Yahoo Offers Coupons To Let Customers Download DRM-Free MP3s

When Yahoo announced last week that they were turning off their DRM-restricted music store store in September, thereby abandoning customers with songs that would no longer play, people were understantably angry. At the time, Yahoo suggested you burn the songs to CD while you still can, then re-rip them into unprotected MP3 files—but that was a lousy solution that took time and money, and resulted in lower-quality audio files. Now they’ve come back with a proper solution that seems to more than make up for the trouble—especially if we can believe what their spokesperson told the LA Times.

First, here’s the official revised policy that Yahoo announced today, according to the Associated Press:

The company said Wednesday it is offering coupons on request for people to buy songs again through Yahoo’s new partner, RealNetworks Inc.’s Rhapsody. Those songs will be in the MP3 format, free of copy protection. Refunds are available for users who “have serious problems with this arrangement,” Yahoo said.

John Healey at the Los Angeles Times’ blog Bit Player published this additional information, which sounds like a hidden perk of the Yahoo Music Store closing:

Carrie Davis at Yahoo provided these nuggets of detail: if you’re looking for a coupon or a refund, contact Yahoo’s Customer Care department. There’s no need for proof of purchase. The offer expires at the end of the year. By the way, coupons can be redeemed for any track at Rhapsody, not just the ones the customer purchased from Yahoo.

Of course, you’ll have to explicitly request the coupons, then take the time to re-download your songs—or download new ones if you didn’t like the ones you originally bought (although that’s pretty shady, especially if you don’t delete the DRM-wrapped ones)—so it’s not the smoothest transition to DRM-free music. On the other hand, we’re glad to see Yahoo isn’t totally abandoning its customers after all.

“Yahoo offers coupons for music that stops working” [Associated Press] (Thanks to Chris!)
“Yahoo rethinks, offers refunds for DRM-wrapped songs” [Bit Player at Los Angeles Times]
(Photo: Getty)

Comments

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  1. dequeued says:

    I think this is a reasonable compromise.

  2. scoobydoo says:

    This sounds to me more like an “oh crap, bad PR” move.

    Surely they could have expected some backlash from stealing peoples money?

  3. SomatraFlint says:

    Certainly if they own and run the DRM server, they should be able to
    come up with some quick-and-dirty app that would allow users to convert
    all their Yahoo DRM music to non-DRM MP3s, or something like that…
    Maybe update the rhapsody software to automatically search and replace
    all the DRMed music with new MP3s or something? That seems like a more
    reasonable approach rather than just shutting down the server and trying
    to weasel out some voucher/refund scheme…

    Wouldn’t a smart (and perhaps dishonest) yahoo music user burn the DRM
    music to CD, rip it to MP3, then claim all new free music at Rhapsody
    anyway? I guess someone willing to do that probably wouldn’t be paying
    for music in the first place.

  4. humphrmi says:

    Carl Icahn got p.o.’d because he had lots of Yahoo music.

  5. Meathamper says:

    All of a sudden, I feel happy. I once bought one song from these guys.

  6. doctor_cos wants you to remain calm says:

    “I have ‘serious problems’ with this arrangement and I would like refunds on all the music I bought.”
    “OK, no problem. You will of course delete the tracks, and you didn’t copy them onto CDs or anything.”
    “Oh no, that would be illegal!

    The refund bit is a little much. You can’t get refunds on purchased music from pretty much anywhere (unless it’s an unopened CD). Although with CDs I can trade/sell the ones I’m tired of (or that suck).

    You can get un-DRMed tracks of what you already bought, which to me is a reasonable compromise.

    Now if Apple would make the same offer with the crippled tunes I bought from them, since Hymn is dead (killed by Apple).

  7. ptrix says:

    how did Apple “cripple” your “tunes”?

  8. A.W.E.S.O.M.-O says:

    @ptrix: By locking them to the damn iPod. My iPod’s battery won’t hold a charge anymore, and I refuse to buy another one, but that means that my Apple tracks are useless unless I do the CD rip thing, which is bullshit. Thank god for Amazon’s MP3 store…

  9. ptrix says:

    i have never used the iTunes store to purchase music, so i’m a little confused – i thought that your purchased music was actually “locked” to your Apple ID, and not the iPod? And aren’t your songs stored on your computer, where they can be uploaded to any mp3 player (iPod or otherwise) that supports AAC?

    If i’m missing something, please let me know. and also, there are cheaper ways to get non DRM’d music. The only thing i really use the iTunes store for is for getting correct ID3 tag info for songs i… obtain… using methods other than the iTunes store.

    ;D

  10. Saydur says:

    No need for proof of purchase. Any track you want. This won’t be abused at all.

  11. A.W.E.S.O.M.-O says:

    @ptrix: It is locked to your ID, and to iPods in general, not each individual iPod, because of the DRM. It’s protected AAC, so I can’t upload any of them to a Zune or anything like that.

