music downloads

How I save money on Streaming/Downloads

You can save money on the music, television and film streaming and downloading services in Canada by purchasing discounted gift cards to pay for downloads or subscriptions in advance.

I’ve personally obtained discounts and bonus loyalty points on gift cards for Amazon.ca (Amazon Music/Prime Video), Cineplex, iTunes, Google Play and Netflix. And have seen similar offers on gift cards for SiriusXM and Spotify on occasion at some retailers. But you’ve got to know where to look to find them:

Amazon.ca – Amazon occasionally has targeted promotions that are sent by email to their customers and occasionally pop up on banners on their site, most of which include promotional credits when one reloads their gift cards or adds funds to their Amazon Cash accounts. At the moment there is an offer for a $5 promotional credit for first-time users that add $20 to their Amazon Cash account before September 30th, 2020.

Best Buy Canada – iTunes gift cards are usually discounted at this electronics chain in the Christmas shopping season but offers do occasionally pop up from time to time.

Esso/Mobile Canada – Esso Extra points can be redeemed in store for Cineplex gift cards and online for Amazon.ca, Cineplex and iTunes gift cards. Click here for details.

Guardian/IDA – Both these pharmacies have rare offers on gift cards, also mostly in the Christmas shopping season. Their flyers might be worth a browse then.

Jean Coutu – Mostly located in Quebec, New Brunswick and Eastern Ontario, this pharmacy occasionally offers a discount on gift cards. And although you can’t collect or redeem Air Miles for gift cards at the stores themselves, you can redeem “Cash Miles” for Cineplex eVouchers from Air Miles collected at participating retailers.

Loblaws – This grocery chain and its affiliated stores (Your Independent Grocer, Real Canadian Superstore, Atlantic Superstore) mostly offer bonus Optimum points with the purchase of the above-mentioned gift cards but do occasionally offer discounts on these gift cards. Look at the bottom of the flyer pages for their weekly offers and/or occasional graphic showing the gift cards associated with the week’s offers.

London Drugs – Although I haven’t personally shopped at a London Drugs pharmacy, I’ve heard they occasionally have discounts and offers on their gift card selection. I’ve seen a flyer or two with some rather interesting offers that I couldn’t take advantage of because they don’t have a store in my community. They do ship gift cards by mail though.

Petro Canada – Although I haven’t seen discounts being offered on gift cards by this gas station chain, it is one of the few retailers that allow people to redeem their loyalty points on physical and electronic gift cards, specifically from Best Buy, Cineplex and iTunes.

Pharmasave – Another pharmacy that has discounts on gift cards, mainly in the Christmas shopping season.

Rexall – This chain of pharmacies used to offer bonus Air Miles for gift cards but have just introduced their own loyalty program, whose terms & conditions state points cannot be collected or redeemed on gift cards. But I suspect they may discount specific gift cards on occasion, like during the Christmas shopping season, so you may consider browsing the weekly flyers.

Shell – These gas stations rarely have flyers but they and Air Miles occasionally send out promotions that contain offers for bonus Air Miles, by mail, email and on their respective web sites. But the selection of cards may be limited in the smaller locations.

Shoppers Drug Mart – This pharmacy also offers bonus Optimum points and also occasionally offers discounts on specific gift cards, mostly posting these offers along the bottom of their flyer pages, among other information. They also occasionally add pictures of the gift cards that are eligible for an offer that week.

Sobeys – This grocery chain occasionally offers discounts and bonus Air Miles on gift cards, including a few of the gift cards listed above.

I haven’t yet tried Rakuten to get money back from my Cineplex and Cineplex gift card purchases but I’ll consider it in the future. And if I can think of some more discounts and loyalty point offers I’ll update this blog entry, as soon as possible. I’m sure I’m forgetting one or two.

Meanwhile, I hope you’ll be able to find some deals.

Newegg Canada

Goodbye iTunes

Bloomberg has reported that iTunes will be no more shortly, Apple having planned to replace this app with three individual apps for music, television and podcasts soon.

Originally announced on January 9th, 2001 at the 2001 Macworld Expo in San Francisco, this program had been released in March 2001 and brought Apple into the music industry, changing that industry by providing easy access to 200,000 individual tracks via a newly created online store by April 2003.

With iTunes 4.1, Apple extended access to their store to Microsoft Windows operating system users on October 16th, 2003, launching the Canadian iTunes store on December 2nd, 2004 with the release of iTunes 4.7.

