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iTunes Staffers Becomes Music's New Gatekeepers

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 7 years ago | from the are-you-the-keymaster dept.

Music 79

WSJdpatton writes to mention The Wall Street Journal has a look at how Apple is shaking up the world of music retailing. "Apple -- now one of the largest sellers of music in the U.S. -- offers home-page placement in exchange for things such as exclusive access to new songs, special discount pricing or additional material such as interviews with stars. Most other big retailers, digital and physical, also seek exclusive offerings, but Apple is especially aggressive and has outsize clout when it comes to the slightly out-of-mainstream music it often emphasizes."

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79 comments

Wow... News. (4, Insightful)

shoolz (752000) | more than 7 years ago | (#18298272)

50 bucks to the first person who is actually and genuinely surprised by this.

Re:Wow... News. (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18298294)

I'm actually and genuinely surprised, I'll be contacting you shortly about my $50. :D

I don't care since U2 still sucks after all these (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18298970)

I don't care since U2 still sucks after all these years. Wheelchairs to the ready !!

Re:Wow... News. (1)

roseblood (631824) | more than 7 years ago | (#18299730)

This should come as a suprise too. Apple isn't just the biggest music seller on the net, it's also responsible for the majority of podcast subscriptions too. This has been mentioned and bitched about many a time by various podcast personalities. The consensus is that the iTunes store is more (or less) an iPod music store and many people only stumble upon podcasts when browsing though the iTunes store. The assumption among the majority of these browsers is that podcasts are for iPods only, because of the POD in the name, and because apple has a section on it's iPod music store for them. Surprised again?

Re:Wow... News. (1)

irc.goatse.cx troll (593289) | more than 7 years ago | (#18311550)

Maybe they shouldn't have started calling them podcasts to be trendy and continued with some combination of the terms internet radio and talkshow like people have been using for decades? I know I used to crontab a bash script to record the weekly Hackermind shoutcast, really no different than 'podcasts' only without being trendy and hip.

Re:Wow... News. (0)

plasmacutter (901737) | more than 7 years ago | (#18298298)

i'll take that 50.. (well actually im lying, this is not news to me either).

not to bash on apple, but maybe now that its not one of those "big X" (x keeps shrinking) hollywood estblishments with the entire industrialized world in their pockets, we might see action on this at the legislative level.

Re:Wow... News. (2, Insightful)

Hennell (1005107) | more than 7 years ago | (#18298726)

I'm fairly surprised to be honest. I hadn't really thought about it before (Don't use iTunes so it passed me by) but if you'd have asked me I would have assumed that it worked on a 'similar music' style thing. If iTunes looked at what you've bought, finds people with similar taste and suggests bands you might like, bands/record companies would be advertising mostly to the intrested; saving everybody's time.

Although I suppose I'm hardly shocked they'd do it this way. The music business isn't exactly known for its care or thought of the consumer.

Re:Wow... News. (1)

Graff (532189) | more than 7 years ago | (#18300354)

The iTunes Store also has a section called "Just For You" which makes recommendations based on stuff you've purchased in the past but it's just a part of what is presented to you. They give you a pretty eclectic selection when you first open up the iTunes Store and then you can get more specific with genre and such. If you go to a band or a song they will also show you what other people who have bought that item are buying. This is great because there's a greater chance the reference will show you something new you might like.

It's pretty clearly and logically arranged and you can get to interesting items fairly easily. If you have any interest then give it a try, you might like it.

Re:Wow... News. (1)

Speed Pour (1051122) | more than 7 years ago | (#18298828)

50 bucks to the first person who is actually and genuinely surprised by this.
Truth is, we should all be a little surprised by this. It was only a couple weeks ago that the big question was, "why doesn't apple want to sell the non-mainstream artists who don't want DRM on their music?" Only to see this line now:

Apple is especially aggressive and has outsize clout when it comes to the slightly out-of-mainstream music it often emphasizes."
Certainly the question and that statement aren't exactly the same thing (being that one relates to DRM and the other doesn't), but the relationship beckons some question as to who Apple cares to court. There's nothing unusual about who they want exclusives from or who they are offering special placement/advertising to...but there's certainly something worth questioning in terms of who they are willing to work with and in what ways. This is a good example of how Apple really isn't opposed to DRM, despite Jobs and others' claims.

Re:Wow... News. (1)

Golias (176380) | more than 7 years ago | (#18301682)

It was only a couple weeks ago that the big question was, "why doesn't apple want to sell the non-mainstream artists who don't want DRM on their music?"

That was never a big question. They don't want to sell non-mainstream artists because nobody wants to buy it.

If people did buy it, it wouldn't be "non-mainstream" anymore, because whatever gets sold is what the mainstream is. Duh.

I think it's hilarious that people want to consider "music nobody buys" to be a genre, let alone a genre that makes good business sense to specialize in.

Apple? A monopoly? OMG!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18300544)

Hard to believe Apple is acting like a large, corrupt monopoly. I mean, it isn't like they destroyed their third party support, destroyed their sales channel, and made sure they totally own their retail sales outlets. It also isn't like they have a for-rent OS by coming out with a yearly, $150+ service pack their customers are required to get if they want the latest bug and security fixes.

When we start hearing about Apple signing artists for peanuts and taking away the artist's rights to their own music... color me unsurprised. Apple has always aspired to be a brutal monopolist: their protestations were simple jealousy.

The fine line is being danced around (5, Interesting)

mcrbids (148650) | more than 7 years ago | (#18298300)

In the United States, it's not illegal to be a monopoly. But, once a monopoly, what was once a competitive advantage becomes criminal conduct.

