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iTunes stuff

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I’ve mentioned this once or twice before – the iTunes Music Store is poorly managed. Some songs and albums appear twice or even three times. And tags aren’t filled reliably or even consistently. And don’t even get me started on the classical music section…

Some people claim that the wrong data are given by the record companies and thus this isn’t Apple’s fault, but at the end of the day it’s Apple’s store and they have to make sure it’s in good shape. And if their suppliers don’t do a good job then I – being the customer and all – expect that they kick their suppliers’ asses and make sure they do. In addition I expect quality control and correcting existing errors. I mean we’re just talking about editing a few fields in a database and not reengineering a car here.

Just as an example for this let me use the new Adam Green album as I’ve looked at that recently. A search for ‘Gemstones’ in iTMS gives this:

Screenshot of iTMS search result listing

So what are the obvious comments on this? To begin with, 2, every title is present twice. In exactly the same form. Just because there’s the album ‘Gemstones’ availble and an ‘Exclusive Version’ which is a superset of it, including a few bonus tracks, as well. To any sane person this just doesn’t make any sense. All it does is increase the number of songs available at iTMS, i.e. potentially impress people, without having any use. If the people working at iTMS had any sense of how to handle data like this, this situation wouldn’t exist. (And the same holds for the people at the record companies, of course – we’ve got a double point of failure here.) Let me quickly add to that that I completely fail to understand why the ‘Exclusive’ version carries that label in iTunes when you can buy that very CD in every record store? It must be a meaningless word.

Next, 1, we note the lovingly differentiated tags for two presumably different albums. They were published on the very same day – yet their tags, which presumably refer to the publication date, suggest otherwise. If anybody had looked at those before publishing them, I’m sure they would’ve noticed. I’d say this gives an extra point for daftness in record companies and for negligence in iTMS staff.

Finally, there’s 3, a track on the album which you can only buy when buying the whole album. I thought all along that having those is just a way of saying ‘fuck you’ to your customers and driving people to use traditional P2P applications. Why shouldn’t I be able to buy that particular track from the album? That just destroys the whole good things about online music stores. (I could see some ‘sense’ in, say, making the extra tracks of the ‘Exclusive Version’ not available on their own but actually that’d be stupid as well as people who already bought the ‘normal’ CD may want to buy those extra tracks.)

But even worse, well, better, for practical purposes, you can buy the very same track from the ‘other’ version of the same album, so the whole exercise of pissing off your customers isn’t worth a penny. So why are they doing all this? Will I need to buy an MBA to understand their strategies or are they just being stupid?

And apart from those points, we have the usual shortcomings of iTMS that are, for example, a lack of localisation: It should be ‘Exklusive Version’ in German store and the whole genre thing where it’s at least debatable that Adam Green should be filed as ‘Rock’.

Incomplete album for the fill price And, somewhere else, iTMS now also exceeds their original €0,99 per track pricing, due to bad filing, I suppose. Bad filing that could’ve been easily prevented by its sheer obviousness if anybody proofread what’s put into the music store. Another instance of the lack of quality control that we’re starting to get used to in Apple. I’ve often heard people say, that Steve Jobs is a rather anal person who wants everything to be perfect. They were wrong or Mr Jobs is not in control of the company he’s running.

OK, this wasn’t too great. So let me stop on a high note. A feature in iTunes, not the music store, that I hadn’t noticed so far. It’s probably just a feature of the tagging formats that happens to be supported in iTunes. But nonetheless it’s nice in a way: The cover art you can store in a file may exceed a single image. You seem to be able to store a whole array of cover art in a file. That’s potentially nice, to give both the front and back sides of a cover, say.

iTunes with multiple cover arts

The UI for this in the file info dialogue isn’t too bad, but to be honest, I’ve never really seen it as I mostly add cover art by just dragging it to the little cover well in the bottom left corner of the window or by batch adding it to multiple files at once. And the UI in those areas isn’t quite perfect. Rather imperfect indeed. What happens where you have two cover images for a song is the following: You get little arrows atop the image to be able to switch to the next one.

Screenshot of cover art for a song containing multiple images But, not knowing that you can store several images in a single file, I never paid attention to those and I never could as I never really saw them in the first place. That, of course, means I assumed that there can only be a single image and, that, in fact, dragging an image to a song file will replace the previous image rather than just adding the new one, which is what actually happens. When just wanting to replace a previously existing image with a higher quality version of itself, this means you’re adding to the file’s bulk while you don’t want to do that.

In short, you should be aware of the fact that there can be multiple pieces of cover art per song and that iTunes can handle them. I don’t think that iTunes makes this sufficiently clear to the user.

January 27, 2005, 20:42

Tagged as iTunes.

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