As of today, all the 128k mp3s on Magnatune end with a computer voice saying:
"That was track number 5 from the album "album name" by "artist" from magnatune.com"
This change can be heard anywhere Magnatune is heard for free, namely:
1) as playlists on the web site,
2) on the shoutcast radio stations. As part of this change, I've removed all the every-3-songs musician's advertisement that previously appeared on the shoutcast radio stations.
3) and from other web sites such as webjay.com and iRate, which point users directly to the mp3s on our web site.
And obviously, the computer voice only appears on the free previews. There is no computer voice on any purchased music.
Why the change?
1) in many places where our music is heard, the player doesn't show what's playing. This includes realplayer, windows media player and (until recently) itunes radio.
2) I get many emails weekly asking "what were you playing on tuesday around 11 am?" Clearly, if people are constantly asking us what they were listening to in order to buy it, what magnatune was doing to indicate what was playing wasn't working very well.
3) itunes imports the playlist files from magnatune directly into a user's library, mixing from-your-hard-drive music with on-the-internet-music without distinction, as if you bought it. The net result is that many people have a huge collection of music in their itunes library which they play all the time, which is unpaid for, and which the user doesn't even realize isn't on their hard drive. This eats up a lot of bandwidth and is not perceived as try-before-you-buy since the user usually doesn't notice the difference.
4) the original intention of the free mp3 previews was "try before you buy". Unfortunately, I am aware that many users listen to Magnatune music on a regular basis, many of whom rarely--if ever--buy anything. While I would love to be able to support this, frankly, magnatune can't afford it. It doesn't support Magnatune and, worse, it doesn't support the musicians. The complete tracks are still available for free preview, but the computer voice hopefully will encourage people to buy the real albums, much like the nag reminder in shareware. The idea behind Magnatune is still to have you listen all you want, in order to find music you love and to make a fully informed purchase.
I've heard some complaints that the computerized speech program mispronounces things. Depending on the genre of music, this can be more or less severe (classical isn't so good, but rock is generally pretty good). In fact, the voice quality seems to be the main complaint of the change. I'm going to give the current voice a little more time to "settle in" and see how people feel about it, and if it's still a problem for many people, I'll put the work in to have human beings read the description instead.
For those of you who listen and frequently buy from us, I thank you and hope that the 5 second "what you just heard" is helpful and not too distracting. I really dislike DRM, and think this is a much better solution than what other music web sites do.