Calculate your chances...negative...negative...negative!

Friday, November 02, 2007

Thinking Inside the AudioLunchbox

OK, I promised I'd get back around to the mp3 sites, and here we are. I feel a little more confident talking about AudioLunchbox now as I'm into my fourth month with the service, but I have to admit, I don't know how much longer I'm going to stay there.

First off, like eMusic, AudioLunchbox (which I'm going to refer to as ALBX for the rest of this bit) offers DRM free mp3s files at about 192kbp VBR encoding. Once upon a time, I believe ALBX offered Ogg Vorbis files, but they no longer do. ALBX is also a subscription based service and the cost is a little cheaper than eMusic. You can also purchase music ala carte at 99 cents a track for most things, if you wish.

Now, they pricing gets a little weird here. One thing ALBX does that I really like is they don't charge more than 10 credits for an album. So, if you're downloading something like this Stravinsky album I downloaded and it has 23 some odd tracks, it only cost me 10. That's kind of nice.

On the flip side, ALBX has some labels on a variable price scheme whereas Matador releases (to name one) are four times the credits of everyone else! So a Guided By Voices album would run you 40 credits even if there were only a dozen tracks.

Interestingly enough, ALBX still has Epitaph releases (though there haven't been any updates in a while) and they are still at the one credit a song/ten and album rate. I'm kind of surprised by this, considering they just left eMusic over wanting a higher rate. It'll be interesting to see how much longer their catalog stays at ALBX or if they go to the higher rate.

This brings me to the biggest problem I have with ALBX. If you can't find anything to download at eMusic, don't even bother with ALBX as their catalog is even smaller and features even fewer large indies. Like I mentioned, there is Matador (at the higher rate) and Epitaph, but even then, the releases tend to be older and they haven't added anything new in a while.

Unlike eMusic which is constantly adding labels and albums, ALBX's catalog seems to be pretty stagnant. And it's kind of hard to put a finger on who I could recommend this site's selection too as it's kind of all over the map. Plus, most of what I've downloaded from ALBX, I could have gotten at eMusic.

The other problem I have with ALBX is their site is nearly a nightmare to use. The navigation is slow and awkward. Searching for an artist will sometimes reveal albums that might not show up the next time you look. Not to mention, I've had the unfortunate experience of trying to download an album that isn't actually available but hasn't been pruned from the catalog yet.

I will say, ALBX's customer service has been really responsive and quite generous with issuing credits for problems, but I've had to contact ALBX's customer service more times in my three or four months with them than I have eMusic's in my nearly two years using that service. They are good about setting things right, but too many of the issues shouldn't have happened in the first place.

I really don't feel I can recommend ALBX. It seems to be kind of direction less and just hanging on. In the end, that's really the impression I get from the site. It's like a store you go in and just can't understand how they're still keeping the lights on. With a better site and better selection, I'd be quite a fan, but as it stands, I'd suggest if you want to check it out, do a monthly subscription rather than buying an annual package.

Now playing: The Great Jazz Trio - My Funny Valentine
via FoxyTunes

No comments: