The rumours we heard back in May were true - Sanity has now officially launched its music subscription service, LoadIt, the same service it promised back when Microsoft launched Vista in January 2007. But anybody looking for the future o music consumption should look away fast, otherwise you might sear your eyeballs with the incredible lack of value in Sanity's proposition.
For a start, it's so packed full of restrictions that it makes Cuba look like the centre of the free world. First off, there's the Windows Media association - we knew this was always going to happen, but it essentially means that Mac and Linux users are a no-go. And, of course, anyone who uses an iPod - each song is WMA with DRM, so only Plays For Sure MP3 players will work with this service.
Then there's the track limits. For $29 a month you get - wait for it - the ability to download 300 songs each month. Over time, that's probably not too bad a proposition - 3,600 songs each year isn't terrible value for money. But that first month, when you want to load up your non-iPod MP3 player... You can only grab 300 songs. Worse is that if you do download more than 300, there are excess charges, although what they are isn't spelled out on the LoadIt website. As a point of reference, Napster's subscription service in the US offers unlimited downloads for US$12.95 a month.
And finally, there's the subscription model itself. You pay $29 a month for your music. After a year you might have built up a decent collection. But if you stop paying your subscription fees, all that music will disappear like smoke in the wind, and you'll be left with nothing but a credit card debt and an empty MP3 player. Of course, the LoadIt store also offers pay-by-the-track downloads that you actually get to own and keep, but once again they're loaded with DRM in WMA format. With BigPond's announcement of DRM-free MP3 music this week, there is no reason whatsoever to buy individual tracks from Sanity.
In addition to the online store, there will also be in-store kiosks that allow you to download tunes. Considering they won't work on iPods, these have a very limited appeal as well.
If the LoadIt store had launched back in April 2007 when it was supposed to, perhaps we wouldn't be so harsh. But the simple fact is that the world has moved on - BigPond and iTunes are selling DRM free music and iTunes is selling movies as well. The Sanity option really does feel like they missed the boat, and are now desperately waving on the shore, hoping that the digital music ship comes back to port to pick them up. But we wouldn't hold our breath on that one, Sanity.