Downloading tracks 2.0

I’d recommend to use the lowest reasonable bit rate for the initial download offering. Access to broadband internet is not equitable: people in every part of the world face slow download speeds, and that’s especially true in technologically underserved rural areas and the “global south.” How about starting with 128k mp3?

A lot of people will be unsatisfied with this and want 320k, FLAC, and other options, and you should definitely try to provide those as well in the future. I have plenty of storage and fast internet, so I’d opt for FLAC when it’s available. This is just a comment about prioritizing accessibility for users on slow connections to start out.

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Also of interest to this discussion: one of the songs used during the development of MP3 was “Tom’s Diner.” In 2014, researcher Ryan Maguire thought to subtract the MP3-encoded “Tom’s Diner” from the original recording, allowing the listener to hear the residual: only the sounds that are left out of the MP3.

You can listen here:
And the PDF of the research paper is here:

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About this a few takeaways :

The level of poor quality of 128kbps mp3 is so bad that it doesn’t even equal to “owning” anything in my book, much like if I were to buy a movie online and got a 480p version of it, I’d ask for a refund because this would effectively be of no use to me.

I get the question of “undeserved rural areas” but I do not think this is the way to solve this issue for multiple reasons. First because it’s not because you’re in a rural area with limited bandwidth that you necessarily WANT bad quality downloads just to save some internet connexion time. Second because it’s very unlikely with an offer like stream 2 own which implies incremental ownership that people will download a huge number of songs all at once, most likely they’ll download them every now and again when they realize they own them. Third and most importantly, they are ALREADY downloading high quality files when… They’re streaming them on our site, they can’t keep the download but in terms of internet consumption it’s pretty much the same. So unless we propose 128kbps as a default on our streaming service there’s no point in having the download be of lower quality than the streaming listening experience.

My personnal experience with people in rural areas with relatively messy access to web infrastructure is they like good quality files just as the next guy, they’re just aware it needs a bit more work to get them.

Finally for places where it’s an issue of money and actual access to internet, then our issue imo will be our pricing which puts us in the category of luxury goods / services for those populations and I don’t think a lower bitrate on our downloads will help us much with that.


Thought exercise: you’re getting ready for a long commute in the morning and you think to download a playlist from Resonate for the drive. You’ll be listening in your car with tinny old speakers and driving through an area that gets no reception. You’ve got 20 minutes before you have to unplug and a shitty 3G internet connection, which you pay for by the megabyte.


And for those that don’t necessarily have a car, just a computer and a spotty communal internet connection, we had (still have one day!?) this project:


I’m ok with thought exercices but, here is that really the main scenario we want to provide Downloads for? There’ll always be something wrong until we can provide multiple choices, in the meantime, is our focus really to provide the worse format so that it fits people with a bad 3G connection in a hurry to download a Resonate playlist ? (which they can’t do unless they already own all the songs or buy them which would be the number of songs * 1.25€ and if they already own all the song I guess we could just say they should have downloaded them first which is why in most cases this scenario wouldn’t happen).

And here again I really want to emphasize, do we really believe the people wealthy enough to pay for a resonate playlist in full so that they can download it in a hurry are the same demographic that’s concerned about their spotty 3G internet that they pay for by the megabyte?

I’d be really curious to hear about this, especially about what would the “communal” infrastructures for the implementation of this look like, do we have examples for how these things work etc. ? That’s the part I’m struggling to understand, apart from that yeah anything local community based (basically in broader terms anything that means people could still enjoy some or all the benefits of resonate without solely relying on our monolitic internal server infrastructure) would be great in the absolute.

Also I’ll add this is more interesting than a bad download format because it effectively (in principle) preserves the full Resonate experience (ie. it preserves the low access price to the discovery of songs basically).

Edit :

I want to come back to this because I feel like I’m being confrontational for the sake of it or pushing for “sound quality” (when really I’m not since I’m rooting for a lossy format) like a purist of some sort so I just want to make my opinion clearer because I don’t want it to look like I don’t care about it.

