Purchase a CD or Buy It on iTunes?
April 21, 2016 12:20 PM   Subscribe

Should I buy a CD or just DL the album from iTunes??

Just curious, in the past I have ripped all of my CDs and imported them to iTunes (I keep some of the CDs, but keep all of the ripped mp3 files).

I want to buy a couple of albums from some local artists that I like soon and just assumed I would buy the CD, rip them and use them in iTunes, etc. However, their albums are on iTunes, so I am wondering if I should just purchase them on iTunes initially. This got me thinking...what are the restrictions of iTunes purchased music? Can't they only be played on 3 computers or something like that? We have 4 computers at the house and I have another 2 at work. Would it be better for me to buy and rip? And I don't have a lot of nostalgia of having the physical cd (and I don't even have a cd player at home to play them - outside of the dvd burner on my desktop computer at work).

Just curious...
posted by dbirchum to Technology (21 answers total)
Some music (maybe all) from the iTunes store has DRM, and you can sign in your Apple ID on five devices which includes your phone/tablet. Theoretically it's cleaner to get the digital copy vs burning, but I'd ask if they have a Bandcamp or other DRM-free way of selling you the files if that's what you want.

Having said that I have boxes of CDs I bought from indie artists that got opened, ripped, and put back in the case.
posted by a halcyon day at 12:25 PM on April 21, 2016 [3 favorites]

Music purchased from iTunes hasn't included DRM since 2009.
posted by mayhap at 12:33 PM on April 21, 2016 [18 favorites]

In many cases, the artist will make substantially more from a direct CD sale off a merch table, vs buying either the download or the CD on line. Details depend on how the album is produced, somebody who knows the ins and outs of the business should weigh in on that.
posted by mr vino at 12:35 PM on April 21, 2016 [2 favorites]

That's been the opposite of my experience. When you buy from iTunes, you save the artist the cost of fulfillment, pressing and packaging.
posted by Miko at 12:40 PM on April 21, 2016 [3 favorites]

I haven't bought a CD in probably 10 years. I don't have the "too many devices" problem it seems like you might run into, but seriously I can't think of a single reason for anyone to buy a CD in 2016.

The Apple DRM issues have largely been resolved for years, now. Also, there are tons of programs that will happily convert Apple's annoying proprietary format into something else if you absolutely MUST have it on that sixth computer*. This is also something that people tend to *ahem* use more clandestine methods to get around.

There are other ways to download an album, though, if you have issues with Apple specifically. Amazon now does downloads (which are a bit less locked down, IIRC?), some indie record stores and labels have their own download systems, and, well, there are other ways of doing this if for some reason you're allergic to Apple.

*also note that you can use things like Home Sharing or plugging a phone or iPad into your computer in order to play songs that live on one device via a second device. Assuming you have WiFi at home, you can probably only add this album to one computer's iTunes library and just share that library to the rest of the computers.
posted by Sara C. at 12:42 PM on April 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

The AAC files that you purchase from iTunes are not proprietary, nor are they locked down in any way. You don't need special programs or workarounds to do anything you want with them.
posted by mayhap at 12:47 PM on April 21, 2016 [3 favorites]

For me, the big difference between buying from iTunes or buying a CD is sound fidelity. Apple still does not offer CD-quality lossless files for purchase from iTunes. As long as they do not, I will always prefer to buy the CD in order to rip it losslessly to my computer (unless the artist is available on some alternative site that does offer CD-quality lossless like Bandcamp or CDBaby).
posted by AndrewInDC at 12:47 PM on April 21, 2016 [4 favorites]

You can pry my CDs from my cold, dead hands. I buy them. I love them. I share them. I buy them used for only a few dollars here and there. I keep some in my car, and some at my desk. I find them lying around and they delight and surprise me. I love liner notes. I love jewel cases. I love looking at their spines. I love getting sick of one album after listening to it on repeat for weeks.

I used to download from Apple... but not in the last 4 years. Instead, I've been uploading all my CDs to my itunes to stream through my ipod occasionally.

But for the most part: I am LOVING my vinyl and my CDs and if you are a "collector" obsessive type like me, they're just lovely to have and own.
posted by Dressed to Kill at 12:56 PM on April 21, 2016 [7 favorites]

I can't think of a single reason for anyone to buy a CD in 2016.

I buy CDs so I can own them. I can lend them to people. I can sell them. I can leave them to someone in my will. Mine. After I buy stuff, I want it to be mine.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 12:57 PM on April 21, 2016 [16 favorites]

Some music (maybe all) from the iTunes store has DRM

Apple removed DRM from iTunes music in 2009. Seven years ago.
posted by kindall at 1:04 PM on April 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

I like owning stuff I bought and all, but... I have a large box full of CDs that haven't been touched since I ripped them, some of them haven't been out of the box in 9-10 years.

Thinking of selling them off. Really, minus one or two "special packaging" things I'd want to keep, there's nothing in there that I need to have as a physical disc. All my music is always available on all my devices, and is backed up in hard copy in multiple locations. The vinyl I'll keep, because 95% of it is my mom and dad's old records, but the CDs? Only reason I haven't sold them yet is I haven't gotten a good reason to drive to Local Used Music Store.
posted by caution live frogs at 1:26 PM on April 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

Advantages of CD:
Right now slightly higher fidelity, but you probably won't notice.
Can be used in an actual CD player if you still have one.
Provides a 'backup of last resort' should your electronic copies somehow get lost.
Doesnt arrive along with a 'free U2 album' that you didnt want and can't get rid of.

