any distortion will probably be less than the DRM buzz. Sometimes low tech just works better.