The reason I’m insisting here is because I want us to be clear on something : As it stands, Resonate is NOT a service that’s welcoming for people in dire financial needs and in complicated access to internet situations. It requires a good connection to run because it’s a streaming service, so if you’re by the minute on megabytes in 3G it’s a shit proposition for you, it requires to pay 1.25€ for a song that you could listen to basically for free forever on Spotify, Youtube or whatever so it’s not a good solution for that either. What we provide is an ethical service that comes AT A PRICE. The price is you have to pay 1.25€ if you want to listen to a song more than 9 times. In the current economy, this effectively means we’re a luxury good - like most “ethical alternatives” by the way since they often imply a price increase to feel better about yourself that you’re “supporting” a different/pricier way of doing things, it’s a pitfall we need to think through in its entirety. Resonate isn’t so much an alternative to streaming as it’s a clever way to push people back into the habit of buying the music they like at a premium which is a pattern they’ve abandonned. It means we’ll probably appeal to people with a decent enough connexion, who can shell out money for the music they love in the hundreds per year (if you’ve loved 10 albums in a year, and they’re all 10 songs long, you’ll have effectively spent 125€ on Resonate if you want to own them) OR to people who will have to forget about the option of ever downloading entirely, and just use it as a rather cheap discovery service until they’re absolutely certain they want to spend more (so for example out of the 10 albums they love, they listen 9 of them on other services to avoid finishing their credits, and then listen to the one they trully adore 9 times on Resonate to buy it).

So really, I’m all for us trying to figure out solutions for low wage workers, people with bad internet access, countries with currencies that make a € an extremely high value etc. but we need to find complete solutions, because otherwise, we’ll just propose a worse service for an audience that litterally isn’t there because they don’t even really have access to our platform even if we would love them to.

I’ve been advocating for a “low wage option” on the platform where we basically give away credits or make credits much cheaper if people tell us they can’t pay right now because they’re poor but would like to use the platform, although I’m aware this opens the door to an entire subset of questions, but however I put it, I’m more interested in the question of how we can provide the best experience to folks without the means to usually access them.


My 2¢

I’ve been fortunate enough to spend time in several ‘resource poor’ countries in the ‘global south’, both rural and metropolitan, and the only place I’ve ever truly experienced unusable mobile internet (beyond temporary dead spots) is in North Wales in the UK. The reach of mobile data and its availability, at least in my experiences, is quite far and wide. There may well be blind spots in my experiences but that’s my take away.

I personally think e.g. 128k mp3s diminish the audio so significantly that it would compromise the coop’s role in caring for, and responsible stewardship of the artistic vision and craft of our members.

I agree that thinking about equality and access is important but I personally don’t think mp3 filesize is that useful an area to tackle this.

I do however appreciate @ryanprior raising these concerns, despite disagreeing over the approach.


I appreciate this a lot too sincerely, I hope I made it clear enough and fear I haven’t.


This makes a lot of sense to me.

I would like to add a couple more points to the discussion concerning the question “Can artists opt out of offering download?”. I have read the manifesto and it seems to me that article 7 clearly points to “Yes” as the answer.
This might settle the issue (I’m too new to this community to assess this), but if it does not, I would like to point out that currently there isn’t an ethical alternative for a streaming platform, but there also isn’t one for a digital music store. If offering a download would be mandatory, Resonate could cover both bases.
I know that I’m a dinosaur in this regard, but I (for the most part) still buy music instead of streaming it. I don’t know many others are out there, but my guess would be that there are a few. If not, Apple would have closed their digital store a while ago.


My thoughts:

Bitrate: Would 256k MP3 be a good compromise? 128k sounds pretty awful and, as a listener, I prefer 320k (or FLAC), but I think 256k sounds decent enough for most people.

Should artists be able to opt out of downloads? I think no—part of what’s so interesting about Resonate to me is that you “own” the music after 9 plays. To me, an essential part of owning the music is being able to store it locally instead of relying on the service being up.

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I’m a listener and a musician. I’m writing from my personal listener account, but I also make music with an artist on resonate.

