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iTunes Music Store

The Apple iTunes Music Store is up and running at apple.com/music/store/ following yesterday's announcement (stream). We all knew it was coming: what we didn't know was what it would look like, the exact details of pricing, how DRM would be handled, what music would be available, and so on.

I have not yet bought any music: I'm on a self-imposed ban to prevent myself from going nuts and sp a hundred bucks. I'll wait until both the massive swell has died down (it seemed to cause problems yesterday) and my own interest has subsided. In the meantime, I'm re-encoding all of my songs into AAC. However, I do want to share my thoughts on the service. First, the whirlwind tour of "the bad" and my dismissal of some of the points raised.

Some things codepoet talks about include the following four items.

applemusic_guitar.gif1. What if Apple stops the store? What about the music we bought? Remember, it has to be unlocked per computer. Valid point, I suppose, but Apple would certainly face lawsuits if suddenly millions of dollars of music worldwide was "unplayable." How, ten years from now, will I authenticate a new computer to play my songs? An interesting and valid point, and cause for slight pause and consideration. Apple's only word so far on this is in KBase article 93014. Newly found blog ntony.net has more questions.

2. What if there's a problem with the download? What if I do this over a modem and it hangs up halfway? What do I do? Apple's already covered this one in a KBase article (93015). In short: The download will resume the next time you open iTunes at no additional cost.

3. Similarly, what if the file gets lost due to a hard drive crash, bad backup, bad block, etc.? How do I go about replacing the tracks I bought? You buy it again. You copy it off of a CD you burned. I don't know about any of you, but any music I buy will be backed up to DVD fairly regularly. Yeah, this kind of sucks, but I'm honestly more worried about codepoet's (Adam's) first question.

4. What if I want this in another format for a program that does not accept QuickTime files? Can I get this out to AIFF somehow? (_Unlikely, as this would defeat the DRM. _) The obvious answer here: burn it to a CD. Then it's "just an audio track on a CD" like any other non-protected audio track on a standard audio CD. Bring it in to AIFF, bring it in to MP3, WAV, AAC, whatever.

Non-US customers, of course, need not worry - the store is not available to you yet! You've got to have a US credit card. While I've seen a lot of people whining about this, I can certainly understand the issue. It's not Apple's laziness: it's proof of the existing state of international copyright law, distribution channels, and so on. It's a mess. Apple's promised international support, so just wait a little: it's not like you've had anything taken away from you.

Want a direct link you can share with others? Bill Bumgarner has figured it out. It's got an "itms://" prefix - "iTunes Music Store." It's on an Apple server served by WebObjects ("apple.jingle"?). I wonder how Bill figured out these links - perhaps Apple would do well to make them more readily available.

I logged into the Music Store, and thought one thing immediately: half of this music is stuff I'd never listen to. What's more, my existing iTunes library could be used as that clue. As I go around finding cover art today at CDNOW (i.e. Amazon.com), even Amazon is recomm new CDs to me based on previous searches. Apple could have - and could still do so in the future, I imagine - customized the display of store pages (for lack of a better word) to suit me.

More of the negative? From a MacCentral article comes this lovely quote:

"Ninety-nine cents may be too much -- I like $0.15," said Kay. "I would pay $0.15 for a tune that does exactly what they are describing. For $0.99 more people will take their chances with a file-sharing network."

Kay, apparently, is either one helluva cheap bastard or he's never used a file sharing network. He's apparently never paid for bandwidth, hosting, application development, or credit card processing fees. He's right: for $0.99 more people will take their chances. Obviously. But c'mon, that's a common sense statement. The issue I have is with his first sentence: that we're all cheap bastards like him and that $0.15 is indeed the sweet spot, not $0.99.

Kay later goes on to say:

"If you are asking college students to pay for music, the answer is probably going to be no," said Kay.

Well, funny thing, college students continue to buy music in the face of Napster and Kazaa. Who buys most music? College students. The numbers I've seen have shown the number of CDs increasing in the past few years from that market, not decreasing. Sure, it's a lot easier for college students to acquire music via sneakernet (or their college LAN), but college students are pretty famous for ringing up some nice credit card debt too. $0.99 may be worth it to them too. Entire albums for under ten bucks? We'll see - I wouldn't be so quick to dismiss college students.

One concern of mine is that double CD albums seem inappropriately marked. Shania Twain's recent double-CD "Up!" is available in stores for $14 or so - it costs $19.98 on the iTunes Music Store: $9.99 * 2 albums. Unfortunately, it's one album, Apple - hopefully things like this will be fixed. The album should be a bargain at $9.99. I saw a copy at Wal-Mart for $12.

A second concern of mine? I hear about a new artist, I buy their current radio hit. I like it. I buy another that sounds good, and like that too. Maybe I buy a third or a fourth. Now I've spent $4. Suppose their CD has twelve tracks: I can download the rest for $8 for a total of $12 or I can purchase the album for $10 for a total cost of $14: I saw no ability to download an album with credit given towards previous downloads on that album.

Given the above - the hesitation, the uncertainty, and in some cases the downright negative (no ability to re-download music you've purchased being primary among these) - I'd still rate the store quite highly. Hesitation, uncertainty, and a list of things to be improved are to be expected of any new service. Time will tell, and time will quash problems and improve the service.

But what's good now? BMG, EMI, Sony, Warner Brothers, and Universal account for, I dunno, 90% of all music out there these days? Nearly 100% of all popular music. Apple's doing right by getting all five on board. R.E.M. shows nine albums right now. Shania Twain shows all four of her albums. 200,000 songs is about 192,000 more than I own, and it's a good start.