As a business owner, I'll leverage every advantage I can to the detriment of my competitors, including (but not limited to) absorbing the losses in one marketplace in order to ensure the profits in another, and utilizing my commercial strength in an area to negotiate an advantageous relationship with other vendors.

But in the United States, once you've become a "monopoly", many things that were once expected become criminal actions.

Apple can (and should) leverage their dominance in the music distribution scene to their advantage. As a publicly traded company, it's their fiduciary responsibility to make as money as they can figure out how to do. But if the dominance of the Apple juggernaut continues for much longer, they'll be branded a "monopoly", and then things get pretty complicated pretty fast.

No, I don't think they are a monopoly. (I just bought a Creative Zen to replace my dead iPod, and I'm much happier with the result) But their dominance is... dominating.

Apple needs to tread a bit carefully, methinks.

Re:The fine line is being danced around (1)

ereshiere (945922) | more than 7 years ago | (#18298354)

With the Bush DOJ that ended the Microsoft case (against a convicted abusive monopoly!) in charge for two more years, what are the chances that they'll go after iTunes, which virtually everyone likes, opened the door for legal digital music distribution, and is compatible with the most sought-after status-symbol gadget in over a decade?

Re:The fine line is being danced around (3, Interesting)

bigdavesmith (928732) | more than 7 years ago | (#18298606)

While I don't disagree with you, since the example of Microsoft which you cited is obviously the government working against the people, I wouldn't be surprised to see them actually go after a company "which virtually everyone likes", particularly if some of the other companies put more of their money in Washington.

Still, I don't see iTunes being a monopoly, ever. There are simply too many other places to get music. The alternatives [song-list.net] might not be as good, but that doesn't make it a monopoly.

Re:The fine line is being danced around (1)

jetxee (940811) | more than 7 years ago | (#18298356)

I believe it is not that bad if Apple is gaining more influence in the Entertainment market. Today they may be able to get special and exclusive offers. Tomorrow they might use their influence to promote DRM-free content. Finally, Apple being a big player makes position of the mafIAA weaker. Not bad after all, as it threatens old distribution channels.

monopoly? hmm.. (5, Insightful)

EtherAlchemist (789180) | more than 7 years ago | (#18298406)


I don't think they're a monopoly and couldn't become one in this space without purchasing or controlling the labels themselves. Additionally they would need to control every outlet for all of that music, not just online.

Apple isn't the first company with an online music store and they have no exclusive deal with any of the labels. Their dominance is self-reinforcing because iTunes is the only way to manage music on your iPod. Maybe that's the monopolistic part you're talking about?

How many iTunes but no iPod customers does Apple have? Likely few. Why? Because there are other ways to buy music. There are other ways to manage your music. There are other ways to listen to your music.

Competition in this space is healthy (although the Ahype around iTunes would have you believe otherwise) and there are enough competitors to offer consumers a choice in how they purchase (or not purchase but stil legally consume) music online. Even if you look at device + music store/library manager Apple isn't alone in this space. Napster has a device. Real partnered with SanDisk late last year and released the Sansa Rhapsody which works with the Rhapsody client software. You can consume that music service through other 3rd party devices like Sonos and Squeezebox. I don't think you can do that with iTunes because they keep the content locked to their devices.

So, I don't know. Yeah, they're popular with iPod users, but iTunes just isn't compelling enough to take over enough of the market by itself to be a monopoly.

Re:monopoly? hmm.. (3, Informative)

an.echte.trilingue (1063180) | more than 7 years ago | (#18300256)

Their dominance is self-reinforcing because iTunes is the only way to manage music on your iPod.
I use a program called gtkpod to manage my iPod. I understand that amaroK works as well.

Re:monopoly? hmm.. (3, Interesting)

drix (4602) | more than 7 years ago | (#18301272)

For the record iTunes is not the only way to manage music on your iPod. On Windows, I find WinAmp to be a much better choice. The iPod support in the latest version works perfectly, fully supports all of the features like podcasts, smart playlists, etc., and is much faster than iTunes. The iTunes client on Windows is slow, bloated and sucky. (50mb for a browser and mp3 player? C'mon.)

Re:The fine line is being danced around (2, Interesting)

troll -1 (956834) | more than 7 years ago | (#18298510)

In the United States, it's not illegal to be a monopoly. But, once a monopoly, what was once a competitive advantage becomes criminal conduct.

I thought being a monopoly in the US was illegal under the Sherman [wikipedia.org] and Clayton [wikipedia.org] antitrust acts.

Microsoft was found guilty of acting as a monopoly [usdoj.gov] in 2002 after being sued by 20 US State Attorneys General. You might think the punishment didn't go far enough, but that's different from a monopoly not being illegal.

Re:The fine line is being danced around (5, Informative)

Andy_R (114137) | more than 7 years ago | (#18298614)

No, it's abusing a monopoly that is illegal. From the Sherman act article you point to: 'According to Senator George Hoar, an author of the bill, any company which "got the whole business because nobody could do it as well as he could" would not be in violation of the act."'

If it was illegal to simply be a monopoly, then that would give rise to all sorts of absurd situations. Apple would have to bribe other buinesses to set up rivals to iTunes, nobody could make anything patented (because a patent is a monopoly) and if there were 5 widget makers in the country, and 4 went bust the other one would automatically become a criminal!

Re:The fine line is being danced around (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18300582)

But isn't that stupid american legislation in action? To suceed is to fail..

