July 30, 2004

iTunes Music Store

I never got into the whole Napster music-sharing thing. It's not that I dislike music; I do, even if I don't talk about it much. All I really know how to say about music is "I like this," and "I dislike that." I'd feel like a real poser if I tried writing a serious music review. But I've got a sizeable CD collection, most of which has been ripped onto my laptop's hard drive so I can listen to it there and on my iPod. And there's always music I don't have that I wish I did.

But as a (mildly) aspiring author, I have this thing about intellectual property. I might choose to give my intellectual property away for free--but it's still mine. I wrote it, and I like to think that if things were different I could sell it and get paid for it. (And, in fact, that's what I do for a living--create and sell intellectual property. They call it "software development".) So I had something of a moral objection to Napster and its ilk. The point was moot though; in Napster's hey-day I had a dial-up connection, and Life's Too Short to spend it downloading music on a dial-up connection.

Then along came Apple and its iTunes Music Store. And though I've had a Macintosh computer and an iPod for quite some time now, I've not really paid much attention to the iTunes Music Store. We had that dial-up connection until just recently, and downloading music from Apple over a dial-up line isn't any more fun than downloading it via Napster. But on top of that, I still had an objection to downloading tunes--technical this time, rather than moral. It's all about Digital Rights Management.

I have hundreds of CDs. I can play them on any CD player in the world. I can rip them to play on my iPod, and put the physical CDs away. If CD players appear to be going the way of the dodo, Fair Use allows me to copy the content of those CDs onto new media, just as I can do with the forty or fifty LPs I still own. If I decide that I no longer like Apple I can throw away my Mac and my iPod, but a new computer and somebody else's music player, and re-rip all of those CDs in a new format.

In other words, I've put a lot of money into my music library, and open standards allow me to protect my investment. And thanks to my iPod, I'm still listening to music I bought over twenty years ago.

So what about music downloaded from the iTunes Music Store? It's encoded in Apple's proprietary AAC format; and it's locked so that it will play only on a small number of computers. Via iTunes I can change it from one computer to another, which is nice--so long as Apple continues to run ITMS, and so long as the AAC format is still supported. In short, music downloaded legally from ITMS is no kind of investment.

(Yes, I know, there are programs that will remove the DRM codes from ITMS music files. I have the same moral objection to that that I had to Napster. Though if Apple shut down ITMS I might change my mind about that.)

But yesterday Jane mentioned some songs she used to like when she was a kid that she hadn't heard for years. And it occurred to me that (now that we've got DSL) ITMS would be a nice way to acquire recordings of golden oldies that we'd never buy an entire album for. If I were going to buy an entire album I'd still rather get it on CD, but for the odd song the DRM issues weren't that big a deal.

So this morning Jane and I went looking for odd songs. Here's what we came up with (and I shudder to think what this tells you about us):

In the Summertime, by Mungo Jerry. I didn't exactly go looking for this one, but I happened upon it, and that riff is just so darned catchy--DOOT-da-DOOT-do-do-DO-do-DO-do-DOOT.

Gypsies, Tramps, and Thieves, by Sonny and Cher. This was one of Jane's picks; she actually had this entire album when she was a kid. I drew the line at Half-Breed, though. Somethings are better left dead and buried. Which leads us to...

Frankenstein, by the Edgar Winter Group. What can I say? It's a classic rock jam.

Ballroom Blitz, by Sweet. I have no excuse for this one, except that it's thoroughly silly. I read something about Sweet the other idea; apparently the band's from our local area, and they're still around. I gather they've had more musical styles than Spinal Type. (Does anybody else remember Love Is Like Oxygen? Eeeuuuuuw.)

Long Cool Woman (in a Black Dress). And here's the best of the lot, the only song by the Hollies I have any desire to listen to these days. The ironic thing is that it's entirely different than their usual sugary-sweet over-produced style. As I understand it, they needed a B-side really quick so they went into the studio, pulled out all the stops, and just thrashed this one out. They figured no one would ever listen to it, and it's the best song they ever recorded.

So there you have it.

Hmmm. It just occurred to me that we don't have a recording of Pink Cadillac either.....

Posted by Will Duquette at July 30, 2004 11:00 AM

Craig Clarke said:

I shudder to think what this tells you about us

What is says is that I've gained an entirely new level of respect for you based on your music preferences. I think it's time for me to create another mix CD...

(And it's Spinal Tap.)