  12. Dyscord says:

    Basically you can only play songs bought from iTMS on either the computer you bought them on, or an ipod.

    Though the ripping to a CD isn’t that bad. I mean, it’s not that much of a difference to my ears. Plus any songs I downloaded from the itunes store, all 10 or so of them, I’ve burned to CD or backed up in someway, because if your harddrive fails or something of the like, you’re screwed.

  13. BeastMD says:

    If there wasn’t DRM in the first place, we would not have all of these abandoned schemes to limit people use of their property.

    Its like buying a car and having to call the dealership every once in a while to make sure its ok for them for you to be driving it, and oh no one else can drive it, EVER.

  14. Kajj says:

    @A.W.E.S.O.M.-O: Just Google “free AAC to MP3 converter”

  15. kable2 says:

    I find it strange that people still buy music. Now granted I have a boat load of MP3’s and I was getting them before napster (FTP FTW). And before that I was copying to good quality tapes from ppl I knew.

    I still DL an MP3 or two sometimes, but I dont bother with music much anymore.

    If they want to make money go on tour.

    bittorrent.
    /that is all

  16. evslin says:

    @doctor_cos: The refund bit is a little much. You can’t get refunds on purchased music from pretty much anywhere (unless it’s an unopened CD).

    Yeah, but you don’t need a record label’s or retailer’s permission to play your CD in your laptop, then in your game console, then in your car stereo, etc. either. Music tracks with DRM on them are a completely different ballgame and I’m actually glad Yahoo is at least pretending like they understand this.

  17. trogam says:

    @A.W.E.S.O.M.-O: I’ve complelty switched from iTunes to amazon for my music purchasing. Its also a nice surprise whenever I find a track I’m looking for is actually going for 89 cents as opposed to 99 cents. Also, less of Amazons music is locked in to an “album” only setup. The one example I know of (may not still be the case) is Miles Davis, “Bitches Brew.” On iTunes it is locked into buying the whole album (I think) while on Amazon it was available for 99 cents. That made the choice a no brainer.

  18. fostina1 says:

    lol, yahoo wanted us to violate the dmca. i find this hilarious

  19. A.W.E.S.O.M.-O says:

    @Kajj: Most of those programs are just automated “CD rip method” apps…they just mount a virtual drive that acts as the CD, so the tracks still degrade slightly.

  20. snoop-blog says:

    people still buy music? I just record off the radio. I’ve got a really bad ass sound card that can record in high quality whatever is playing through my pc. So I got internet radio. No different than when I used tapes to record the radio, except now it’s easier to separate tracks.

  21. snoop-blog says:

    With the way the economy is heading, that could be bad news for the music industry as I predict more illegal downloading. Usually when the economy goes bad, theft goes way up.

  22. darundal says:

    What do you know, a story about a company doing something right (in the end, anyway). YAY!

  23. provolone says:

    @kable2: I find it strange that someone could make a comment that is so self-centered that I actually thought DRM was justified for a second.

    You are part of the reason everyone else is dealing with this crap.

  24. incognit000 says:

    They could have saved all this trouble if they just sold MP3s in the first place, couldn’t they?

  25. mike says:

    @kable2: The problem is that people like you who download songs illegally are forcing the rest of us to pay for your songs.

    Copyright infringement is a crime. Don’t promote it here. snoop-blog‘s suggestion to record of the radio is still legit.

    The conversation that is annoying to have is people who think downloading illegally is justified because the corporations make so much money. The fact is you’re still stealing no matter who’s pocket you’re taking from.

  26. ChootinDaChit says:

    I guess this is another example of why people are lucky that Microsoft didn’t end up buying Yahoo!. When Microsoft shut down the MSN downloads store awhile back, they didn’t offer any good solution to their music customers that got hosed. I’m glad to hear Yahoo! is doing the right thing here.

    In any case, I learned my lesson long ago. It’s open MP3 downloads for me or nothing. eMusic and Amazon are the best stores I’ve found.

  27. TheHans says:

    I’m not moving over to Rhapsody, so this won’t work for me. I’m going to let the account expire on September 30th. Lesson learned.
    I could try for the refund, but I’m sure they will say it is a problem with the original Musicmatch files and it’ll be a no-go for me anyway. I’m so tired of trying to get things resolved through their “Customer Care” I’m willing to throw in the towel.
    Amazon it is.

  28. stinerman says:

    @kable2:

    Oh the good old days of searching various FTP servers. Remember the U/D ratios? Oh, what fun!