Re:The fine line is being danced around (1)

drix (4602) | more than 7 years ago | (#18301232)

I think even Apple's dominance might be a lot more fleeting than people think, at least as far as iTunes as concerned. (iPods are another story, those are far and away the best on the market, but almost all anti-trust prosecutions these days have to do with IP or services, not goods.) Despite being big, old and clunky, the Big 5 record companies still wield enormous power in the form of rights to nearly all recorded music in the 20th century, and a still significant portion of what is being produced today. All it would take is for one or two of those top execs to finally take the plunge and start selling DRM-free, high quality downloads with an easy-to-use UI. Cut out the middleman. If any of them did that, or if they all did it, iTunes would find itself in a pretty tight spot. The major record labels are wounded and bleeding, but I still think they have a chance to save themselves. It just requires some pretty radical thinking.

This is news? (5, Insightful)

Arclight17 (812976) | more than 7 years ago | (#18298340)

This isn't news. This is a standard business practice.
You give me something I want (exclusive offerings), I give you something you want (placement and money).

News Flash: Google provides links to sites who pay for prime placement. Scandalous footage at 11!

s/Apple/Walmart/gi (1)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 7 years ago | (#18299436)

"offers home-page placement in exchange for things such as exclusive access to new songs, special discount pricing or additional material such as interviews with stars. "

They're just doing the same thing WallyWorld does.

Come on now (4, Interesting)

EtherAlchemist (789180) | more than 7 years ago | (#18298346)


It's not like the majority of music purchases in the US or abroad is happening through iTunes or even users of iTunes. Do the editorial staff have an impact? Yes- within iTunes.

Look, if they had that much "power" over what act becomes the next big thing, they (along with the other music services) would be getting more love from the labels, but that's not the case.

Radio, videos, word of mouth- these are all still more powerful than the iTunes ed staff. I'm sure they'll love the ego boost, though.

Re:Come on now (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18299162)

You will know when the editorial staff have the power to sway the record buying public.
It will coincide with some of them mysteriously coming across gifts and large tax free donations by 'investors' from the music biz.

Re:Come on now (1)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 7 years ago | (#18299468)

"You will know when the editorial staff have the power to sway the record buying public. It will coincide with some of them mysteriously coming across gifts and large tax free donations by 'investors' from the music biz."

I think you mis-spelled "cocaine". Acceptable spellings: blow, coke, snow, nose candy, C, snow, flake, cane, dust, shake, toot, white lady, etc...

Exclusivity Agreements aren't new. (1)

regularstranger (1074000) | more than 7 years ago | (#18298350)

Whenever a recording artist signs on to a label, aren't exclusivity agreements pretty normal? I'd think that an artist abandoning their producing company during a release would result in some form of legal action. So iTunes is being more aggresive. There is only so much premier content space available on the iTunes homepage, while there are a lot of artists. Perhaps there's room for a few more players in the arena.

Bigger Challenge (1)

wombatmobile (623057) | more than 7 years ago | (#18298386)

The bigger challenge for Apple is not how to milk a few rich artists the most, but how to rejuvenate and renew music for the long term.

How will Apple help us to find good new artists worth listening to?

Re:Bigger Challenge (1)

Golias (176380) | more than 7 years ago | (#18301768)

I found far more new music worth listening to by browsing iMixes and following "Users who bought this also bought" links on iTunes than I ever did via the radio.

Sound quality (IMHO) will keep CDs around (3, Interesting)

JohnnyComeLately (725958) | more than 7 years ago | (#18298490)

I used to work in a high end audio store back in da day and somewhat had "an ear". After college, I couldn't afford a high end system, but recently I'm starting to have enough cash to drop more $$ on speakers. I distinctly heard on 15 year old speakers just how crappy iTunes music is compared to store bought. Up to that point, I was thinking of ripping the remaining couple hundred CDs (not yet converted) and chucking them....but now I'm reconsidering.

Today, just before leaving work, I got to listen to some new Sunfire speakers (Bob Carver company) that got overnight air'ed for the Electronic Home trade show in Orlando this week... lets just say that even though I'd lost my ear long ago...this reminded me of just how good music could sound.

Anyway, long story longer...I know online is giving stores a run...but I think as long as there's people dropping $10k on speakers (the cost of the system I heard today for JUST speakers...double or triple it to include everything else), I don't think CDs are going anywhere.

I'm probably wrong but that's my opinion.

Here's a list of what I was listening to: Processor [sunfire.com]
2700 watt Subs (2!!) [sunfire.com]
2,800 Watt Amp [sunfire.com]
Speakers (not the same, but similar to these) [sunfire.com] **DISCLAIMER** The company I work for owns Sunfire...

Re:Sound quality (IMHO) will keep CDs around (4, Interesting)

sessamoid (165542) | more than 7 years ago | (#18298516)

Anyway, long story longer...I know online is giving stores a run...but I think as long as there's people dropping $10k on speakers (the cost of the system I heard today for JUST speakers...double or triple it to include everything else), I don't think CDs are going anywhere.

Hah! Replace "CDs" with "vinyl", and this is exactly what audiophiles were saying before CDs were around. Here's a hint. Audiophiles have absolutely no effect on what direction the consumer electronics and music industries take.

The proportion of people that can tell 128 kbit AAC from CD audio is pretty small. The subset of those who have the equipment and environment to discern that difference is smaller yet. The subset of those who give enough of a shit to change their buying patterns is really, really miniscule.

Re:Sound quality (IMHO) will keep CDs around (1)

barutanseijin (907617) | more than 7 years ago | (#18299324)

A good pair of headphones are probably enough to let you hear the difference. Perhaps that excludes the iPod ear buds. (I don't know -- never tried an iPod.) I have a pair of big headphones and i occasionally listen to music on my Powerbook when i'm at a cafe with annoying music or conversation. I have a few iTunes tunes on my playlist, and i've heard a small subset of those on CDs. I'm not an audiophile at all, but even i have noticed that the iTunes versions don't sound that good compared to CDs.

