Ubuntu One Music Store FAQ

Updated 5 March 22 58:07 UTC

The developers behind the Ubuntu One Music Store have put a FAQ online, which I’ve reproduced below. I’ve been beta testing the store out for a few days and have bought some singles and albums directly in Rhythmbox. In fact I think I was the first person to buy an album in the store 😀 It works really well, but clearly it’s not quite finished. There’s also a lot of rumour and misunderstanding around the store, so it’s great to see the developers putting this information out there.

Note: Just running Ubuntu Lucid Alpha 3 will not enable the online store. You need to be a beta tester to get the ‘magic’ that makes the store work.


Q: What will be the store’s name?
The store is called the Ubuntu One Music Store.

Q: How is Ubuntu getting access to popular music?
For the Ubuntu One Music Store, our primary goals are to 1) provide a wide selection of popular songs to users and 2) enable Ubuntu users around the world to have access to these songs. Among the partners evaluated, we chose 7digital because they had the largest selection of songs available without digital rights management (DRM) for the most regions around the world.

Q: What desktop application will include the Ubuntu One Music Store?
The standard Ubuntu music player, Rhythmbox, will be used for the music store. We know that people still want choice in their music player application so The Ubuntu One Music Store was developed as a plug-in that can be re-used in some other music applications. We have received approval from the music labels for the Ubuntu One Music Store to be embedded within Banshee, Amarok, and a few other applications. Please contact the Ubuntu One Music Store team for information about this process and implementation support.

Q: How is this different than Jamendo and Magnatune?
Jamendo and Magnature will remain in the Rhythmbox music player. These are both great sources for creative commons and open licensed songs. The Ubuntu One Music Store extends the catalog of music available to Ubuntu users and will include mostly songs from minor and major label artists. These are songs that you typically find on the shelves of your favorite record shop…except in a downloadable format.

Q: What are the details about the music in the Ubuntu One Music Store?
Songs purchased through the Ubuntu One Music Store are available in high quality 256 kbps (sometimes higher) MP3 audio encoding and without digital rights management (DRM). MP3 purchases can be:

  • burned to a CD any number of times
  • played through any software on any type of computer that you own that supports MP3
  • synced to any MP3-enabled device such as a portable music player

You may occasionally find songs in WMA format. We’re working with our partner to remove these songs from the Ubuntu One Music Store. Until this is resolved, we don’t recommend purchasing these songs in this format. An MP3 version can typically be found by using the store’s search feature.

Update 27 Feb, 2010: There will be no embedded ‘watermarks’ of any kind on the MP3s in the Ubuntu One Music Store.

Some have asked for songs in other formats such as Ogg Vorbis or FLAC. Acquiring popular songs in this format was not possible at this time, but Canonical will continue to look for future opportunities to improve the quality of the songs found in the Ubuntu One Music Store.

Q: What are the ‘system requirements’?
If your computer can run Ubuntu 10.04, has Rhythmbox installed, can play sounds and connect to the Internet, then you are ready to use the Ubuntu One Music Store.

Q: Will these downloads play on my iPod or portable media player?
The MP3 format is widely supported on portable media players such as the iPod. Rhythmbox works with most portable media players without additional configuration and a Rhythmbox plug-in (libgpod) is available that provides support for most iPods.

Q: What are the features of the Ubuntu One Music Store?
The Ubuntu One Music Store has features that users expect from an online store.

  • Search by artist, album, or track
  • Browse recommendations and genres
  • Discover new releases or just released songs each week
  • A convenient shopping basket
  • Support for a variety of payment options

Q: How is the store related to Ubuntu One?
An Ubuntu One account is required to purchase songs from the Ubuntu One Music Store. Ubuntu One accounts are free and come with 2 GB of personal cloud storage. Purchased songs are automatically transferred to your cloud storage, synchronized to all of your computers, and added to Rhythmbox. Customers will find a new library that contains purchases from the Ubuntu One Music Store. You can also fetch your music from your personal cloud storage through a web browser, just like all your other files.

Integrating the Ubuntu One Music Store with Ubuntu One gives consumers the security of online backup as well as convenience of auto-synchronization.

