BBC Close Their Store Without Explaining Why

    I got an email from the BBC today, telling me that the BBC Store is closing in November. Oddly, they don’t explain why. This Engadget article says it’s because “people prefer streaming.”

    At least, that’s what the headline says. The article actually says the decision comes “following poor sales and tough competition from streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Video.”

    Which is plausible enough, I suppose. Though I doubt that most people could explain the difference between a streaming service and one in which you have to download the file first. And in any case, Netflix and I think Amazon also allow you to download now.

    In fact my guess would be more that people prefer subscriptions. Amazon and Netflix are compelling because once your monthly fee is paid you can always watch anything they have. With the Store you had to buy specific titles, and there’s always that hesitation about paying before you watch something.

    I only ever used it to watch a couple of episodes of something I had left too late to see on iPlayer. specifically, one episode of Undercover. Apparently I spent £1.89, and I’ll be getting a £2.50 Amazon voucher to make up for it. Whee, an investment.

    So I guess I was part of the poor sales.

    On the other hand, there is the opinion of some — and it would be of many in Britain, I imagine — that BBC programmes should just be available. We shouldn’t have to pay for them again. “We’re not just listeners and viewers, it belongs to us,” as a great man once sang.

    Maybe that’s the solution to the arguments over funding: treat the licence fee as a subscription charge. Increase it, make it optional, but include access to the BBC’s entire back catalogue.

    But the Engadget article goes on to say:

    If the rumours are true, BritBox — the BBC- and ITV-owned streaming service that launched in the US earlier this year — could be expanded to host more of the BBC’s back catalogue and eventually launch in the UK.

    BBC and ITV? Together? Well I never.


    I was thinking about the loss of singles. Not individual tracks released individually: that still happens, of course; perhaps more than ever. But back in the days of actual, physical singles — 45 rpm records, or even CD singles later — you didn’t just get an individual track.

    I’m here to celebrate — and maybe mourn the loss of — the B-side.

    When you bought a single you usually knew what the main song was going to be, because you had heard it on the radio, or at least read a review. Or you might just know and trust the artist’s work, and believe that the chosen track would be worth your 75p.1

    But there was always the promise that there would be something good on the other side, too.

    Often, of course, the B-side track was really “B” quality, or lower. It was genuinely just filler. Which was always a shame. I remember flipping Elvis Costello’s “Oliver’s Army,” to find out what “My Funny Valentine” was like. I hated it, and never listened to it again. Though as (in other versions) it’s something of a jazz classic, it’s possible that I’d like it more now.

    The Members’ classic “The Sound of the Suburbs” was backed by something called “Handling the Big Jets,” which always sounded slightly rude to us2 and I think was an instrumental.

    But for every one of those you could get a “Jail Guitar Doors,”3 or a “The Prisoner.”4 Or almost any Beatles single.

    Then there were double A-sides, wherein both sides were supposed to be worthy of being playlisted. They always felt like slightly better value for your hard-earned pocket money.

    And when CD singles came along they usually had three tracks, raising them arguably into the EP category.

    But now, tracks are realised for streaming or download, completely on their own. It’s very sad, and I’m sure they must feel lonely. Plus if you’re buying the download and you want what would have been the B-side, you have to pay for each individual track.

    I was going to say, as well, that if you search for single on your streaming service of choice, you only get one track. But I found out the other day that’s not quite true. I wanted to listen to “Elephant Stone,” by the Stone Roses; and in fact the B-side, “The Hardest Thing In the World” was listed too. Its “Album” tag was given as “Elephant Stone — Single (2009)”.

    Which apart from the wrong date (and ok, it could’ve been a reissue 5) is not a bad example of misused metadata. Or maybe just misnamed: not every gathering or carrier of a group of songs or musical pieces is an “album”.

    Or maybe that’s just a change of meaning: what we used to call a single or an EP is now just a very short album.

    1. Only 50p, in fact, when I first bought them. ↩︎

    2. We were schoolboys. ↩︎

    3. The B-side of “Clash City Rockers,” of course. ↩︎

    4. B-side of “(White Man) In Hammersmith Palais.” What, you think I’m not going to talk about Clash singles? ↩︎

    5. But how you should give the date for reissues is a whole nother conversation ↩︎

    Emusic Followup

    eMusic got back to me. As I said, I emailed them to complain about the disappearance of re-downloading.

    Randall, from eMusic Customer Support, said:

    It would be great if we could offer the privilege of re-downloading music for free to our members, but the truth of the matter is that our agreements with our labels prohibit us from doing so

    which is not surprising. But why the recent change?

    while we have not had the tracking systems in place to enforce it before, we do now.

    I see. He went on to say:

    we believe it is the best policy for everyone involved because ultimately it benefits the artists that we all love.

    I’m not convinced. It is in the sense that, if I want to get the albums I lost, I’ll have to buy them again, so the artists get paid again. But I’d be surprised if many artists really want to get paid more because of something that could be seen as ripping off their fans.

    Though I suppose the comparison would be that if I had broken or lost a CD (or scratched a record, for us old types) I wouldn’t get it replaced for free.

    But digital files, being so ephemeral, just feel like they belong in a different category.

    Emusic and Re-downloading

    OK, everyone knows about Emusic, right? Good site for downloading mainly independent stuff. You often find that you can only get recent stuff by bands and artists who used to be on major labels and have been dropped (or have split up and reformed).

    Anyway, I am 98.763% convinced that they used to let you re-download tracks that you had downloaded before. So imagine my dismay, when taking, I thought, the final few steps in recovering from my recent disk replacement. Just download the recent Emusic tracks that I hadn’t backed up, right?

    Oh, no. Not any more. Re-downloading is only for failed downloads.

    I’ve emailed them about it, but I’m not expecting much. Not happy, Emusic. Not happy.