Quarter Life Crisis

The world according to Sven-S. Porst

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459 words

For a change there is some irony to enjoy: Apple’s iTunes Music Store kind of sucks in many ways. The biggest of them being the problem known as DRM. Apple also decided to be very proprietary with the DRM they use and to neither allow other companies’ players to play files with their DRM nor allow their own devices to play files with other people’s DRM. None of that is a great thing. Neither the non-interoperability, nor the DRM itself.

Yet, as luck may have it, this customer-unfriendliness may just lead to something good thanks to Apple’s dominance of the market. Essentially the music ‘industry’ seems to think that having Apple as the only vendor is even worse than treating their customers decently. And with the only way to let non-Apple vendors sell (which, I suppose, means ‘license’ or something for downloads) songs to iPod lovers being non-DRMed files, this may be a good step towards getting rid of (or at least postponing) DRM in music.

The other good news in the music download market is of course that with amazon there finally seems to be a serious competitor to the iTunes Music store for (paid-for) music downloads. With allegedly (seeing all the duplicates in iTunes and suspecting a similar situation for amazon, it’s hard to judge the real number behind the PR) two million songs, amazon have a reasonably wide choice for a start – yet far from being good or even tapping that mysterious ‘long tail’. And it appears that their pricing is aggressive and that there’s a reasonable quality and no DRM.

The problem with amazon, as with all other (paid-for) music download services is that they believe in country boundaries and that their terms and conditions forbid you to use MP3 downloads in countries other than the US at this stage. (I have no idea about the legal aspects, but how exactly would buying music from amazon without being in the US put you in a better position, legally, than just copying the music from some dubious places on the internet?) I am sure, just as the iTunes Music Store, amazon will widen this over time, but it still sucks. Particularly if they end up offering different selections of songs with different prices in each country, just as Apple do. In these days of globalisation it’d be refreshing to have a single global store: songs from all over the world for people all over the world, all priced the same for everybody (or the closest approximation you can get to that with regard to exchange rates and taxes).

Now let’s wait for the Apple fanboys to come out of their caves and tell us that this development was Mr Jobs’ big plan from day one…

September 27, 2007, 0:07


Comment by Christian: User icon

Regarding the country boundaries: neither Amazon nor Apple like this - but they are forced by the music industry to implement this. Look at the silly region codes on DVDs.

September 28, 2007, 11:48

Comment by ssp: User icon

Forcing people always takes two. And it appears that to amazon and Apple being in the music business is worth customer hostility.

And the county boundary problems are not limited to their music offerings. You can’t use a gift voucher from one country’s iTMS or amazon in another country’s, for example. That has nothing to do with music rights but is at worst a question of getting their internal accounting right. The same is true for prices: Sometimes the price for an item can differ wildly between countries. So much, in fact, that you still save money after paying for overseas shipping.

Another area where the stores are distinctly non-global are their referral programmes. It’s pretty much impossible to use those on your site in a simple way if you have visitors from more than a single country (which, the internet being the internet, many people do).

So while I think that the music ‘industry’ certainly plays a role in keeping up country boundaries, I don’t the stores are particularly interested in taking them down.

September 28, 2007, 12:37

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