December 18th, 2012 • 11:36 am
Here is a telling example of everything that is wrong, in my opinion, with the current state of the music industry.
Yesterday, I was listening to an Etta James mixtape from 2009. The mixtape included one song that I particularly liked, titled “Quick Reaction & Satisfaction”. So I decided to try and find more about this song and where it came from.
I quickly found the Wikipedia page about the album Etta James Sings Funk, from 1970, which indicated that, unfortunately, the “album was released as a 12-inch LP record and has not been reissued on compact disc in its entirety although five tracks were included as additional cuts on the reissue by Kent of Etta James’s Losers Weepers album in 2011”.
I found the Losers Weepers album at Amazon.ca, but it was a bit expensive and I wanted to try and hear samples of the other tracks on the Etta James Sings Funk, so I went to the iTunes Store (for Canada) and searched for “Etta James”. And I got this:
Since I was looking for an album, I switched to the Albums results. And I got this:
Try it yourself. You get a full list of albums, in an undetermined order. You get no total count of search results. You get to scroll up and down and drown in a sea of album covers. There is no way to sort the results by album title, by release date, etc. How do you find a specific album in such a list of results? As far as I can tell, Apple expects you either to carefully scan the entire list or to already know the covert art of the album and try and locate it visually in the list. I didn’t expect (unfortunately) to be able to find the Etta James Sings Funk album. But I expected to find the reissued Losers Weepers album, and so I scrolled up and down trying to find it, to no avail.
This is downright ridiculous. How on earth does Apple get away with providing no options for sorting search results? Are the record labels aware of this? Don’t they care that it unnecessarily makes things more difficult for people to purchase?
Since I couldn’t find the Losers Weepers album, I tried to view the complete list of songs in the search results, so that I could at least compare it to the track list for the original Etta James Sings Funk album and see if individual songs were available:
Again, things are sorted in some unfathomable order and again, as far as I can tell, there is no way to change the sort order, i.e. to sort songs alphabetically!
What the hell? I just couldn’t believe that the situation was so bad, so I went on an on-line search and quickly determined that, indeed, apparently, the absence of sorting options for search results is part of the “new and improved” store in iTunes 11. And apparently, the only way to work around these limitations is to start all over again, by going to the store home page, switching to “Column Browser” view, and browsing by medium, then genre, then artist:
This assumes that you know that Etta James is classified under “Blues” or “R&B/Soul”, and then you get a full list of all the multiple copies of each track and you are supposed to sort through all this to find what you actually want — with all the associated iTunes sluggishness too: it takes 20 seconds to get the full list of genres, and more than 20 seconds to get the full list of songs! (All that to find that, out of the 11 tracks from the Etta James Sings Funk album, a grand total of two are available through the iTunes Store.)
Again, I ask: How does Apple get away with such an abysmal experience? I realize that, in all likelihood, most of the store’s revenue is derived from sales of the latest pop sensations and that the customer experience is probably OK for that. But still… to me this situation epitomizes the sad state of the music industry. It is, apparently, the best that they can offer. (iTunes is the top music retailer.)
There is probably not enough of a market for CD re-releases of older albums such as Etta James Sings Funk, but isn’t it a prime example of what a virtual store such as the iTunes Store could offer? Instead, we get compilation after compilation of the same most well-known tracks, that are all available in multiple, identical copies. And even recent re-releases, like the Losers Weepers album, are not available, probably because legal/distribution issues. (It looks like it was a European reissue, but it’s not available at the UK iTunes Store either.)
The end result is that I probably won’t buy anything at all. I am interested in this Etta James Sings Funk album, but only two of the tracks are available via the iTunes Store. And it was so painful just to get there!
I still prefer to buy most of my music on CD, whenever I can, and this latest experience isn’t about to make me change my mind. On the contrary, it just confirms my worst fears about the music industry, which is that, these days, it really does not care one bit about music lovers (if it ever did).