Mac Scope

Is iTunes Best for Artists?

Stephen Van Esch - 2004.03.03

The more I look at the iTunes Music Store, the more I feel that there could be some improvements to the system.

Apple has definitely hit the sweet spot for consumers. The songs cost a reasonable amount, the license is the same for everything you download, you can burn CDs, and you can share the music among several computers. I personally think that the model is working for consumers. The millions of downloaded songs would support this.

So what's the problem? Well, I checked out the Grey Album, which was heavily publicized via Grey Tuesday. This led me to Downhill Battle, which has a great little page called iTunes iSbogus. This page explains why iTMS, while a great idea, isn't all it should be.

Reading through the pages of this site brought out a few questions that have been circulating in the back of my mind since the iTMS launched. For example, how fair is it, really? Is 99 cents a song really a good deal? Does iTunes offer a good deal to everyone involved?

Again, iTMS is great for the consumer. It's convenient, competitively priced, and lets you feel good about what you buy. You're not stealing anymore, right?

What I find is that the iTMS can be much like recycling. Recycling is good for the environment, reasonably easy to do, and makes you feel good about what you're doing. No problem there, right?

Wrong! Recycling is actually the last thing we should be doing. Reduce, reuse, recycle, in that order.

The first order of business is to reduce, and if the consumer debt levels are any indication, consumption isn't declining rapidly. Reuse is next on the list, and the proliferation of throwaway products like the Swiffer seem to indicate that reusing is going out of fashion.

That leaves recycling - the one thing that should come last has come first. Of course, recycling is a good idea and better than nothing, but it shouldn't be emphasized as much as it is.

Which bring us back to iTMS. Is it really as good as we all want it to be? For me, it's looking more and more like starting at the wrong end. It makes us feel good, and there's nothing really bad about it (at least the artists get something), but it may be preventing real change. Music from iTMS has a great feel good factor like recycling but may be hogging the limelight from something better.

Could something like Weed be better?

Downhill Battle also suggests other possibilities that may be a better way to use Internet technology to put more cash into the artists' pocket.

I still believe that iTMS is a good idea. Its execution could be much improved, but at least Apple answered a desperate need for legitimate music downloads. It would be interesting to see if Apple could build on this system and create something better. As Downhill Battle points out, Apple has made some concessions and may be willing to do more.

In any event, Downhill Battle offers a different way of looking at the iTMS, which has been widely praised by the Mac and mainstream press. A different perspective is always good.

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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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