iTunes Music Store: The backlash begins

Posted by Pierre Igot in: iTunes, Music, Technology
May 2nd, 2003 • 6:34 pm

After heaps of glowing reviews in the mainstream media, the backlash against the launch of Apple’s iTunes Music Store is starting.

This column on The Register rightfully points out that Apple has gone to great lengths to “censor” offensive language. Miles Davis’s Bitches Brew becomes B***ches Brew! It definitely goes too far. Even Amazon does not bother.

The problem goes beyond offensive words, however. For example, I was quite surprised to see that Prince’s “Cream” song (off the Diamonds And Pearls album) was labelled as “EXPLICIT” in the track listing for the album.

Sure, the song is highly suggestive — but it does not contain any offensive words, and the single released at the time did not bear the “Parental Advisory” label. Clearly the censors were far too heavy-handed when they entered the DATA or created the tools that automatically censor words and label songs or albums as “explicit”.

Surely Apple realizes that you need a credit card to make purchases through the iTunes Music Store and that means that, in most cases, you are a consenting adult and are mature enough to make your own decisions regarding the explicit nature of what you want to read or hear.

More importantly, however, the major criticism waged against the store is that, while the music available encompasses the 5 major record companies, the selection of tracks actually available is far too limited. Even worse, some tracks are available, but only if you buy the whole album. You cannot purchase them separately.

As I’ve said earlier, the store will really become interesting to real music lovers once it starts offering millions of otherwise unavailable tracks from the huge vaults of stuff desperately waiting to be re-released by the majors.

For example, I have been looking for Pops Staples’ Father, Father album forever. The Grammy-winning album is unbelievably out of print, even though it’s not even 10 years old!

So I went to the iTunes Music Store and looked for Pops Staples. And I found… only a Best Of of the Staples Singers, and Pops Staples’ Peace To the Neighborhood album, which I already have and is readily available in record stores.

If the iTunes Music Store merely replicates what’s already available in record stores, it won’t be of much interest to me. I’d rather have real CD quality with no copy protection than pseudo-CD-quality with copy protection.

Lots of work to do to make this a real music store then. And, of course, the fact that it’s still limited to the US only means that I can only browse and cannot purchase anything anyway. If the iPhoto saga is any indication (for ordering photo books, etc.), Apple’s promise to launch an international store could take very long to be fulfilled…

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