Quarter Life Crisis

The world according to Sven-S. Porst

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iTunes has become very popular and the iTunes Music Store is selling millions and millions of songs. Destroying by that the ‘integrity’ of the album – whatever that might be worth – and people’s chance to listen to their music in high quality and non-Apple approved hard- and software as well as in the future. Because of the latter my enthusiasm about the iTunes Music store has been feeble so far and I never went beyond buying the odd track or a present for friends.

With Apple and EMI announcing reasonably high quality tracks that aren’t encrypted, it looks like my main reservations about the store are going to be addressed by the store in the near future and I will fell much less sceptical about buying songs with them. It seems that doing this does destroy the Store’s simplicity of a one-size-fits-all model and I wonder whether this might be resolved some day when all labels manage to agree to sell their songs in the unencrypted format.

But there’s no giving without taking in the business world. And the higher quality and improved DRM situation comes at the cost of a 30% price increase. For single song purchases at least – it sounds like there will be no such price penalty for the better format if you buy whole albums. That’s not perfect, but it sounds like a situation that’s tolerable for single song purchases (and equivalent to printing money for Apple and the labels, particularly with the option to ‘upgrade’ your existing purchases).

The movement on the album front also seems interesting. Not only because of the option to ‘complete’ single song purchases to the whole album at the cheaper full album price. But also because all of a sudden – at least for those EMI albums at first – the iTunes Music Store offerings start looking like actual competition to CDs: Both their quality and interoperability will be about the same of the CD, while at a €10 per album price point being a little cheaper. So you end up trading actual printed cover art for a bit of money (or a little bit more money if my assumption that you won’t be allowed to sell your iTunes purchases on eBay as you can do with your CDs), which looks like a more tempting proposition, particularly when you figure in instant gratification.

It sounds like the high quality iTunes purchases will still be in AAC format rather than MP3 format which more non-Apple players can play. I wonder whether a long term side effect of this could be that we’ll see more AAC capable players by companies other than Apple.

April 2, 2007, 21:22

Tagged as iTunes.

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