Re:Sound quality (IMHO) will keep CDs around (1)

toQDuj (806112) | more than 7 years ago | (#18300288)

I doubt you're bringing an HD600 to a cafe.. I have that one, a Denon DA convertor and headphone amps, and I cannot hear any artefacts in the iTunes album "Are we there yet?" from Sara K.

Now perhaps it's related to the quality of recording, rather than the quality of the compression. After all, it's useless to spend millions on hi-fi equipment if the music was recorded in a trailer..

Cheers,

B.

Re:Sound quality (IMHO) will keep CDs around (1)

Firehed (942385) | more than 7 years ago | (#18305636)

Unlike picture and video compression, compressing music doesn't create artifacts. You don't get random skipping and freakish portions that are horrendously off-key, you just get flatter-sounding music; you lose your lower lows and your higher highs.

Of course, if you're using really pricey DA converters and top-notch speakers, you probably know that. Maybe you just chose the wrong word.

In any case, iTunes sounds fine as it is. It's when you compare it to the CD (or vinyl, or live performance) of the same music when you realize it's lacking. Most of my music I haven't even heard on CD - it gets immediately ripped, although I generally go with 320k just to make myself feel good. But once I happened to spot a lossless vinyl rip someone posted online and out of curiosity downloaded it and compared it to my own rip, and there was a huge difference. For one, it wasn't compressed to hell (or, rather, volume-normalized), but the added data made a significant difference. I wouldn't have known what I was missing with my own rip until I compared it to something of higher-quality, and iTunes purchases will very rarely have this comparison made.

Re:Sound quality (IMHO) will keep CDs around (1)

toQDuj (806112) | more than 7 years ago | (#18306500)

I must say, I've only ripped in iTunes to AAC at 200+ kbit sampling rates, so I didn't really notice an effect.
With MP3, I can hear a sort of "aquarium"-effect in the higher frequencies, so those are the artefacts I was mentioning.

I wonder if anyone has some measurements available on the compression of the frequency range when ripping, and whether those really show a big difference in the auditive region.

Thanks for your level answer though. Usually, I only get huffy responses of people with damaged toes :)

B.

This isn't like vinyl vs. CD. (1)

argent (18001) | more than 7 years ago | (#18300830)

For the kind of music I listen to on an MP3 player through earbuds (hint, this doesn't include Bach or Phillip Glass) I can't tell whether I'm hearing it at full CD quality or 128k MP3, and it's hard to even be sure with vinyl or cassette. Even when I do a comparison, I can't always tell a difference. Music that you dance to or listen to in a bar or at the beach can't depend on low noise and high fidelity... and most of it's got high levels of distortion even in the CD (or vinyl, bad recording levels is an old tradition).

This isn't like vinyl vs CD. I've listened to stuff that's supposed to be "warmer" on vinyl, and I can't tell if the difference I'm hearing is due to the difference in the media, the recording, the player, the headphones, or simply suggestion. But I can sure tell the difference between either and a 160K MP3 or AAC file, regardless of what I'm listening to it on, when I'm listening to classical music or any other music with a high dynamic range.

This doesn't mean CDs will necessarily survive. It just means that there's going to remain a significant (that is, not just the extreme audiophiles) market for higher quality recordings... and publishers will continue meet it, with higher quality or "lossless" formats whether they're sold as bits you download or pressed plastic you bring home from the store.

Re:Sound quality (IMHO) will keep CDs around (4, Insightful)

ereshiere (945922) | more than 7 years ago | (#18298562)

Sure, audiophile speakers are better for playing music in a reference room, but what about people who just use the same boring white earbuds that come with iPods? When people play music in the background (exercising, mowing the lawn, whatever), what difference does 128k AAC make as long as they can hear that catchy guitar riff? By the way, you can rip CDs to the Apple Lossless format in iTunes; 128k AAC is only for the iTMS-bought stuff.

Re:Sound quality (IMHO) will keep CDs around (1)

Idimmu Xul (204345) | more than 7 years ago | (#18298608)

They day I have an AAC track on my computer, is the day I die. -V2 --vbr-new all the way baby!

Re:Sound quality (IMHO) will keep CDs around (1)

ereshiere (945922) | more than 7 years ago | (#18298760)

Apple Lossless [wikipedia.org] isn't an AAC file.

Re:Sound quality (IMHO) will keep CDs around (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18299278)

Apple Lossless isn't an AAC file.

No, it's not. Apparently Idimmu Xul likes being intentionally irrational about these things. I'm assuming he'll also never have a proper mpeg-4 video file on his machine, since they use AAC audio. I find it funny that the audio spec for mpeg-1 video is perfectly acceptable to him, but the audio spec for 2 newer generations of mpeg video isn't.

Re:Sound quality (IMHO) will keep CDs around (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18349065)

Somebody hurry up and copy an AAC file onto this guy's machine so we can see if he keeps his word.

Re:Sound quality (IMHO) will keep CDs around (2, Interesting)

garcia (6573) | more than 7 years ago | (#18299040)

I know that most people don't realize, at this point, that having the physical media is an advantage. Wait till iTunes has been the primary purchasing point for people at around the time when hardware failure starts to take a toll.

When these people lose their entire music collection and have no way to restore it, then we'll see what they think about their past choices.

Re:Sound quality (IMHO) will keep CDs around (2, Interesting)

FutureDomain (1073116) | more than 7 years ago | (#18299254)

Although having the original CDs does have advantages (conversion to other formats without losing a ton of quality, being compatible with older CD players, as evidence to the RIAA lawyers that you legally purchased the music on your computer), hardware failure won't be an issue as long as you back up the tracks and any licenses on a CD, DVD, or portable memory key. And if you don't back up your computer, your music will most likely be the least of your worries. If I was to use similar logic, I wouldn't have computer documents because my hard drive might fail. I don't think people will change their buying habits just because of a possible hardware failure. People either take precautions for hardware failure and back up their data, or they lose it when Windows or Bagle send your computer to the shop.

