Letters

ITunes: A step in the right direction, but not enough to make me give up my Kazaa. Readers respond to Farhad Manjoo's "I Have Seen the Future of Music and Its Name Is iTunes."


Salon Staff
May 2, 2003 11:30PM (UTC)

[Read the story.]

After reading several national news stories with openings and closings bracketed around Apple's press release of their new music service, I had to try it out myself.

I am a former Napster and Kazaa user (I await the arrival of my subpoenas soon), and I was excited about the potential to actually pay the artist for their work and get only the songs I wanted.

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I must say, kudos to Apple for getting it almost right. There are issues with transferring files to PC still (most likely intentional), but we'll see if the PC release later this year resolves those problems. Otherwise, my advice to Apple is simple and twofold.

1. Expand your catalog to include smaller labels and independent artists as soon as possible. They are who need the help the most, and they are the "future stars" of the Billboard charts. One of the reasons the music industry suffers (besides piracy) is because content is sorely lacking today. The big boys have been breathing their own exhaust fumes for too long. Don't make the same mistake they did. Mix it up. I'll be there more often, to be sure.

2. Keep Hillary Rosen out of your press releases and as far away from the company's public image as possible. For those who follow the activities of the RIAA, Rosen's name on a multiple-choice survey could potentially compete with the likes of bin Laden and (Saddam) Hussein for negative name recognition. She is the antithesis of all that is good and true about music as a commodity (at least that's the perception). An endorsement from her could be the kiss of death, as some fair folks out there would rather continue to steal music, than to be associated with buying music from a company that allies itself (or even publicly communicates) with Ms. Rosen.

-- Eric Beverding

Good article on what looks to be the beginnings of a great service.

Be careful about declaring "the CD as a physical medium surely can't last the decade," though. You may put yourself in the same company as those who declared the "death" of brick and mortar stores and paper books. You run the risk of looking like a visionary in the short run, but more like an industry cheerleader in the long run. There is an allure to physical objects. Just ask a collector. That allure may not affect everyone who is buying music, but I suspect that there are enough of us to keep CDs (and even LPs) selling for quite a while yet.

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-- Bill Hanna

Hold the applause for Apple's new music service. It may be legal, but it still ain't cheap.

Ten bucks is still too much to pay to download the tracks from an album onto your own hardware and 99 cents per song is certainly too much to pay for an individual track. I really don't think that Apple is offering an improvement that will send file-swappers down the path to righteousness.

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-- Aaron Zahler

"But now that the music business appears to have changed its tune, it's time to see whether listeners, who have so far shown no qualms in stealing their music from file-trading services, will accept the righteous path. For years, critics of the music business have said that once customers are offered a reasonable alternative to stealing, they'll gladly embrace it -- now we'll find out if these people are right."

There are two very important features that are missing from all these, including Apple's, services:

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1. An ability to preview/discover songs without paying, or, alternatively, an ability to "return" the track: not a very technologically possible variation. I would foresee some sort of low-quality streaming full-version tracks. Thirty-second samples cannot serve that purpose; they are too short, good enough only for making sure you're downloading the right song. With almost any product, one can try, and if dissatisfied, return the product. There must be some sort of an accommodation for such an ability.

2) An ability to purchase a "discounted" version. How about half-price low-quality tracks? I personally consider $1 per song too expensive, and I would exchange the quality for price; I would pay 15 to 50 cents for a 16kbps RealAudio encoded song (this is where many music/audio fans' ears would burst).

I am assuming that once a service like Apple grows, another P2P feature may be implemented (à la Amazon listmania, etc.) -- an ability to discover songs/music by association of one's taste.

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-- Mariya Genzel

This piece is a heap of shameless corporate propaganda. Ninety-nine cents per song is complete bollocks. Though it sounds cheap to some, it is actually still quite greedily priced especially when you consider that there are no production or shipping costs with CDs associated with this "nominal" fee. They can price it far lower and still make a considerable profit (assuming the service even takes off). Most file-sharers will not bat an eyelash when they hear about a 99 cent per song service. At 10 cents, or 25 even, they just might.

And for Manjoo to rant and rave about how you own the files legally and can do what you want with them is absurd. If the files are truly yours from iTunes, will Apple object if I pay my 99 cents and then decide to place the file on a sharing service so anyone within the Mac environment could get it for 0 cents? How about if I convert it to MP3 format (if that is even possible) and then give it to the other 97 percent of the computer-using world? Are the files still mine then if I want to do that?

-- Ted Stanulis

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Ninety-nine cents a tune, and it's mine -- to burn, to take with me on my soon-to-be-purchased iPod, to listen with my laptop over the wireless network in my house without having to dupe my music library on two computers -- what's not to like?

Well, after tooling around the library, I have to confess to seeing mostly the usual suspects, and not everything they have to offer. That will get better, I hope. If not, it's back to the record store for me.

And 99 cents? Well, it's pretty good, but I think it's got to be a little better. I will buy a few tunes this way, but I think there needs to be an incentive to score the whole album, especially since with the music I like, I usually want the whole album anyway. A 12- or 13-track CD is only a few dollars more in the meat world than it is at the Music Store -- and I get the emotional reassurance of a physical package. Another 10 percent or 15 percent off for clicking "Buy Album" will pay off some of that emotional security.

Overall, I'm really impressed. Now, you'll excuse me, but I gotta go expand my music library ...

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-- Bill Cameron

An addition to my previous letter on this topic:

After experimenting with some songs, I have to say that the sound quality of the Apple Music Store really leaves something to be desired. Ripped MP3s from my CD collection have much better dynamic range than the allegedly "near CD-quality" AAC files that Apple is hyping. Suddenly these songs seem overpriced, given the leaden sound quality.

Plus, as I explore the Music Store more deeply, I am discovering more and more gaps in the music available. Disappointing, but perhaps it doesn't matter, since the poor sound quality seems likely to send me back to the record store anyway.

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-- Bill Cameron

The author appears to have forgotten to mention that the iTunes Music Service is a U.S. only service.

Windows users in the U.S. gain access to the service by the end of the year, but there appears to be no planned launch date for countries outside of the United States.

The iTunes Music Service now joins Apple's iPhoto as an Apple offering that either partially (lack of support for online print ordering and the bound book), or fully does not support Apple's international Mac customers.

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A disturbing trend for a multinational corporation if you ask me.

-- Mark Twomey

This service cuts RIAA costs, with the savings passed on to ... themselves.

When I buy a CD at the store, it only costs a bit more than $10, and I get a perfect 16-bit, 44kHz copy of each song on its own medium with its own cover art and its own lyric book and liner notes. With the new service from Apple, I'm looking at paying a little less to give up a whole hell of a lot more.

Services like these save recording industry fabrication and shipping costs, yet they still have the nerve to charge near-CD prices? Call me when they are 50 cents a song and I might be interested.

-- Aaron Batty

I'm wondering how Apple thinks that iTunes can compare to P2P and what the author was thinking while writing this article. Let's see, 200,000 songs, picked by the music industry, at almost $1 each, vs. unlimited songs for free. What makes the P2P so great is that it's easy to find obscure songs, and I'm pretty sure that all of these 200,000 songs are going to be the same overplayed, talentless, cookie-cutter songs that are played on the radio all day. Sorry, but I'll keep my Kazaa.

-- Ash Ede


Salon Staff

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