CD retailers are dead in the water

Popped into the shopping mall on Friday night and stuck my head around the door of Zavvi, the new name for Virgin, hoping to buy - yeah, I know, it's a shock - a copy of the new Metallica album.

I wasn't the only one, it seems, that saw the band on Later Live with Jools Holland last Tuesday. Out of stock.

Same story over at HMV. No worries. Came home and logged onto MP3sparks.com, the successor (allegedly) to AllofMP3.com, the Russkie music download site, and downloaded the album for $4.68 in 320 kilobits per second MP3 format.

That's about two and half quid at current exchange rates and, despite what many industry experts say, these Russian sites are licensed, although it is something of a grey area, as the licences appear to be for Russia only.

Then I popped round to a mate on Saturday early evening - only to find that he's downloaded the same album from the Usenet in FLAC (lossless) format at zero cost to himself!

I'm not condoning my mate's actions, but he's a real hi-fi buff and where previously he would have bought an album at a store, owing to the low fidelity of the online downloads, that isn't true anymore.

He went for the free FLAC/lossless edition as the iTunes edition - which still costs about eight quid - is a downloadable at a quarter-fidelity (compared to the full CD version).

And there's the rub. The online versions of music simply aren't up to the same level of fidelity as the real CDs.

I think the battle against music piracy is lost.

Especially if the record stores don't hold enough stocks of the CD you want to buy....