Re:Sound quality (IMHO) will keep CDs around (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18299480)

And if you don't back up your computer, your music will most likely be the least of your worries.

Well, for the majority of the people out there that this will be a problem for, they most likely don't back anything up.

Re:Sound quality (IMHO) will keep CDs around (1)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 7 years ago | (#18299560)

"hardware failure won't be an issue as long as you back up the tracks and any licenses on a CD, DVD, or portable memory key."

You must be new here.

"Only wimps use tape backup: real men just upload their important stuff on ftp, and let the rest of the world mirror it."
-- Linus B. Torvalds

Does Not Happen (1)

Foerstner (931398) | more than 7 years ago | (#18301038)

I know that most people don't realize, at this point, that having the physical media is an advantage. Wait till iTunes has been the primary purchasing point for people at around the time when hardware failure starts to take a toll.

When these people lose their entire music collection and have no way to restore it, then we'll see what they think about their past choices.


""In the event that a customers entire music library is lost, the iTunes Music Store does re-grant the purchases history. Please keep in mind that Apple does not offer protection against the loss of purchases, so this is a one-time exception."
Source: http://thecontent.wordpress.com/2006/05/24/itunes- lets-people-re-download-all-your-music-once/ [wordpress.com]

Try that after you've scratched your CDs beyond playability.

Re:Does Not Happen (1)

toddestan (632714) | more than 7 years ago | (#18303988)

"In the event that a customers entire music library is lost, the iTunes Music Store does re-grant the purchases history. Please keep in mind that Apple does not offer protection against the loss of purchases, so this is a one-time exception."

So it could very well happen, all it takes is two "failures".

Besides, this seems to be some kind of unofficial policy by Apple. They could stop doing this tomorrow and there isn't anything you can do about it.

Re:Sound quality (IMHO) will keep CDs around (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18301094)

If the people you speak of haven't followed Apple's constant reminders (every time you purchase something from them) to backup their purchases, then yes, they will suffer.

However, there are no restrictions on backing up your purchased content to regular data CD/DVD or hard drive.

Backup is much safer than keeping CD media around, considering the space taken up, risk of theft, and the fact that a scratched CD will not get replaced by the company that made it. Backups take care of that.

Re:Sound quality (IMHO) will keep CDs around (4, Interesting)

Serious Callers Only (1022605) | more than 7 years ago | (#18298586)

I distinctly heard on 15 year old speakers just how crappy iTunes music is compared to store bought. Up to that point, I was thinking of ripping the remaining couple hundred CDs (not yet converted) and chucking them....but now I'm reconsidering.


What does the quality of music on iTMS have to do with ripping your own CDs?

PS There aren't enough people dropping 10k on speakers to stop iTMS selling low-quality music, it's probably 1% of the audiophile market, and 0.0001% of the music-buying market. You seem to equate iTMS with 'online music' here - there are plenty of online stores who offer better quality, some even offer FLAC and let you choose how much you pay. Quality is not really an issue now for most people, and long term it will be a simple matter to increase the quality (iTMS has already done it once for videos), probably to well beyond the quality you get from CDs.

Some day all media will be consumed and sold this way (including TV); let's just hope they drop trying to impose DRM along the way, as that's the only downside to digital distribution of media, and the only reason I don't use the iTMS yet.

Re:Sound quality (IMHO) will keep CDs around (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18299096)

If I had mod points, I would definitely have moderated this Interesting instead of replying to it. And if I was using a touchpad and accidentally moderated your comment Offtopic instead of Informative, I would almost certainly reply to it to cancel out the moderation... Sorry about that! Cheers.

Re:Sound quality (IMHO) will keep CDs around (3, Insightful)

MyGirlFriendsBroken (599031) | more than 7 years ago | (#18298668)

Anyway, long story longer

Summary:

For people who use their Hi-Fi/iPod/whatever to listen to music, 128kbps AAC is probably okay, for people who user their music to listen to their Hi-Fi it certainly isn't!

Me, I mainly buy CDs now just because I like to have them on show on the shelf. Heck, half the time I come to changing the CDs in the car changer I burn them from my iTunes library, especially if there is something specific I want to put in there.

Re:Sound quality (IMHO) will keep CDs around (1)

stephentyrone (664894) | more than 7 years ago | (#18301546)

First, this post is basically an advertisement. Duly disregarded as such.

Second, young enough (or who went to few enough The Who concerts, space shuttle launches, etc) to still have an appreciable hearing range over 20kHz can hear the difference between AAC and CD or between CD and 192ksample 48bit digital, whatever. It's just a matter of knowing what to listen for (a sizzle ride in a jazz trio exposes almost everything, it's a good place to start). I hear the differences easily, but... I don't care. I'm listening to my records because I want to hear the music, not because I want to hear how pristine my stereo/computer/ipod is. Especially with an iPod, the ambient noise of the listening environment far exceeds the compression loss almost all the time.

In short, yeah, digital music sounds crappy. But no one cares. If they did, they wouldn't spend $50k on a home stereo, they'd spend $400k hiring a good string quartet to sit in their living room every evening all year and play on demand. Or, *gasp*, leave the house and go to the symphony/jazz club/hippie open mic night/metal show/random guy playing guitar on the street/whatever.

Re:Sound quality (IMHO) will keep CDs around (1)

JohnnyComeLately (725958) | more than 7 years ago | (#18375703)

The industry I'm in, though, is built around the people who spend $50k-$150k on home theater. You're right, they wouldn't spend it on just a stereo...unless they were also buying the $10k 50+ inch plasma and all the things that a custom home integrator would suggest.


