Enthusiasms No 16
A collection of shorter pieces on subjects of
interest, outrage or enthusiasm ...
Online Record Buying
Further to our Enthusiasms No 11, published last year, things have changed dramatically in th UK Online market, and I thought it would be a good idea to publish this up-to-date addition to that article - Ed.
Unfortunately, a good number of Musical Traditions's reviews are presented without audio clips [reviewers, please note - Ed.]. I do not like to buy until I have done some listening - which means searching for clips on the Net.
Audio clip searching
Search engines are now introducing special audio searches, but I am finding them a mystery. I haven't yet worked out what any of these are holding in their indexes.
For the present, I have given up the investigation, but I hope other Mustrad members will have a go and report back. Using the album title, artist or label in a text search engine will often pick up reviews and online stores, but not specifically a clip. The best way to find an audio clip is to go to either the CD label's site (find them in the Useful Addresses page) or a large online store such as CDNOW (www.cdnow.com) or Amazon (www.amazon.com).
- Snap (www.real.snap.com) has a RealGuide search with a drop-down menu of RealPlayer Only/The Web/Audio Only/Video Only. Each works in an unpredictable way. I have tried the same searches (for items I know exist) in RealPlayer Only, The Web and Audio Only and the overlap/non-overlap of the results baffles me.
- Altavista (www.altavista.com and www.altavista.co.uk) now has an Images, Audio & Video search and one of these options can be checked. I haven't had any better success with AltaVista audio searches.
The first essential is to check that the Web site where the credit card details are taken has been set up securely. The security policy of the company should be studied before such details are given. I have never sent my credit card number in an email as I have not yet got to grips with encryption. My initial online purchases were with a debit card (the only card I had), but I then found out from my building society that my debit card did not give me the refund rights of a credit card, so I now use a credit card for online purchases. As well as checking the stated security policy of the Web site, look for the closed padlock symbol at the bottom of the screen and a Web address starting with https. Both these indicate a secure Web site.
My two first online purchases (December 1998 and June 1999) from CDNOW (a US registered company) described below, now look foolhardy (or at least the large purchase does) in terms of both price and security. If something goes wrong with an online purchase from a UK company (for example, long delivery delay after part/full payment, faulty goods sent, incorrect goods sent) you have the same rights as when buying in the high street. UK-based traders must supply goods which match their description, are of satisfactory quality and are fit for their purpose. To check that an online trader is UK-based, look for a postal address and a phone number.
CDNOW are now giving more emphasis to their European shipping centre and state that they are using it to speed delivery and reduce costs associated with shipping to Europe. However, I cannot yet see much evidence of its being used, nor of its reducing costs on the sort of CDs that I would want to order. Having said that, the choice of CDs in US online stores is excellent (particularly CDNOW and Amazon). There is a wide choice of labels, although there is a limited choice within a label. If a particular CD is not listed, it cannot be ordered, but the lists are expanding all the time. Searching an online store should be straightforward, but there are often spelling mistakes, so if a search on a title is not successful, before giving up it is worth trying a search for the artist or the label.
Looking now (January 2000) at the proliferation of UK online music stores, their selections and prices, it would now be rare for me to need to buy from a US online store. I consider my list of 'wants' to be fairly obscure, but there are very few item that I have so far found only on CDNOW or Amazon.com (an example is the Swedish Caprice 'Folk Music in Sweden' series, but the price is close to buying from ADA as these are imports). Online buying from UK-based stores has changed out of all recognition and although I would say that none matches the range, ease of searching and the efficiency of CDNOW, improvements are being made to the sites all the time. The UK stores that I have investigated are Jungle (www.jungle.com), Boxman (www.boxman.co.uk) and Amazon (www.amazon.co.uk).
- Jungle: a very irritating site that seems to switch pages at random; a good selection of traditional music (e.g. Smithsonian/Folkways, Globe Style, Ocora, Auvidis/UNESCO, Rounder, Yazoo, Multicultural Media); some low prices (very variable); free postage in the UK; easy/useful search facilities; very few audio clips, track listings and details.
- Boxman: a good selection of traditional music and different from Jungle; prices generally higher than at Jungle; postage is £2.50 per consignment in the UK; search engine not very easy/useful; not yet found any audio clips; some track listings; details sparse.
- Amazon UK: interface almost identical to the US version; good selection of traditional music and different from Jungle and Boxman; fairly high prices; postage is £1.07 + £0.22/CD; search facilities include Song Title; many audio clips, track listings and details.
I tried to find an example on all three of these UK sites of something from a recent MT review. I was looking for Knut Buen's 'Hardanger Fiddle Music of Norway', but the closest I could get was his 'Quick as Fire'. You will see the price and detail contrasts! (I have also shown an example from CDNOW, which includes the Dirty Linen review of the disc. $13.49 is about £8.20 - but don't forget the £4.25 postage.)
CD NOW Details
Jennifer Harding - 14.1.00
I would recomment that readers check out the aforementioned Enthusiasm No 11 for full details of the CD NOW pricings, postage and import duties - plus the other discussions about obtaining CDs, and the list of useful addresses - Ed.
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