I’m not especially interested in streaming platforms – I’m here because I believe strongly in the co-op model, and I’m hoping that resonate can become a download shop as well as a streaming platform.

I’m coming from a paradigm where music is not disposable. In my world taking 200 person-hours to make a music track would be a reasonable minimum, and listening to a good album hundreds of times over decades would be quite normal.

From my POV streaming is something that corporates invented to maintain their control over the music ecosystem, continue to extract money from back catalogue, and gather data on listeners. As a result I find the whole idea of streaming for my regular music listening a little gross. (This isn’t intended to diss anyone who finds genuine value in streaming for regular listening, just explaining where I’m coming from)

There’s one exception – browsing for new music. Streaming platforms are great for finding something new and perusing a lot of music quickly, often only playing part of a track and moving on.

If I find something I like on a streaming platform, I want to buy it and download it within a dozen or so clicks. That could be by way of a link to direct sales from the artist’s website (remember when people did that?) – or it could be buying from the streaming platform. However if I find something I like and I can’t buy and download it in full lossless quality, it goes on the too-much-trouble list and I move on.

If I buy an album or a track, I expect to be able to download it in full lossless quality (preferably flac) to be stored locally, moved between devices , burned to CD, or whatever I need to listen to it. Anything else is not ownership of the track.

Of course there should also be an option to download in a smaller lossy format for listeners with limited devices or suffering from corporate capture who can’t play flac.

For an initial offering I think flac plus one lossy format would be an absolute minimum. (Look at all the choice of download formats bandcamp offers for comparison.)

I think, in the spirit of freedom, that artists should not be absolutely required to offer downloads, but I also think that allowing downloads should be the default, and artists should be strongly discouraged from disallowing them in most cases – why alienate your most serious listeners?

As a musician, I care about piracy, I guess - but realistically – if someone wants to pirate the track they will. They can simply record the stream ffs. The best anti-piracy measure is to make it convenient and rewarding for listeners to pay.

I’d also rather someone listened to my music and didn’t pay, than didn’t listen to it. If they like it they might come back and pay for it or something else later. I believe that most piracy is not a choice between a a person listening but paying or not paying. It is much more often a choice between them listening or not listening.

A pay-what-you-feel option (with a minimum) as on bandcamp is also a no-brainer for me. This idea could be extended, for example there could even be a suggested “normal” price above the minimum as a guide to what a waged person in a western/wealthy country should pay.

A bit more about quality: As an artist I would like people to always hear my music in the quality I released it at – so lossless should be available wherever the devices used make it practical and worthwhile. Lossless music streaming is quite practical on a real computer with a decent net connection. It is way less bandwidth than streaming a 1080p movie.

As a listener I’d also like lossless streaming when browsing for new music, however since I would intend to download the lossless file when I find something I like, it is maybe less important. If I can’t download the file, then my interest in the whole platform wanes, but also the need for lossless streaming is greater.

The obvious solution is to have a user-switched resolution button for streaming – that perhaps defaults to the lossy format, but allows listeners to get the full version. This is an audio equivalent to the choice of resolution that youtube allows.


Just for clarity, and reinforcing what some others have said, here’s a note about file formats and flac

Flac should be the no-brainer default format for music storage, archiving, and playback, including streaming on capable devices and connections with good bandwidth.

Here’s why:

  • It is full lossless quality - same sound quality as wav, alac, or aiff

  • It is a free open non-proprietary standard

  • It is smaller for storage and transfer than uncompressed standards such as wav or aiff, with no loss of data or sound quality.

Places where is is appropriate to use a lossy compressed format instead are:

  • Streaming with limited bandwidth.

  • Storage on non-audiophile devices with very large libraries and/or severely limited storage space (ie older ipods, phones etc)

Places where it is appropriate to use an uncompressed lossless format:

  • Music production where many tracks will be played back at once and cpu power (for decoding the files) is at a premium.

  • As a workaround for people or devices tied to corporate standards that don’t support flac playback.


Just to be clear, I think this is something everybody hear agrees on for the 1.0 version of Resonate when the platform is fully operationnal.