Me? I make a modest amount (lets say I took a 25% pay cut getting out of telecom). After typing my original post, I've heard a new line of speakers a "sister company" (Sunfire, a Bob Carver company) is coming out with and for the first time in about 20 years, I'm convinced to spend $5k on speakers alone...and that's just for a pair and sub. The reference CD was a re-mastered in Dobly surround Pink Floyd "Dark Side of the Moon". I'd forgotten just how much I love music...yeah, I listen to it all the time on my iPod, but it's just a comfort to get through the daily grind (sorta like your beater Honda). But if I want to "drive what I love" (600+ horsepower, supercharged Trans Am), I'm going to turn off every appliance in the house, kick everyone out and turn off the phone, and then turn on this system with the source being a CD. Live is great, but how many people get to really hear the concert you've mentioned and have center row, 15' back, seats with 0 (zero) distraction and an accoustically perfect concert hall? You can have near that with a modest system, CD input, and constant availability.


I'm probably preaching to the choir and not telling you anything everyone doesn't already know, but I really have re-fallen in love with high quality music after a 18 year haitus. My wallet will hurt, but the rest of me will benefit :)

Apple: a monopoly... doing good? (2, Interesting)

the_unknown_soldier (675161) | more than 7 years ago | (#18298574)

This article says that apple are the new gatekeepers, but more importantly it says that apple does good things with its powers! Instead of taking cash to promote a CD, they only offer promotion in return for "exclusives" and discounts, therefore improving the end-user experience. What's more important however is that they promote independent artists! From the article:

"Groups like Gnarls Barkley have enjoyed significant boosts from iTunes. Last year, the alternative-soul duo's "Crazy" became the first song to hit No. 1 on the British pop charts based solely on digital sales. When the Shins' third album, "Wincing the Night Away," made its debut in January at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 album-sales chart, nearly 30% of the first-week sales were made online"

Does anyone honestly think that The Shins would be so popular without iTune's help? They are a great (semi) indie band, and iTunes promotes LOTS of indie bands. This is far better than the competition such as wal-mart who will only promote stuff put up by the record companies and paid for.

I was suspicious of this article. Apple's statement on DRM annoyed me to no end. Indie bands often plead with iTunes to remove DRM, and Apple refuses. It stands to reason Apple LOVES DRM, otherwise they would implement an opt-out system for DRM for indie artists. However despite the fact that apple is creating a monopoly in this area, they are actually doing good things with it in promoting indie bands!

Re:Apple: a monopoly... doing good? (1)

garcia (6573) | more than 7 years ago | (#18299020)

Does anyone honestly think that The Shins would be so popular without iTune's help?

Wow. It's not like The Shins didn't get first rate exposure in Garden State [imdb.com] . It's not like they are experiencing great radio play on just about every alternative radio station.

Just because iTunes plays them doesn't mean it's their only avenue to success. Perhaps Wincing the Night Away was their most "mainstream" album (it was IMHO as it sucks compared to their others).

Re:Apple: a monopoly... doing good? (1)

gEvil (beta) (945888) | more than 7 years ago | (#18299298)

Yeah, but it's got a nice little ode to Pam Berry, who was in a number of great bands during the 90s (Black Tambourine, Glo-Worm, Belmondo, The Shapiros, The Seashell Sea, and The Castaway Stones, not to mention her work on the Chickfactor zine with Gail O'Hara). But yeah, otherwise the album's generally 'meh'...

Re:Apple: a monopoly... doing good? (5, Insightful)

allgood2 (226994) | more than 7 years ago | (#18299236)

I was suspicious of this article. Apple's statement on DRM annoyed me to no end. Indie bands often plead with iTunes to remove DRM, and Apple refuses. It stands to reason Apple LOVES DRM, otherwise they would implement an opt-out system for DRM for indie artists. However despite the fact that apple is creating a monopoly in this area, they are actually doing good things with it in promoting indie bands!
I really can't stand when people ignore the facts and make statements like, "Apple Loves DRM". There maybe individuals at Apple who like it (though I doubt that many), but history proves that Steve Jobs and Apple were against DRM long before they were required to introduce FairPlay.

It took over three years of negotiations with the major record labels for Apple to get them to agree to any sort of contract, and when the iTunes Music Store was introduced, Steve Jobs gave a number of fairly candid interviews of how he had to (1) convince the major labels that music could be sold digitally, (2) how he loss the argument on no DRM, but won massive concessions on insuring that consumer 'fair use' rights weren't decimated by the major labels, when it came to what control the labels wanted DRM to provide, (3) how he also won major concessions on pricing, but loss some control over contracting issues, and (4) how his goal to insure that the major record labels and independent labels all expect the same treatment contract wise, was somewhat lessened by the aforementioned pricing and 'fair play' wars. [Independent Labels got a good contract, but its not equal with the Big 5, as was originally pushed for, and this was a direct power push by the Major labels, since they couldn't control product placement]

This was a 3 year battle, as opposed to those outfits who rushed out the gate after Apple introduced iTMS. Remember BuyMusic. It died quickly and horribly, but I can't say it wasn't a deserving death. To be the first to introduce purchasing downloads for the major labels to Windows users, [in case you forgot, Apple originally won all those concessions and spent three years in contract and business meeting just to get a trial run on the Macintosh platform], BuyMusic conceded to tier pricing, purchased placement of artists, super restrict and adjustable DRM on song files (some songs could be shared on multiple computers (2 to 5 depending on the label and artist), some could not, some songs couldn't be purchased as singles at all, new releases prices occasionally went as high as $1.79 with no copy, no portability restrictions in place.

