Normally, I am against music downloading services that don’t allow you to easily transfer music from one device to another — hello Napster 2.0! — because if I paid for it, I want to own it. However, there is a service called Ruckus, which is targeting college campuses with what I think is a win-win concept. After a school signs up for this service, students can download a player and access a library of songs for free. The only catch is that the songs aren’t portable. You can’t copy them to your iPod or burn them to a CD. Normally, that’s a sticking point for me, but not this time, and here are a couple of reasons why:
First of all, the songs are free and legal, meaning that students can experiment and discover new artists and songs without financial and legal risk.
Secondly, if a student wants to pay for a song to which they have full copy & burn right, they have that option, right there from Ruckus. Clearly, the thinking is that the easy access to experimentation can and will easily transmogrify into fully portable and paid-for downloads in the future. Especially after the students discover the music that will affect them for the rest of their lives. As someone who has been hunting new music all of his life and is more than willing to pay for the things that I’ve come to love, this makes complete and utter sense.
Not so fast. This is similar to something that Napster is already doing. A while back Napster made deals with a bunch of campuses essentially offering free downloads. The universities actually paid for the service (it may have been a part of a larger file sharing settlement).
These are Windows DRM’s songs – which is why they won’t play on the iPod. Or a Mac for that matter. Lots of Macs on college campuses.
I’ll say it again, this is all about the battle for DRM dominance. They’re trying to get college kids hooked on Windows DRM (and the Windows OS as well).
Needless to say, I’m against it.
My school, UMass, just recently signed a contract with Ruckus providing this very service. I’ve been checking it out, and they seem to have a pretty good selection. For me, however, this will never be more than a tool for finding new music. I’m never going to purchase anything from them. When I find something I really like, I’ll find other sources to purchase it…be it the itunes store or retail outlets.