I wanted to save this quote because I found it so amusing:

The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs.

There's also a negative side.
Hunter S. Thompson

Songs downloaded from the store are marked with the extension ".m4p" as opposed to the ".m4a" of regular songs. Good - will make it easy to find all of your purchases versus encoded music.

The exclusive content? Awesome. Free videos? Awesome. Album art? Nice touch. Thirty second previews? Rocking! There are so many little things done right - the speed of the store to name another - that the issues above may seem to dwarf the little space I've given to "the good" down here when in actuality the "good" is much bigger than the bad.

Apple owns the whole widget, and if nothing else, the iTunes Music Store is proof positive that owning the whole widget is a beautiful thing.

25 Responses to "iTunes Music Store"

  1. Did you find away to get the album art out of the store? I have lots of CDs that I own, but don't have anyway to get album art for them. (I suppose I should check out the CDnow linki above) Since a number of them are in the music store, it would be really nice if it could match them up.. or if I could by hand get the cover art... (or something)

  2. What if Music Store goes away?

    Codepoet raises a few questions about the new iTunes Music Store (referenced by iacas). The first, and most import one,

  3. I also mentioned the idea of recommendations based on your music library, to my girlfriend. She brought up a good point:

    Doing so is almost spyware.

    I don't know if I want iTunes browsing my library and sending it back to Apple servers, it is my own personal data.

  4. Apple's DRM

    NTony is asking questions about Apple's DRM. Specifically he wants to know how it is implemented and what information it contains. I am no genious but this is what I have been able to find. I must credit StevenF and benntop's post on Slashdot, for some...

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  6. However what it can do is match what people have bought, with other things they have bought. That is how Amazon does it, and Apple has alot of text in the store saying they will be doing it too.

  7. This method works for getting cover art: do a get info on all the tracks in a particular album, and bring the cover art tab to the front. Visit Amazon or AMG and search for your album. When you find it, drag the image of the album to the cover art panel. iTunes will ask you if you want to apply it to multiple items. Say yes, and voila-cover art applied to all the tracks in that album.

  8. Etan, it could povide me the option of doing this. Also, the store could use information about the CDs and tracks I already own to mark (maybe as blue) differently tracks on the store I shouldn't download because I already own them.

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    Having downloaded iTunes 4 last night and having had some time to play with the new Music Store feature, I have to say that I’m pretty impressed. Living in the UK, I cannot yet purchase tracks from the service as...

  10. There is no video for 56kbs users? I only get audio...shame on you Apple.

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  13. Of all the things you mention Erik, #1 problem, and the issue of "credit towards the album" are the stickiest I think moving forward. The rest can be resolved in a 1.1 release, as it were. People are forgetting how abyssmal the other services are after a year or more to "develop"... mostly they've just rotted. If AMS develops as fast as things like Safari have, then by Christmas it'll damn near do Kidd Rock's laundry and force Shania to quit pretending she's country.

  14. I'm skeptical.

    With all the hype surrounding the big musical announcements at Apple, I think it's easy to get lost in all the hubbub.1 In a sense, it is a wonderful way to get around the hassle of downloading one, two, maybe...

  15. Besides the fact that "Up!" sells for $12 at Walmart, the two CDs are nearly identical. I suppose that while it's not practical to pay for both CDs, it may be practical to pay for the one (country or pop) that better suits your fancy. B-)

  16. argh128: check out http://www.allmusic.com/ for good cover art without 21% off labels 🙂

  17. Best Under A Buck Value

    I finally took my first serious browse of the iTunes Music Store last night and actually bought my first song, Barenaked Ladies: Alcohol for a lowly $.99. For $.99 I could have purchased an utterly nasty McDonald’s under a buck...

  18. For album art, try using an app called Clutter. Instead of having to search Amazon yourself, Clutter will do it for you (getting cover for the current playing tune, and also providing a quick search window). Then just copy and paste the album cover into iTunes (drag and drop isn't possible unfortunately).

    http://www.sprote.com/clutter/

    L.

  19. I have mixed feelings about the upgrade, I like the idea of sharing your library with others, and I am very interested in the AAC format, but to be honest I don't like the spy ware possibility, or any imposed limitations on ANY of my music files. I cant tell if Apple is being progressive or giving into music industry pressure too much. Call me paranoid but I think this upgrade could be a Trojan horse, inviting outside influences into my private music library. We will see.

  20. There's no need to be paranoid. You're on a UNIX box. Port scan, monitor your traffic and processes, and inspect the XML that it pulls down. Convince yourself. Paranoia is just laziness in this case.

  21. I am new to Mac and not familiar with UNIX, there is a difference between laziness and ignorance. I will ask my more skilled friends how to monitor my traffic.

  22. I am a Non-US customer and I hope that itunes can accepted people like me. We are in a globalized world. This is not possible. I understand they need to care abou fraud, but it must have a way to set this.

  23. i'm surprised that Apple promised international service at all. Controlling distribution channels is one of the ways the RIAA keeps it's power (and can artificially boost profits, like diamonds) and giving apple the power to release songs and sales across different markets just doesn't sound like something the RIAA would ever be willing to do.

    Not only that, but is apple even equipped to do on the fly currency transfers?

    (final notes: screw globalization, and nice CSS fanciness with the whiteshade. very nice.)

  24. hey kiddrock you are so hot i think you are hot you need to dump pamala anderson and go out with sheyl crow this is from ashley

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