I say, spending more than 3 years arguing, cajoling, and gaining concessions for consumer rights, when so many others were so willing to trample all over them, just to gain access to the major record labels collections, is ample argument that Steve Jobs and Apple has always seen DRM as a deterrent to where their vision of digital media will be in the future. That said, I think Apple was very pleased with their DRM, with all the latitudes it allowed, despite what the majors wanted. There is a reason why it's called, "FairPlay". The name is like a slap in the face reminder to the majors that consumers have rights as well; and Apple will do its best to protect them.

Unfortunately, I think Apple felt the sting of their own DRM and negotiated concessions, far more rapidly than they anticipated. So even the glow of their freshly minted FairPlay didn't generate illusions of DRM's not so bad for too long. Less you forget, when facing contract negotiations for extending FairPlay to Windows, and renewing contracts with the majors, Apple had to limit 'Rendezvous', add reductions to the number of times a play list could be burned, and make other concessions to the Major Labels; all because their contract indicated that if FairPlay was cracked and not fixed in a specific timeframe, the majors had some say in what they consider reparations.

Re:Apple: a monopoly... doing good? (1)

Afecks (899057) | more than 7 years ago | (#18299728)

I say, spending more than 3 years arguing, cajoling, and gaining concessions for consumer rights, when so many others were so willing to trample all over them, just to gain access to the major record labels collections, is ample argument that Steve Jobs and Apple has always seen DRM as a deterrent to where their vision of digital media will be in the future.

Then why does Apple slap DRM even on indie artists without labels that require DRM?

I'll tell you why. Because it would cost more to make the changes to iTunes. It would also be more confusing to the customers and potential lost sales. Apple doesn't care about noble aspirations. They care about the bottom line. We all know this except for the few apologists that insist otherwise.

These are the same apologists that claim Apple wants to get rid of DRM because they care about the customer. No, Apple wants to get rid of DRM because it costs more, is complicated and overly ineffective. That's good for us but don't fool yourself. If Apple saw itself coming out better in the long run with DRM it wouldn't change a thing. Apple is not concerned with consumer rights. They are concerned with Apple's right to make lots of money and if they can spin it so that people like you buy into "Apple loves me" then even better.

Re:Apple: a monopoly... doing good? (1)

Bemopolis (698691) | more than 7 years ago | (#18300148)

Look, I hate DRM as much as the next guy, but avoiding adding complexity to the iTS is a reasonable argument against this. Now, for those independent labels (or artists) REALLY wanted to drop DRM on their tracks I have a simple suggestion: trade purchased DRMed tracks sent in by buyers for identical non-DRMed tracks. The purchasing account is easily verifiable in the tracks themselves, and any additional expense can be justified by not having to set up a separate store (or, hell, charge a penny extra per track). Otherwise, all of their bitching is just complaining about how someone else is doing the job they should be doing.

Re:Apple: a monopoly... doing good? (1)

Swift2001 (874553) | more than 7 years ago | (#18300962)

Good idea. Indies? Anybody want to go ahead with that idea? Or do you just want to fulfill a role as a rhetorical device in somebody's anti-Apple tirade?

Re:Apple: a monopoly... doing good? (1)

Have Blue (616) | more than 7 years ago | (#18300284)

Less you forget, when facing contract negotiations for extending FairPlay to Windows, and renewing contracts with the majors, Apple had to limit 'Rendezvous', add reductions to the number of times a play list could be burned, and make other concessions to the Major Labels

The streaming limit was added because people were using iTunes as a P2P program and the playlist reduction happened at the same time as an increase in the number of simultaneously authorized computers, so neither of these represents the labels forcing things on Apple.

Re:Apple: a monopoly... doing good? (1)

toddestan (632714) | more than 7 years ago | (#18304082)

I really can't stand when people ignore the facts and make statements like, "Apple Loves DRM". There maybe individuals at Apple who like it (though I doubt that many), but history proves that Steve Jobs and Apple were against DRM long before they were required to introduce FairPlay.

Indie labels and pleading with Apple to be able to sell music and being denied by Apple is a fact. Sure, it flies in the fact of what Steve Jobs likes to say. You may like to pay attention to what he says, but others pay more attention to what he does. "Apple Loves DRM" may be a bit of a stretch, but in my mind it isn't a big one.

Re:Apple: a monopoly... doing good? (1)

STrinity (723872) | more than 7 years ago | (#18300060)

Does anyone honestly think that The Shins would be so popular without iTune's help? They are a great (semi) indie band, and iTunes promotes LOTS of indie bands.


And in ten years, some young punk band will do a song called, "Do You Remember Indie Rock iTunes?" about how Apple has homogenized the indie music market until it all sounds like The Shins.

Walmartunes (1)

meehawl (73285) | more than 7 years ago | (#18310376)

apple does good things with its powers! Instead of taking cash to promote a CD, they only offer promotion in return for "exclusives" and discounts

This is similar to how Walmart delivers such good "value" - it demands discounts from suppliers desperate to get products on its shelf. In many cases, these discounts mean that a supplier is actually selling some items to Walmart at below cost. So how to maintain margins? Increase prices to other retailers. Effectively, Walmart is obtaining a cash subsidy from the supplier, and extracting it from other retailers.

This is also what itunes is doing by leveraging its strong retail presence to demand "discounts".

Gatekeepers to something (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18298678)

Musicians can now get exposure using the internet. One example that comes to mind is Lily Allen. Her decision to release her music on MySpace accelerated her career far beyond what would otherwise have happened. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lily_Allen [wikipedia.org]

An example of an indie band marketing largely on the internet is is the Barenaked Ladies. They seem to be thriving. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barenaked_Ladies [wikipedia.org]

We have predictions that the RIAA's business model is doomed. I think there's a possibility that 'gatekeepers' of all sorts are going to become a lot less important.

