Mac Scope

The Good, the Bad, the Stupid of BuyMusic.com

Stephen Van Esch - 2003.07.23

To absolutely no one's surprise, a music downloading company is taking a run at the iTunes Music Store. When you're top dog (or the only dog), people come knocking. Needless to say, yesterday's announcement by BuyMusic.com to bring music downloading to the Windows masses sparked an interesting round of articles.

There's good, bad, and stupid in the BuyMusic.com foray into the music downloading business.

The Bad

BuyMusic.com beats Apple to the Windows downloading punch. While Apple is surely moving as fast as possible to port iTunes to Windows, they clearly weren't fast enough. Personally, I'm not entirely convinced that the first mover will always win out in the end. Apple anyone?

BuyMusic.com rides Apple's coat tails. While imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, compete emulation isn't exactly a good thing. Buy is coming as close a possible to the Apple ads as they can to and muddying the waters. On the up side, the confusion could work in Apple's favor when they roll out their own Windows music service.

The Good

Competition is a good thing. BuyMusic.com has emerged to at least move Apple's feet closer to the fire. I'm fairly certain that BuyMusic.com won't be Apple's main problem. There are other services that probably have more potential than BuyMusic.com.

BuyMusic.com attracts new users to paid music downloads. This is a good thing, because BuyMusic.com will be the company that pours out the money to get the new Windows users. Each new Windows user is a potential Apple Music Store customer once iTunes for Windows is ready. When Apple rolls out the iTunes Music Store for Windows, these folks will likely follow the better user experience.

The Stupid

Bravado is a requirement when you're taking on the big boys, and Scott Blum seems to have that in spades. Hidden away in the chest-thumping rhetoric are these stupid things about BuyMusic.com.

It's not compatible with the iPod. It seems a bit amusing that Scott accuses Jobs of being on the wrong platform when he is rolling out a service that doesn't work with 50% of the portable music players on the market. That would be the iPod.

Varying restrictions on downloaded songs. I'm not certain how selling a similar commodity with different restrictions is going to help the consumer. Place your bets, people. How many BuyMusic.com users will be fed up with figuring out what tunes they can copy and play where by the end of the first year?

Cost is the only thing that matters. From the sound of things, cost seems to be where Scott wants everyone focusing their attention. However, what Scott doesn't realize is that the user experience counts for a great deal. Price is nice, but if I have to figure out which songs have which copying restrictions and work with which players, well, I'll willingly pay an extra 20¢ a song. (And not all BuyMusic.com songs are 79¢.)

Once BuyMusic.com users find out that things aren't as easy as they seem, they'll look elsewhere. Like the Apple Music Store.

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Stephen Van Esch is the founder and president of the E-learning Foundry, an online training resource for Mac users. Steve loves the Mac and is doubly bilingual, since he's also fluent in Windows and French.

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