The Tower Record store chains launches its new digital download sales site today and our first look at the service was a generally positive one:
- Tracks are ripped at a superior 192 kps in the WMA format compared to the 128 kps of other services.
- Finally a download destination that feels like every other good non-music online retailer. Using Tower Digital requires no special software downloads unlike most services. This may limit some of the functionality, but for those who buy tracks from multiple sites it's a blessing to have one less thing cluttering their system tray.
- The site is generally clean, clear and easy to use.
- At 1.2 million tracks it's far from complete, but reasonably comprehensive.
- Tower's power as a retailer could lead to unique cross-promotions and content.
What's not so great about Tower Digital? While there are artist bios and some music recommendation features, new music discovery seems to be less of a priority at Tower. Song samples are at the inadequate industry standard of 30 seconds (Napster offers as supported full song previews.) and there are no "trusted gatekeepers" like at MTV's URGE online store. Missing too are online stations like those tied to Yahoo!'s music site.
All in all, Tower Digital is off too solid start and it's better quality tracks alone should help it garner favor with a segment of the market. But more new music discovery is essential for Tower and the entire download sector's future growth.
Read our exclusive interview with Tower VP of Business Development Jason Munyon here.