Exclusive - now Datz not what I call music: what's gone wrong?

19 August 2009

When a new online music service is heralded as "a really big deal" at launch, we usually tend to notice - even in our dungeon of an office here at Bitterwallet. So when we receive an email about the Next New Future Of Music™ and we haven't heard of it, then either we really need to get out more or it provided a less rosy vision of the future than advertised.

The Datz Music Lounge - "what every music lover has been looking for" - launched in October last year and received a modest amount of press. It certainly promises plenty to satisfy music fans - for a one-off payment of £100, you can "download as many tracks as you want from a choice of millions", all of which are DRM free. Above all else, Datz promises the music was "100% legal, 100% original."

Despite early reviews suggesting the set-up procedure involving a CD and a dongle was a little painful, it was generally accepted this new revenue model for online music was worth giving a chance. And widespread product availability through Sainsbury's and Firebox probably means it has several thousand customers, all expecting free music downloads from well-known artists for a full 12 months. Except something seems to have gone wrong, at least according to Bitterwallet reader Geoff:

Having purchased a year’s subscription to this all you-can-eat MP3 service some seven weeks ago from Sainsburys at the bargain price of £29.99, I have been busily building up a substantial catalogue of albums and have been generally pleased with the availability of tracks from the Warner Brothers archive (e.g. Madonna, REM, Grateful Dead, Jackson Browne, Red Hot Chilli Peppers). At the time I purchased however I noticed that the promised artists and tracks from the EMI catalogue appeared to no longer be accessible.

On Friday last, the service was terminating with SQL errors against all tracks. It now shows a substantially smaller number of artists, with all Warner and most independent labels no longer represented. Image links are also broken. The impression given is that the company no longer has access to ANY of the promised major artists.

Our first thought was that given the low price paid compared to original launch price just seven months ago, Geoff had purchased a limited trial of the service, but he's not the only customer having problems; having looked through the types of tracks available, we have to agree with Geoff's assessment. This is a random selection from the Pop section, and is typical of the genre listings as a whole:

Browse through the entire catalogue and you'll spot a handful of names you recognise, but they're hardly prime examples of their genre and they're lost in a sea of artists and recordings that have never troubled public consciousness. You'll find songs from Kylie's and Madonna's back catalogue, but they're karaoke and "tribute" versions - that suggests Datz still has agreements with the major music publishing companies (which gives them access to a particular song) but not the major record labels (which would give them access to a particular artist's version of that song). The "100% original" claim seems to have been mislaid.

There are other indications all isn't going well at Datz:

  • their website states that the product is still available to buy from both Sainsbury's and Firebox - except Sainsbury's has no mention of Datz on their site and in the case of Firebox, "this product is no longer available."
  • there have been some desperately priced deals on offer recently to flog the package; cutting the retail price by four fifths just six months after launch surely wasn't part of the original business plan, was it?

The questions that need answering right now are:

  • what happens to customers who paid for a 12 month service that now appears to be selling them seriously short on the original promise?

Unfortunately, the answers are rather harder to come by. We tried to talk to Datz this morning, but found that the head office number on their contact page is never answered. We contacted 24-7 Entertainment who appear to supply Datz with their music catalogue, but they refused to comment on the matter. We're now waiting for their press representitive at XL Communications to return our message. In the meantime we've contacted Firebox who did comment - they told Bitterwallet that the website decided to stop selling product on the 18th of December, although they continued to sell remaining stock after this date. Usually Firebox stop selling product because of poor sales or because an upgraded product is due on the market - neither appears to have been the case, according to the Firebox representative.

There may be some reasonable explanation for all of this, but then you'd think somebody at Datz would be willing to tell us. We'll keep you up-to-date with any new developments.