  29. TheHans says:

    Well, nothing ventured, nothing gained. I’ve just placed the request through Customer Care…after attempting to send through Firefox, I had to actually send through IE as the require you to download an ActiveX control just to submit a help request. I’ll post on how well the request for a refund works.
    Oh, wait….lovely. This is the email I receive (after using the link in the email to send the request a SECOND time):
    Thank you for contacting Yahoo! Customer Care. Unfortunately an agent cannot respond to your question until it is submitted through a form on our Help pages. This step is required and assures that you provide the information necessary for us to answer your question.
    [Links to Help page which apparently don’t count as the form on the Help page.]
    Yahoo = FAIL.

  30. stinerman says:

    @linus:

    It’s also a crime to grow certain plants in the USA. Something being a crime doesn’t make it morally wrong.

    It is actually funny that you’d recommend snoop-blog’s comment about recording off the radio. That is just as much copyright infringement as downloading illegally off the Internet, depending on how long you keep it. Time shifting is a fair use, but you could be on the hook for infringement if you keep the copy for too long. And at the very least, making copies off the radio is just as much “stealing” as is downloading from the Internet.

    You’re a smart person, so I’m not going to explain the difference between actual theft and making an unauthorized copy. The odd thing is that making the unauthorized copy carries a worse penalty than actually stealing a copy.

  31. kable2 says:

    @linus:

    and why is recording off the radio ok, but downloading the exact same thing is wrong? Explain. go.

    Music is just sound waves who cares. If they have to work by doing tours to make money Boo friggen Hoo.

    Anyway downloading MP3’s for yourself in Canada is fully legal. We have to pay a levy on blank media and mp3 players, this gives us the right to suck on down mp3’s if we want to.

    Like I said a full CD with songs you like should be no more then say a cup of coffee, $2-$3. If it was I would prob buy some of them. Anything over $3 is a pure rip off.

    5 – 10 cents is what a song is worth as a download. no more.

    I wont cry a tear that some ‘artist’ or record exec cant buy the second line of coke or a second jet.

    I steal nothing, they still have their master tracks, i just have a copy that is composed of my own bits.

    /not sorry

  32. crichton007 says:

    Thanks for posting this! I read the AP story yesterday and it said nothing about how to actually claim these coupons.

  33. doctor_cos wants you to remain calm says:

    @evslin: “Music tracks with DRM on them are a completely different ballgame…”
    So they’re offering non-DRMed tracks, this is why I say a refund is a bit much.
    @ptrix: As has been said, they’re tied to either iTunes or the iPod, I can’t put them on an Archos or play them on my iPod with Rockbox.
    And you folks who say “burn them to CD and re-import”…
    AAC (lossy) –> CD –> MP3 (lossy). I have lost more of the actual song in that last step. I can hear the difference.

  34. akalish says:

    @TheHans: I just had the same experience. Does anyone have any information on how to get through to customer service???

  35. TheHans says:

    Update: Well, it’s been over 24 hours, and no response in that window as ‘promised’ by Yahoo! Customer Care. I’m assuming my requests for help have been eaten by the toooobz. *sigh* This has gone from a little annoying to a pain in my ass.
    @akalish: I’m going to start looking a little deeper to see if I can’t dig something up. This is nuts.
    Yahoo, if you’re following this thread (fat chance, I know), you’re not doing yourself any favors by making it impossible for us to get in touch with you…..

  36. TheHans says:

    I called 866-562-7219 (option 2, 1, 2, 5) and was helped by Gavin. After explaining my situation he transferred me to billing….after giving me their direct number (866-562-7228, option 5, 1). Roland was the person who answered my request, and this is what I found out (after being placed on hold twice):
    There is no refund for Musicmatch tracks. They’re telling me I have to relicense the tracks first, then I can get the refund. This is insane.
    So, if you have your tracks through Musicmatch, and try to get the refund, they will have you contact technical support first. Their email address is yahoomusicengine-feedback@cc.yahoo.-inc.com. Once the tracks are relicensed you will need to contact billing to receive the refund for these tracks.
    Ronald was very nice, and provided me with a reference number to give to Technical Support. I will re-post more information as I receive it.

  37. TheHans says:

    OK. I totally give up. This is the text of the email I received from technical support:
    —–
    Hello [TheHans],

    Thank you for contacting us about the problem you are experiencing with Yahoo! Music services.

    We understand you are facing issues with re-licensing your purchased tracks from Musicmatch.

    We apologize, but support for Musicmatch Jukebox — including the look up of lost keys and usernames, changing of passwords, and re-licensing purchased tracks is no longer available. Additionally, we can no longer migrate Musicmatch customers to the Yahoo! Music Jukebox.

    For more information about Musicmatch and Yahoo! Music services, please
    visit:

    [music.yahoo.com]

    We appreciate your understanding and apologize for any inconvenience this causes you. If you have any other questions or concerns, please reply to this message — we’re always more than happy to help and appreciate all feedback that helps us identify ways to constantly maintain and improve our services.

    Thank you again for writing to Yahoo! Music.

    Regards,

    Garry
    —–
    They can take that $30.69 I paid for those songs and cram it. I’m done.