This year saw the beta opening of two new digital music stores in the Philippines: MyMusic Store (run by the big labels) and opm2go (co-owned by Ogie Alcasid). Well, three if you count iTunes FINALLY opening up its catalog to the Philippines. Will MyMusic Store and opm2go finally change the way Filipinos treat digital music? Problems with their predecessors include high prices and lack of payment options. I decided to try both stores to see for myself.
First up, the heavy hitter: MyMusic Store
MyMusic Store is a collaboration between the major labels so the store prominently features their signed artists. They have both local and foreign acts. You can browse and search by artist, album, song, and genre. There are no dedicated “OPM” or “Indie” sorting tabs in the main menu.
- Interface: Tolerable but not user-friendly.
- Searching: Searching their database felt like forever.
- Catalog: Huge catalog of major label artists but hardly any independent artists.
- Prices: Foreign artists are usually P35 per song. Local artists range from P15 to P25 per song. Spongecola, a local artist with a major label, was P25 per song. I’m not sure who sets the prices for indie bands. Up Dharma Down and Techy Romantics are both indie bands but UDD tracks were P15 each while Techy Romantics were P25 per track.
- Audio quality: Low quality mp3s. The Rascal Flatts song I bought (don’t judge me) was encoded at only 160 kbps. The UDD songs were 256 kbps. RIP-OFF!!! If I knew beforehand that the audio files were like this, I NEVER would have bought them. Another capital sin? Some of the songs had missing ID3 tags and album art.
- Payment methods: MyMusic Store e-PINS (from Load Central retailers), Paypal, credit card (processed via Paypal), and MyMusic Store gift cards. I like that their credit card payment option results in one-is-to-one conversion (Php 100 credit card charge gets you PhP 100 store credit). No option to pay via mobile phone.
- Downloading: You have 48 hours from the time of purchase to download your songs and save them to your computer.
Verdict: Convenient payment scheme but with the prices they’re charging and the generally low quality files, you’re better off buying the physical CD unless there’s only one track you must have.
The challenger: opm2go
The name says it all: all Original Pilipino Music, all the time. There are no foreign artists in the store. You can browse and search by artist, album, song, and genre. Bonus points: there’s a separate “Indie” section that’s highlighted in the main menu.
- Interface: Generally the same as MyMusic but somehow found it easier to navigate.
- Searching: Faster response than MyMusic, though that might be because they have a smaller catalog.
- Catalog: Not a lot of major label artists. The ones I’ve seen so far are from Universal (Ogie, Regine Velasquez, Gary Valenciano, etc.) and Vicor. On the upside, lots and lots of indies!
- Prices: Songs range from P10 to P15. Indie songs are usually P10 each, while the ones from major labels are P15. Something I noticed: Techy Romantics tracks were P25 each at MyMusic Store while only P10 each at opm2go. What gives? Does MyMusic get a bigger share of the pie compared to opm2go?
- Audio quality: Inconsistent. The Rock Rizal album and Chelo Aestrid songs I got were 320 kbps and 256 kbps, while the Techy Romantics songs were 160 kbps. Why is this? Who’s responsible for providing the files for download? And I was all set to rejoice at the high quality audio files. ID3 tags were also in place, with lyrics too!
- Payment methods: GoCard PINs (available in convenience stores, Astroplus, Odyssey, and National Bookstore branches), Smart Pasabayad (P61 for P60 worth of store credit, deducted from your Smart or TNT mobile load), or credit card (processed by Google Checkout, $2.99 [~Php 125] for Php 100 store credit). I wanted to pay via credit card but the processing fee was too steep so chose Smart Pasabayad instead. Payment was quick and convenient. I only wish you could set the denomination.
- Downloading: You can download your purchases up to 4 times, provided it’s to the same computer each time.
Verdict: Was about to fall absolutely in love because of the reasonable prices and great catalog of Filipino independent artists but the inconsistent file quality threw me. Wish they had a wider selection for the major label artists but that’s unlikely to ever happen.
So, where should you go?
If you’re after the mainstream artists (both foreign and local), go to MyMusic Store because they have the more extensive catalog. Unfortunately, you’ll be paying through the nose for the songs and getting poor quality files. The whole setup feels like either 1) the online store is a lame attempt at selling digitally and was doomed to fail from the start, or 2) they’re cheating customers who prefer to buy single tracks or digital in general, since a foreign CD is usually Php 450, equivalent to only 12 digital songs. The 48 hour download window is also ridiculous. The only good thing I can say about MyMusic Store is that they make it very easy for you to part with your money. I’m just going to finish off the rest of my P500 gift card then never go back.
If you’re after local independent artists, then opm2go is it. Good selection, good price, easy to navigate, decent payment options. However, there are still some things that need to be addressed: the consistency in audio quality (for mp3s, it should be 320 kbps or nothing), more reasonable credit card charges, and the four download maximum. The four download maximum is only slightly less ridiculous than the 48 hour download window of MyMusic. I expect unlimited access to my purchased songs. Another thing I’m wishing for is that the songs be made available in other audio formats. One of the things I love about Bandcamp is that you can get your music in a variety of formats: 320 kbps, FLAC, AAC, and the like. Sure, most people don’t know the difference but it’s still important to the few people who are particular. Fix these problems and opm2go just might become my new best friend.