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Friday, May 26, 2006

Shame on you, Matador.

I love Matador Records. They've put out so much good music over the years, I'm not even going to try to list it all. Rest assured, many of the most important rock releases of the last 15+ years have borne the Matador label. I've got nothing but respect for the label and it's music.

What I don't have respect for is the recent trend of Matador sending out promo CDs with copy control schemes on them that don't warn you of that fact. Now, I don't have a problem with Matador putting copy control on promos they're sending out, though I think it's a bad idea and I'll explain that in a minute. It's the fact that if you try to listen to their CDs on a computer, unless you have auto-run disabled on your machine, the CD is going to install software regardless of if you accept it or cancel it. The only way to uninstall it is to open the CD up and hit uninstall, but unless you knew where to look, you'd have no idea.

In fact, you'd have no idea it even installed anything at all, except this audio player pops up when you put in a Matador CD. It's not in the start menu. It's not in the program files. Honestly, I don't know where it installs this player, and I work in IT.

The moral of this story is, shame on me for not making sure auto-run was disabled on this machine. (I'm not at my normal computer today. This is a machine I share with 3 other users.) And, yes, I've only met one copy control scheme that wasn't foiled by simply disabling auto-run. (The disc in question was felled by this slightly cumbersome but completely effective method.)

So, here's the part where I show a little sympathy for the devil. I don't blame Matador for keep people from ripping their promo CDs. They're sent out to be played on the air and in record stores, not to end up on iPods and file sharing services. Given the fact that these things come out before the CDs hit the shelf, I can see why they'd want to keep them under wraps. And even though I'm highly skeptical of the assumption that every download equals a lost sale, one could make that argument about protecting their rights a little stronger with these CDs they send out for promotional purposes.

However, I work at a station that is moving towards an all digital studio. For the afternoon jazz programs, they are in the process of doing away with CD players and playing all the tracks of a host server called an Audio Vault. I've been told our time is coming and that soon we will also be using this system. From what I understand, this isn't just my station, this is the way the industry is moving.

What I want to know is, when my station goes to the all Audio Vault system, how am I supposed to play tracks from Matador and other labels who make it so you can't rip their CDs? Sure, I can disable auto-run on my computer while I'm previewing the disc, but I can't guarantee I will have that option at the radio station.

It's something I hope labels like Matador are thinking about. Not all instances of CD ripping are malicious and while I respect the rights of the copyright owner to protect their property, I also know I'm much more likely to play their music when they allow me to do so without jumping through some silly hoops.

And, at the very least, it's only polite to let someone know a CD is going to install software before they put it in a computer.

EDIT: Just wanted to add one thing. In all fairness, I know the answer is "don't listen to these CDs on your computer." Well, in addition to assembling shows on the computer, about the only time I have to preview new CDs is at my real job where I have to listen to them on a PC. I strongly doubt I'm the only PD who checks out the promos on a computer, and I'll bet I'm not the only one to get the same suprise with the installer.

Again, to clarify, my problem isn't with the copy control stuff. (Well, at least until they try putting it on the retail discs. Then I'm going to have a big problem.) My problem is just that they don't tell you it's on there. Just label the discs when you put copy control stuff that installs, please. It's only fair.

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