Fortune on Apple Music Store

Posted by Pierre Igot in: iTunes, Music, Technology
April 29th, 2003 • 8:36 pm

There is an onslaught of articles about the new iTunes Music Store on the Fortune web site, including one entitled “Songs in the Key of Steve” [Jobs].

This particular article includes several debatable statements, including the following:

U.S. music sales plunged 8.2% last year, largely because songs are being distributed free on the Internet through illicit file-sharing destinations like KaZaA.

As I already mentioned in previous items, both the industry and the mainstream media have yet to provide any hard evidence that there is actually a causal link between on-line file sharing and music sales.

This same article, however, does provide some valuable information about what distinguishes Apple’s offering from previous attempts to establish on-line music retail outlets. For example, the article explains how Jobs was able to convince the industry:

Apple has also come up with a copy-protection scheme that satisfies the music industry but won’t alienate paying customers. You can burn individual songs onto an unlimited number of CDs. You can download them onto as many iPods as you might own. In other words, the music is pretty much yours to do with as you please. Casual music pirates, however, won’t like it. The iTunes jukebox software will allow a specific playlist of songs or an album to be burned onto a CD ten times. You can burn more than that only if you manually change the ORDER of the songs in the playlist.

This is exactly the kind of stuff that Apple can be excellent at: very simple and effective solutions to seemingly unsolvable problems. Whether this solution will actually be an effective deterrent is another issue. The important point is that Jobs managed to convince the recording industry that it was a solution. And that effectively makes it a solution.

Jobs rightfully chides the recording industry for coming up with totally absurd schemes designed to prevent piracy. The industry’s assumption that everyone is a thief is simply insulting. I am glad to see that Jobs is at least trying, with some degree of success so far, to find a middleground.

There is little doubt, however, that the recording industry views this as a test on a relatively small market, where the potential damage if things don’t work out as planned will be minimal.

But regardless of what the industry’s ultimate motives are, for once, it pays to be in the minority! (Well, as long as you live in the US, that is. Being a Mac user outside the US is even more challenging, as the current US-only status of the iTunes Music Store, and several other Apple offerings, unfortunately illustrates…)

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