The question being asked here is, during the beta period, which format should be implemented first?

My take is MP3 320kbps is good enough (and I’m a musician so, I too want people to experience my work in the best possible quality, I just think nobody will notice any difference between 320 and Flac when listening to my songs) to be the first implemented format because it’s both convenient for us in terms of storage and a broad and accessible format for anyone to use. And Flac should come second when we have the download feature in place.

And when the platform is out of Beta, we should have both as a baseline minimum option.

Is there a technical difficulty in offering both at once?

I have no idea of the answer, but to avoid future technical debt, it would be good for the platform to be coded from the start to support multiple download formats.

I’m imagining a system where the master copy is stored as flac, and a secondary copy is stored in the lossy format used for the stream. (or is it created on the fly?) This gives two versions ready to go at all times. Further formats could then be created on demand from the flac master when a download is requested.

I guess in suggesting where to start it comes down to what formats are currently used in the archive and whether the storage and encoding paradigm needs major change or just adding to.

The guts of what I’m trying but not quite managing to say in the last post is that there must somewhere be a master version of the track in a lossless format, so why not allow the listener to download that?

Basically yes.

It is my understanding that this is a non trivial dev job that requires some amount of time and is not just a matter of adding/exposing a “download” button to the format used for audio streaming. It was the answer I got when creating this thread and discussing with the dev team.

Which is why my main goal here is to :

1/ find the lowest threshold of difficulty solution to implement so that we can actually call ourselves “Stream 2 Own” (the minimum being that people actually “own” something, whatever that something is).

2/ that this solution is satisfying enough to then leave enough headroom for the devteam and volunteers to focus on a longterm solution taking the time they need to do so.

I can ping @auggod @angus @Nick_M (or @boopboop ? Is it an aspect you’re familiar with?) for more infos on the technical side but I know they’re busy so maybe we should not expect too much from them.

Well ok - without understanding the actual technical blocks to delivering downloads we are all just speculating.

Were the technical issues ever discussed? I’d like to know out of curiosity at least.

I’m not that concerned about what format should be used if we have to pick just one.

I am however very concerned that the fact that we have to pick just one indicates deep problems in the way the audio files are stored and handled.

It suggests that there isn’t a master database of lossless files, and/or that there isn’t an automated system for converting from a definitive lossless version to the version used for streaming or downloading.

I’m therefore worried that pursuing a stopgap solution for downloads will push a real solution even further into the never-never and further embed an unsatisfactory infrastructure.

Currently resonate deals with at least two files in some way: the master uploaded by the artist, and the file streamed to the listener. (which might be created in real time for all I know) Yet neither of these are readily available for download. The process of converting one to the other may not even be automated. It seems to me that this structural problem needs addressing first and then multiple download formats would fall into place relatively easily if that were done.

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It’s being adressed and worked on and everyone is very aware of all of this believe me.

You need to understand that right now, the dev team is very small, and that’s why our focus is on trying to get some fundings to do exactly all the things we are discussing here.

Right now you should go with the prerogative that NOTHING is easy. We have a lot of things that work, and there are a few very talented people helping out, most of them volunteers, to help turn this into the best possible experience it could be, but working on the backend infrastructure, including metadata handling, catalogue import for big distributors etc. is not a trivial task, and there are a lot of those.

So basically any dev time on anything comes at the detriment of any other similarly crucial endeavor. So that’s why first and foremost we need, to put it bluntly, money to pay devs.

PS : There was more of a talk on the matter here Offer track downloads which is what sparked this Downloading 2.0 topic.

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Not a fact, rather an invitation by me that we focus on picking one format, implementing it to solve the main problem (not offering downloads) and then iterate adding other formats or features from there.

I was aiming to shrink the scope of the project with the hope it would make it easier for devs to approach.

@peter or @auggod could likely offer clarity here. I’m not a developer myself – more of a facilitator and coordinator around here. If there are structural issues which need addressing first, then I imagine those issues will be part of implementing this plan, regardless of how many file types are offered.

Thanks for your reflections on this.