15 comments

  • Tom P.
    Good article, but too long to read in between the boss leaving the room for 2 minutes.
  • Martha F.
    Shit, anyone with Shiri Maimons Tamshich La'lechet ???? ???? Lately - The Hebrew Version (no less) is definately worth a punt innit?
  • Paul S.
    Sorry about that Tom. Just read every third word next time - it should still make sense.
  • Nobby
    Forgetting the poor availability issue for a minute, concerning the one-off fee for a year. Do you get to keep / play the DRM free tracks once the year is up? Are you essentially legally buying whatever music you ever wanted that has been published up until the end of the year?
  • Geoff
    Nobby, as far as I understand it was for you to keep the mp3's forever, with a licence to allow them to be copied to up to five devices. There were a couple of things about the site that should really have rung alarm bells in my head - first was the shaky interface, with very poor search facilities and apparently not improved since the launch. The other was the counter of available artists on the front page. This suspiciously increases by exactly 500 every couple of days, and seem to bare very little relationship to the actual lists when you browsed. Especially since about 90% of the artists you've ever heard of have disappeared in the last week.
  • Jammer M.
    Unrelated to the Media Lounge issue I got some DATZ music last week through some voucher that I got from buying a 3 mobile dongle a couple of weeks ago (thx hotdeals). I could download the music and play all the albums on my PC but only one of the albums works on my mp3 player, the rest look to be DRM'ed!
  • Datz B.
    [...] £100 for 12 months. Except instead of allowing you to download tracks from world-famous artists, most of the popular material has disappeared from the store in the past week, leaving nothing much but dregs and karaoke [...]
  • AndyG
    I purchased Malcolm Mclaren's Fans album from this site. The money was taken and the order went through but when I came to download the music there are no download links. What a con!! I've emailed them but get no response and when I try the customer service number provided you get no answer!!!
  • Nix
    I've had datz music lounge since Jan 09 and have some doubts as to whether its legal. The reasons 1) For a while artists would appear for a few days and then quickly disappear (Led Zeppelin, Kelis, Gary Moore are a few examples - Gary Moore was still there but all bar one of his albums vanished). In the case if LZ I e-mailed and asked what had happened and someone replied saying something about the rights not being sorted out and that they were sorry but Led Zeppelin would not be back on the site. However a few weeks later they did briefly reappear for about a week. I got rather a lot of LZ tracks from datz but I am not sure if I am supposed to have them or not. 2) There are some albums on other sites that have tracks that are only available if you buy the whole album. I have found a lot of these on datz and in every case I've found so far the track in question won't download but all the other album's tracks will. This made me think that datz were probably using tracks from other sites. Which I don't think is legal unless they have a redistribution agreement. 3) Some tracks I downloaded (I can't remember which ones as datz tagging is so appalling I have had to retag almost everything I've got from there) were tagged "from iTunes" I'm not so bothered that datz is technically crap (poor tagging, rubbish search, dongle hackable as it's based on your hostname, lack of new artists for about the last 5 months, filenames not encoded properly) and the site's been down more than it's been up in the last month. I've had more than 99 quids worth of music out of it - unless it turns out to be illegal in which case I've wasted my money and my time. I think they've gone bang anyway - they at least used to answer e-mails when you complained about a duff track and they aren't doing so any more.
  • Geoff
    Just to follow up this story, the website is now totally unavailable, showing an expired security certificate - BUT the demo version from datz.com still works, they're still accepting orders and Sainsburys has the package on sale still! PS Nix, I think the tracks were legal - they used a intermediate distribution company (24-7) for the tracks (like Amazon). This would explain why certain long album tracks (over ten minutes) were unavailable. On Amazon those same tracks were only available if you purchase the whole album. So I think this was a restriction placed by Warner Bros on third-party companies.
  • Nix
    Thanks for clarifying about the legality/distribution company Geoff. I'm surprised at the atrocious tagging if they are using a third party but I've no experience of 24-7 other than through datz. The demo version doesn't work any more, it redirects to a "Datz Music Lounge is currently closed, sorry" page.
  • That’s B.
    [...] month on since we warned you that Datz Music Lounge was in serious trouble, the company has officially ceased trading and gone into liquidation. Music Week reports that the [...]
  • A B.
    [...] August, Bitterwallet has covered the demise of Datz Music Lounge – from the initial worry amongst customers, to the unpicking of their finances, to their final demise and liquidation. You’ll notice we [...]
  • firebomb
    good post congratulations
  • Paul
    WARNING: October 2010, just seen the Datz.com box for sale in Sainsbury's for £50. Never heard of it before but sounded good. I read the stuff on that back and it said that the 12 months of music access was vallid until Dec31st2010 meaning I'd only get less than 3 months of access. So i didn't buy it, I thought I'd check out their website first, and that seems to have been taken down and is up for sale. So what I found, --------Sainsbury's still sell it for £50. --------The Website has shut down so no service.

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