Advantages of iTunes:
You don't need to store the CD case.
Don't need to spend 2 minutes ripping the CD.
You might be given a free upgrade to a higher res version available in the future via the apple music streaming service (but this is currently only a rumour, and may turn out to not be free.)

Apple takes a 30% cut of all iTunes sales which is pretty close to the pressing and postage cost of a CD.
posted by Lanark at 1:28 PM on April 21, 2016

If you want to rip it yourself to FLAC or something for audio quality reasons, then get the CD (and buy it from the source as close to the artist as you can, preferably directly from the artist). Otherwise, buy downloads directly from the artist if possible (or their preferred distribution platform, or their label if they're on one). They're more likely to get a bigger cut of the sale than if you bought a download from iTunes.

The exception - if you're at a gig, buy the CD at the merch table. Making some CD sales at shows is very encouraging for musicians. Or if they have downloads you can buy on-the-spot if such a thing happens - my gigging life ended before CDs were so thoroughly deprecated.
posted by under_petticoat_rule at 1:35 PM on April 21, 2016 [3 favorites]

I wanted to add - If they're burning discs on demand then skip it and get the downloads.

If CDs already exist and it's a small enough artist or band, chances are that they paid for them themselves, and they're already made, and they probably have more of them than they know what to do with. You might actually be doing them a favor by buying a disc.

If you buy it at a show there's no shipping involved. If you order it to be shipped then you're probably paying for the shipping, not the artist, so that won't eat as much as Apple eats from a song download. It's not like the factory has to spin up and press a disc just for you. (This assumes the artist isn't doing a burn-on-demand kind of thing).

It's possible that buying local music from iTunes helps the artist because it increases their ranking somehow with Apple, but the benefits to the artist of buying directly seem to me to be more immediate and greater.
posted by under_petticoat_rule at 1:48 PM on April 21, 2016 [3 favorites]

I thought the DRM issue had been solved, and then I recently had to restore my phone from a backup and I got a warning saying music couldn't be transferred, and had to go through a frustrating process which ultimately didn't fix anything.

Guess I just had pre-2009 downloads in there - which, why hasn't Apple unlocked them by now?

Anyway, buy the physical thing at the merch table or the download directly from the artist's page.
posted by a halcyon day at 1:58 PM on April 21, 2016 [2 favorites]

I always check Amazon first... because in many cases, Amazon will sell you the physical CD with a free MP3 rip for the same price or less than buying the digital version. Here's an example.

How that makes sense, I don't know, but you can pay $10.99 on iTunes or Amazon for the digital download, or pay $10.69 on Amazon and get the same MP3 and the actual cd and then sell it or whatever.

I use Amazon's music service because Alexa is just too awesome, but you can just drag the files to iTunes, no problem.
posted by Huck500 at 2:23 PM on April 21, 2016 [6 favorites]

If your main concern is which option gives the artists a bigger cut, I think the only way to really know is to ask them or see if they have any information regarding that on their site or social media page or whatever. Basically, what mr vino and under_petticoat_rule said.

If you don't care about maximising your payment to the artists but are only worried with DRM, then it seems that's no longer an issue with iTunes (can't speak from experience, just trusting other replies here), so download away and skip the CD ripping step.
posted by Bangaioh at 2:57 PM on April 21, 2016

If you don't care about actually having the CDs, definitely download. It's just a bunch of pointless plastic, waste, and shipping.

When you're downloading, I'd urge you consider more choices than iTunes. In most cases, local artists use some sort of indie music selling site like bandcamp or CDBaby and they probably get a higher royalty from that so I'd go there first (if you go to their website or facebook page, it should tell you where to buy their music - and I'd bet that they highlight whichever is their preference. It may be iTunes but it may not be). There are also iTunes competitors like Amazon mp3 and Google Play Music.

Once you download the music, you can import the files to iTunes and still listen from there - it doesn't matter where you bought them and it's not very difficult.

Bonus suggestion - with that number of computers, how are you managing your music? Do you have some sort of home media server, or synced accounts, or do you just send the files back and forth from computer to computer individually? If you're interested, I really suggest you check out Google Music - the service basically uploads all the music you already own and allows you to access it anywhere/download it anywhere - totally legal, totally fair use, up to 50,000 tracks for free. Not only is it convenient but it's a highly effective backup for all the music you already have in place.
posted by R a c h e l at 4:52 AM on April 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

Huck500 has the best option, if it's available. I remember reading a blog post from someone who saw the opportunity to buy the (then) latest Taylor Swift album as digital files for $16.99, or to buy the CD from Amazon for $9.99, and to immediately download the mp3s.
posted by Guy Smiley at 3:58 PM on April 22, 2016

I think Amazons AutoRip is amazing and a bit disturbing. I don't want to buy CDs, but when the CD with AutoRip is $5 cheaper than the MP3 download, I can't ignore that. I also like Amazon's music better than Apple's.
posted by lhauser at 10:06 PM on April 22, 2016

a) ask them how they prefer you buy it
b) if they don't care, look for Amazon AutoRip
c) all your Christmas presents for people with the same musical taste as you are magically taken care of by the end of the year!
posted by oblique red at 3:53 PM on April 26, 2016

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