Maan you gotta give it to apple (1)

strack (1051390) | more than 7 years ago | (#18298714)

..They just swooped in, spat out some kickass gear, put up itunes, and showed those music exec morons how to do it properly. BAM!

We need gatekeepers (2, Insightful)

mi (197448) | more than 7 years ago | (#18298720)

The amount of stuff being produced these days for a consumer would easily overwhelm a consumer with even above-average patience and attention span. This is true in not just music, but in many other sectors/industries (cars, home electronics are other examples).

So, somebody needs to be the "gatekeepers" — we are happy to employ them to avoid missing on the good new stuff while not spending all our time weeding out the bad new stuff. The question is only, who should that be.

In medicines, which we deemed to be too important, we have FDA [fda.gov] — a government agency. In everything else there are competing outlets, some of them commercial (think CNet [cnet.com] ), some not (think Consumer Reports [consumerreports.org] ).

The following is a simple truism, but it is needed to counter the article's implicit disapproval: Apple got there, because consumers of music like the work, Apple's experts are doing.

Maybe, it is the dissatisfaction with radio jockeys (think "Payola" [wikipedia.org] ), or with MTV, who, presumably, are losing their music gatekeeping role to Apple — I don't know. But should Apple become thought of as abusive of its position, people will switch to others — competition, as is often said, is only a click away.

Re:We need gatekeepers (1)

digitalhermit (113459) | more than 7 years ago | (#18298934)

The problem with human gatekeepers is that they invariably succumb to human failings. Look at things like awards shows, art museums, radio stations, etc.. They are ostensibly gate keepers, but we know the reality of how their choices are made. My feeling is that a ranking and categorization system would better help me find music that I like. There are sites that do this, but none at the size of the iTunes behemoth. Don't get me wrong, I buy music quite often from iTunes, but have been trying places like CDBaby, Sonicbids, etc..

Re:We need gatekeepers (1)

dreamer-of-rules (794070) | more than 7 years ago | (#18300370)

I get 50% of my music from CDBaby, but don't fool yourself, they "gatekeep" too. In addition to basic quality standards, they have recommended lists, top seller lists, and "mood" lists. Plus, every CD has a custom, "If you liked this..." list.

Every CD can also have user reviews. Most of the ones I get have a half-dozen or more positive reviews, but I may get ones that have no reviews if it was recommended by CDBaby. CDs with songs that have been in movies or tv shows, usually have a gazillion reviews-- and the gatekeepers for movies and tv shows are very picky. :)

Unless you go for the "random" lists, you're going through gatekeepers.

By the way, CDBaby tunes are available through iTunes, if you just want a song. (And the artist actually gets the majority of your dollar.)

Re:We need gatekeepers (1)

NekSnappa (803141) | more than 7 years ago | (#18300120)

I buy from iTMS once or twice a month, but they don't act as gate keepers for me. When I go to the iTunes music store I already know what I'm there to purchase. I find most of my new music through either word of mouth, XM, or internet radio.

I was actually surprised after reading the article. This past Tuesday Son Volt released their new album 'The Search', there is a Deluxe Edition with an additional 8 songs, that is available only from iTMS. Since it was promoted in the New Music Tuesday email, when I went there to buy it I thought it would be on the front page. Instead I used the search function, still had hit the view artist button and then click on two different icons to determine which one took me to the iTunes exclusive release, since both were labeled the same with the same cover art.

Seems to me that the Son Volt boys and their label didn't get a whole lot for providing those additional 8 tracks.

From roentgenizdat to out-of-payola music (1)

AHuxley (892839) | more than 7 years ago | (#18298748)

In Capitalist West music corporations complain about Apple controlling access to you.
In Soviet Russia KGB listen to Apple music with you.

Re:From roentgenizdat to out-of-payola music (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18317469)

"Back in the USSR
You don't know how lucky you are boy
Back in the USSR"...

I strenuously disagree (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18300438)

All this talk of Apple being a monopoly in the music sales dept. and/or being the "new gatekeepers of music" is complete bollocks. Whilst they do have a big catalogue, sell a lot of music, in the end, there is far more music sold on WMA-DRM-based stores that I cannot get via the iTMS than the reverse. Virtually anything I can buy on the iTMS I can buy elsewhere. The 0.x% of songs that might be exclusive to the iTMS does not make the iTMS the mandatory, unavoidable e-store for music that some M$ tools are saying it is.

I mean, eMusic, AudioLunchbox and Magnatunes (who am I forgetting, here?) are the exceptions. In sheer numbers (not marketshare), the vast majority of e-stores are M$-bound.

And then, there are those silly "we cannot sell this WMA music to you because you are not living on our national soil" issues... (I challenge anyone from the USA to buy anything from fnacmusic.com)

So, Apple with the same clout and inevitability (sp?) that M$ has in general computer software? I think not!

Decline of the Apple experience (0, Offtopic)

Zhe Mappel (607548) | more than 7 years ago | (#18301068)

Gatekeeping mass taste may make the big bucks for Apple, but it has changed (for me, anyway) one part of the experience of using an Apple machine.



Opening the iTunes store now means being shopped and pitched, advertised and shlepped loudly for mediocre TV, movies and music. What started in low-key mode a couple of years ago is now a major exercise in bad taste, a Wal-Martified borough of bad.



No, thanks: if I wanted the latest Disney or Top 40 stuff, there are SUVs and McDonalds and box stores and TV remote controls just waiting to stuff me full of it. Shoot up some botox, find a still-functioning credit card, weaponize the McMansion security system and off to the Wal-Mart!



Goodbye iTMS. Hello, emusic.com.

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