Dell on Wednesday began offering bundles of songs on new computers ordered through its Web site.
Just like you can add a copy of Microsoft Office or an extra hard drive, you can pick a bundle of 50 MP3 files for an extra $25 or 100 MP3s for an extra $45--that's about half the price of most download stores. The deal's limited to songs owned by Universal Music Group, one of the big four record labels.
When I first read about this, it seemed an afterthought for newbies too clueless to know how to rip CDs to their hard drive. But after taking a look through the playlists, it made a little more sense: these are genre-specific samplers or one-hit wonders. In other words, the kinds of songs that people might enjoy having on their MP3 player but aren't worth buying a full album to get.
For instance, as a classic-rock kid from the '80s, there are times I might enjoy hearing "Funk #49," "Maggie May," or "One Thing Leads To Another" (in fact, I've owned LPs with all of those songs at one time), but I wouldn't pay a buck to download them. But there they both are on the "Rock Titans" bundle, along with a few other ex-radio songs that get stuck in my head occasionally, as well as some trash I'd delete immediately.
So basically, Dell and Universal are charging $25 to save you the trouble of going to an online music store like Amazon.com or iTunes, and downloading a bunch of individual tunes. The idea would work better if it dug deeper into particular genres--the Blues Masters collection is great for casual blues fans, but what about Madchester flashback or old school?