Thursday, 23 October 2008

MSN Music UK as a source for classical music downloads (updated)

Good points:

  • Integrates well with Windows Media Player, when it works.
  • Might work - a bit - if you confine yourself to the classical top ten.
  • ... er ....
  • That's it.

Bad points

  • Absolutely everything else imaginable ...
  • ... like quality. support, cataloguing - you name it.
  • It's vile.

Summary and recommendations: a terrible terrible terrible system for classical music. I have, hurrah, run it down to my last few coppers and I would not buy another item there if it was the last classical music resource on the planet. An absolute stinker. Marks out of 10? Oooh about minus 15.

Go to or or, for a more limited range but great quality, something like the lovely (utterly wonderful St Matthew Passion), or any one of dozens of other suppliers - but please please do not do what I did, which is to lazily use MSN Music UK because it's just a couple of clicks inside WMP. It is irretrievably bad: classical music buyers should not touch it with a bargepole.


Update (30/10/08): I hate it when this happens after a good old moan, but in all fairness I have to add that support seems to have improved a lot since I last tried it. Just after writing all that above I emailed them (having had a hard time finding the address, but hey) moaning about two trashed tracks - one undownloadable and one that downloaded but was badly enough damaged to be unusable. These two problems wrecked two large-scale works that I wanted to buy.

Imagine, given some very ropey experiences with them in the past, my surprise and delight to get two emails in quick succession, apologizing for the problems and refunding my money for the whole album in each case. This is pretty good, I think. I mean I'd rather they could fix the track and tell me how to get it to download OK, but this is a very respectable second.

I still can't recommend this service for classical music because of the horrors of its cataloguing system, and indeed, the failed tracks. But I am feeling very much more impressed by the standard of support. Did I get lucky, or have they overhauled their procedures?

Anyway, I have now put it to the Big Test - two performances of Beethoven 9, each with an undownloadable last movement. (Yes, indeed, Colin, that's about as much use as a chocolate teapot.) These two have been an irritant for a long time and the last time I asked for help it was dire. I am only trying again now because I was so impressed by the much better handling of my more recent complaint. Watch this space ...

Update (21/11/08): Perfect silence from Customer Services. I sent them a polite reminder the other day. The silence remains undisturbed.

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