Tuesday, February 12, 2008

music: pirating early Joanna Newsom albums

Joanna Newsom's bio on Drag City lists "Walnut Whales" (2002) and "Yarn and Glue" (2003) both self-released CDs. These home-made albums are no longer sold.

Bizarrely, stupidly, and short-sightedly, these songs aren't purchaseable as MP3 downloads from Amazon, even though this is exactly the sort of long-tail, low cost, make-fans-happy monetary transaction that the Internet should enable. I'll gladly pay for these songs, but can't. Probably her record company contract forbids her to release her own records.

Anyway, where legit business fails to meet a demand, the pirates step in.
  • Google for "Joanna Newsom" "Walnut City"
  • One of the results hits is for Mininova's tracker of a BitTorrent file. BitTorrent is a protocol for sharing files piece by piece among computers. A fan has digitized the tracks from both early CDs, and taken pictures of the covers, and included an excellent early interview.
  • What should happen next:
    • Click to download the .torrent file, it opens in the BitTorrent client which downloads the file from peers, and a few minutes later I play the songs in my music player
What actually happened:
  • click to download the .torrent file, BitTorrent client starts, nothing happens. After contacting the tracker, zero download activity, 0.0 kilobits per second.
  • kill all the other inactive BitTorrent downloads, quit BitTorrent and restart, still nothing.
  • download and install latest BitTorrent client. It reopens the torrent, shows its contents, finds 5 other members of "the swarm" but no download, no activity
  • suddenly I can't access the internet at all (a coincidence?), so power off cable modem and router.
  • tinker with the Firewall settings for BitTorrent in my P.O.S. Norton 360. It has a rule to allow some incoming and all outgoing. Just replace that with Allow all.
  • new BitTorrent client displays a neat warning icon in its status line: "No incoming connections... could be your network". Double-clicking that leads to a dialog with a neat [Test if port is forwarded properly] button, which takes me to a neat web page that tests and says "Error! Port 6881 does not appear to be open" with a link that takes me to a neat port configuration guide.
  • Indeed, my port forwarding settings are out-of-date since my Vista laptop slog, so I update my router to forward to new IP addresses
  • the web page test now works, the warning icon goes away, but still no download activity
  • disable Norton 360 Firewall altogether
  • then a computer in Sweden starts handing me pieces of the file. Estimated time to download: 31 hours.
  • the warning icon comes back, the web page test fails, yet the little-computer-that-could in Sweden is still slowly passing me pieces of the file
  • 20 minutes into this two other computers join in, one handing me pieces at a rapid clip.
  • After another 24 minutes I have the entire download on my computer
  • The anonymous uploader had converted the CD tracks to Free Lossless Audio Codec format. The key is "lossless", these are shrunken files to save disk space and time but they don't use audio compression like MP3 or AAC files.
    FLAC stands out as the fastest and most widely supported lossless audio codec, and the only one that at once is non-proprietary, is unencumbered by patents, has an open-source reference implementation, has a well documented format and API, and has several other independent implementations.
  • But Apple with their monopolistic bullshit not-invented-here "We'll only work with open source when there's a business case to do so" attitude doesn't support .flac files, so I can't play them in iTunes.
  • bitch yet again about this on Apple's feedback form
  • try to find the obscure music player I used last time to play flac files. Nope, not Media Player Classic, it's VideoLAN VLC music player with some Xiph codec bundle.
  • play Joanna Newsom's tracks.
I feel I deserve a merit badge for getting it to work, but it is wrong. It's definitely not stealing, but it is piracy as in "copyright infringer." Alas, the Fairtunes site built by two Canadians in a dorm room that let you voluntarily donate money to artists when you rip them off went defunct years ago. Even during the Napster boom when millions of people were downloading billions of songs, they only received a few tens of thousands of dollars.

Joanna Newsom, I owe you $7.80 (13 songs at .60 cents). What's your PayPal account?

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  • ugh i'm trying to use that bittorrent thingy too, and mine's like "2days 14 hours left". was there any easier way that you found? cuz i really don't want to mess with router settings?

    By Blogger kr, at July 01, 2008 5:34 PM  

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