Please note that Ubuntu One synchronization does not support users who connect to the Internet through a proxy server. These users will need to download their purchases from the Ubuntu One website and manually add songs to their Rhythmbox library.

Q: What does it mean by x downloads remaining?
The Ubuntu One Music Store’s partnership with the music labels limits the number of times customers can download a purchased song from the music store to three (3). While this gives people some security in case of catastrophe, additional downloads should not be necessary as purchases are backed-up in the customers’s Ubuntu One personal cloud. The initial transfer from the music store to a customer’s Ubuntu One personal cloud will count as one (1) download. Any synchronization of purchased songs stored in your Ubuntu One personal cloud to any number of your computers does not count against the music store’s download limit. Clicking to download again will transfer songs to your Ubuntu One personal cloud again and will deduct from the downloads remaining. Customers shouldn’t need to do this though unless they delete the song from their cloud storage.

Q: What regions of the world will be able to purchase songs?
Most popular songs are licensed by territory (basically by country). Our starting territories will be the UK, US, Germany, the rest of the EU (EU countries outside of the UK and Germany), and the rest of the world (countries outside the EU and US). Customers who use the EU store will have access to purchase songs from two of the four major labels. Customers who use the World store will have access to purchase songs from independent labels.

Update 27 Feb, 2010: Perhaps we could have been a bit more clear about this. Customers who use the UK, US, and Germany stores will have access to purchase songs from all major and independent music labels.

Canonical will analyze usage of the EU and Rest of World stores after the 10.04 launch to decide which territories would be best for expansion. Watch the Ubuntu One blog in the months following the launch of Ubuntu 10.04 for more information.

Q: How do independent artists from the Ubuntu community get their songs into the store?
The Ubuntu One Music Store has great potential for the Ubuntu community and we want members to be able to contribute their own works (especially if it was produced on Ubuntu) to the store. Our partner, 7digital, works with various digital distribution companies that represent artists. Here are a few that you can contact to get your songs added to the 7digital catalog and the Ubuntu One Music Store.

Q: I’ve found a bug. I have a great feature. What do I do?
Please submit bugs and feature requests to the Ubuntu One Music Store project in Launchpad. The development team monitors this area and reads all messages.

Q: Where do I get help?
Customer support is available by clicking on the Help button in the Ubuntu One Music Store.

Q: Ubuntu can’t play MP3s out of the box so how will we play purchased songs?
Canonical has put effort into making the customer experience as effortless as possible. When you visit the Ubuntu One Music Store, it will detect if you have MP3 support installed. If you don’t, the store will install the Fluendo MP3 plugin for GStreamer. The MP3 plugin is distributed worldwide at no charge under a license from Fluendo. An Internet connection is required.

Q: How can I install and test the store?
The store isn’t quite ready for wider testing. Watch this area or the Ubuntu One blog for more details coming soon.

35 thoughts on “Ubuntu One Music Store FAQ”

    1. The code is open source, so anyone can write an embedded store in other players. Technically I believe the labels need to be asked, but as I understand it some players have already been cleared, and I believe Amarok is one of them – along with Rhythmbox of course 😉

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        1. If you’re shocked by the fact that a company wants to control the way their product is sold then you’ve probably been living under a rock for the last few years. I fail to see how it’s surprising that the record companies want to have some level of control over the experience of buying their product.

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          1. Well they also don’t control how the browser looks that I use to access their store, nor whether I have a “Fuck MPAA” image as desktop wallpaper; so much for controlling “the experience of buying their product”. Nor do other companies control the experience when I re-sell their stuff in second-hand shops, on flea markets, or on Ebay.

            Anyway, I didn’t live under a rock for the last few years, and just chalk this up as another “those record company people sure have a peculiar view of the world”. And on the bright side it’s nice to see that at least this U1MS is possible today, with automatic cloud distribution and no DRM.

    1. It’s unfortunate, but it’s out of our control. It’s the record labels and the partner (7 digital) who make that decision.

      You can of course convert them to Ogg after downloading, if your player of choice prefers Oggs. It’s not a nice solution, but it’s all we have. If the choice was “you can have MP3 download store, and an automatic legal installed MP3 codec” or “you get no store” I know which I’d take!