When version 6 of the program was released on October 12th, 2005, users of this program were given access to popular television programs, Pixar shorts and music videos, later gaining access to Digital Rights Management free recordings via iTunes Plus and the release of version 7.2 of this program on May 29th, 2007. And Canadians were able to purchase or rent major studio films the following year on June 4, 2008 via iTunes 7.6, which eventually contributed to the demise of several DVD and blu-ray rental chains in Canada.

On May 13th, Apple had announced that the AppleTV app was available to Canadian iPhone, iPad and Apple TV customers that are running iOS 12.3 and tvOS 12.3. And that Mac and select Samsung Smart TV owners (2018/19 models) will be able to install and use that new program in the fall.

I suspect the iTunes music store will simply be rebranded to Apple Music, offering streaming and music downloads. And redirect older links to this service.

Where is it?

Remember back in the late 90’s and early 2000’s when the media and content providers claimed we would be accessing content from the four corners of the earth?

Well, it’s nearly 2020 and we’re still having serious distribution issues when it comes to music and film from Europe.

This may not be a problem for most english speakers in this country, who primarily look at Hollywood blockbusters and the odd independent film from the states, Canada, Britain, Ireland or Australia. But when you wander on the Internet Movie Database and encounter films that feature actors and actresses you know from some of those films, you may notice that these have not been made available to North Americans, regardless of the major award nominations or wins these have accumulated.

In my case I have been encountering dead ends trying to rent or purchase recent music and films from Denmark and Finland, that i’ve been searching for since the release of the Academy Award winning film “In A Better World” in 2011.

This excellent Danish drama is available on blu-ray in North America and can be downloaded via Google Play and iTunes in Canada and the United States. But Canadians will not be able to find “Someone You Love“, another Scandinavian drama featuring Swedish actor Mikael Persbrandt, or Danish teen horror flick “Danny’s Doomsday“, which features William Jøhnk Nielsen (one of the young, lead actors in “In A Better World“).

Those films were made available on DVD and blu-ray for a short time after their original 2014 theatrical release and are still available for rental and purchase in Europe via several services, including iTunes and Google Play. But only “Danny’s Doomsday” has made it “across the pond”, exclusively to Prime Video in the states.

I’ve contacted iTunes, Google Play and Amazon/Prime Video repetitively in regards to several other European films and the response is pretty much “we’re slowly adding to our catalog so it might appear online soon”, the response i’ve received for over a decade in response to my requests for several classic french films i’ve wanted.

The delays in regards to the french films i’ve asked for are understandable because they’re rather obscure outside of Quebec and the other parts of North America where french isn’t common. But I won’t lie and say I don’t find it rather irritating to see soundtracks from the more recent films being featured on those services instead.

Seriously, I had purchased some of the music off the “Urban Family” soundtrack from iTunes four years before randomly encountering the Finnish musical on some obscure channel on my Roku a few weeks back. And to make matters worse I have also yet to be able to purchase “Uusi Ullottovuus“, a catchy tune by the Brotherus Brothers, the young sibling trio that features Johannes Brotherus, one of the lead actors of that film!

There are also no guaranties that a foreign film will remain available for a long time in North America, which is made apparent by the disappearance of the multiple award winning films like “Good Bye Lenin!” and “I’m Not Scared” from our store shelves and content providers. And all we can do is add titles to our wish lists on the latter, occasionally checking with JustWatch to see if a film pops up somewhere online.

Yes, you could try to find these films on DVD or Blu-ray on eBay or Amazon and use an all region DVD or blu-ray player if these discs aren’t coded for our region but this can get quite costly because of the shipping and handling costs per disc, although the later is more bearable if the DVD or Blu-ray you’re purchasing is compatible with your current player ; Consult your DVD or blu-ray player’s manual for details.

Personally, i’d prefer paying the foreign film producers directly to rent or download their films, when no distributor is available. But there are usually contract issues lingering in the background that keeps that from happening, unfortunately.

I have managed to secure some foreign films on DVD and blu-ray, that were produced in North America. But i’m guessing these are going to get rarer as more and more people just stream or download films legally.

I guess we all need to be patient about these things. But sometimes…

Argh!


Great News From RIAA

The Recording Industry Association of America has compiled its data for 2017 and sales are up by 16.5%, driven by the heightened sale of vinyl records, music downloads and streaming service subscriptions.

The actual report can be found here (in PDF) and additional commentary on this growth in sales can be found on Medium.

Discounted Gift Cards

Select Rexall stores are offering a $5 discount on $50 iTunes gift cards until September 14th, 2017. Please consult your local flyer for details.

Gift Card Offer

Participating Shopper’s Drug Mart stores are offering 10% discounts on $50 and $100 iTunes Gift Cards until March 24th, 2016. Consult your local flyer for details.