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  1. Why is the store called Ubuntu One Music Store? Why isn’t called 7digital store?

    Why do we have to harm the Ubuntu brand by using its name on this music store? It violates two tenants of the Ubuntu philosophy/promise/spirit: it relies on MP3 technology, and it’s not gratis.

    I really hate how Canonical can just stick the brand Ubuntu on whatever it wants without caring for ‘humanity to others’, or consulting the community.

    1. You know what’s great about the Ubuntu philosophy/promise/spirit its not legally binding. Canonical has never entered into any legal binding contract with a 3rd party which would put restrictions on how they can use the Ubuntu mark. No one can tell Canonical they are not allowed to use the trademark for anything they want (barring some sort of trademark infringement claim by a competitor but that’s not the issue)

      I suspect you are going to see Canonical turning to the Ubuntu brand a lot more in the future for product branding to take advantage of the brand recognition. It’s not like “Canonical” is a strong brand. It could have been called Canonical One and Canonical One Music Store..but since Canonical has not spent any effort on making Canonical a strong brand, that would be harder. So instead they are going to monetize the Ubuntu brand, because its the easier path to take. The community has a poured a lot of goodwill and value into the Ubuntu brand and now Canonical is going to start cashing in that value.

      And that wouldn’t be such a bad thing. Ubuntu does exist because Canonical spends money to keep all the infrastructure in place to make it possible for the Ubuntu project to exists. Cashing in on shared brand value, and then turning that cash back into shared infrastructure is a good thing. Except for the fact that no other enterprising community members with a good business plan and a great idea can leverage that community brand value as freely as Canonical can. Canonical gets to define what is and is not “Ubuntu” even though many people are contributing the the brand value. Anyone who told you otherwise, set you up to be disappointed.


  2. Is it possible in the future that multiple online vendors could be supported for the Ubuntu One Music Store? In other words, could we have a built in option to say buy my music from 7digital or alternatively from Amazon all through Rhythmbox? Maybe, there could be an open api for setting up shop through the Ubuntu One Music store? This would be a great way to encourage competition and support a lot of the smaller online music stores that don’t get proper recognition. For example, I buy music from Amazon but also from Boomkat.com, digital.othermusic.com, zero-inch.com, beatport.com, soulseduction.com, AmieStreet.com, and so on. If there was an easy way for these companies to integrate through the Ubuntu One Music store then I could browse each of them and compare prices, bit rate, file formats, etc. and make the best choice for myself.

      1. That is actually an excellent idea. While there are sites and services that link to a couple of different providers, I haven’t heard of anything like what Forest is describing being done before.

        While I’m sure it would be a huge headache for the legal department, it would also add real value to the idea and set it apart from everything else.

        Even if the formats and bit-rates are the same in most cases, think about this: No music store has everything and that includes iTunes, even though they probably offer the most songs right now.

        While U1MS still wouldn’t have everything, it could have the largest selection if you included 7digital, Amazon, and a lot of the smaller players.

        1. Yes, and not only would U1MS have the largest selection, but it would put many of those small music stores squarely behind Ubuntu and in support of OSS. Right now, one of greatest weaknesses of Ubuntu (and Linux in general) is a lack of name recognition. So often people see me using Ubuntu and say, “what is this?” When I tell them it’s Linux, they look confused and I find myself explaining to them not only what GNU/Linux is but also what open source software is. But if online music vendors had a reason to support Ubuntu, if they advertised on their on their websites that their store integrates seamlessly with Ubuntu, then people who have no knowledge of OSS will read that and become interested in Ubuntu.

          So the next question is how do we get this idea to the developers? Ubuntu Brainstorm? Some Ubuntu One e-mail list or forum?

    1. I’m not anticipating this to be a legal issue for any distribution as long as the store does not require an mp3 decoder be installed to purchase music (ie purchase music even if you can’t listen to it). But it could be a distribution policy issue. I’d have a hard time seeing this be installed by default in Fedora because its mp3 only content..but that’s a policy question not a legal one.

    2. Yes, even the name may be changed:


      This library is free software; you can redistribute it and/or
      modify it under the terms of the GNU Lesser General Public
      License Version 3.0 as published by the Free Software Foundation.”

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