Online music stores: more restrictive than online stores selling CDs

Posted by Pierre Igot in: iTunes, Music, Technology
August 3rd, 2004 • 10:47 pm

Here’s a thought. Jean-Louis Murat‘s latest album (with Fred Jimenez and Jennifer Charles of Elysian Fields) is coming out on CD at the end of August. But it’s already available now in downloadable form through various online music stores, including the iTunes Music Store — along with the entire Jean-Louis Murat back catalogue.

There’s a major catch, though. The album is only available through the French iTunes Music Store. If you go to the US iTunes Music Store and look for releases by Jean-Louis Murat, you won’t find a single one.

The reasoning appears to be that Murat’s core audience is French — which is true, of course. But it also means that, if we lived in a world where music was only sold through online stores such as the iTunes Music Store, Murat’s works would only be accessible to people residing in France.

Am I the only one who finds this ridiculous? From here in eastern Canada, I can go to and order any of Jean-Louis Murat’s albums, and Amazon will ship them to me with no problems. They’ll even deduct the local tax from the price, since I don’t live in France and I have to pay the Canadian tax when I receive the package here in Canada.

I can even go to and find a range of Murat albums available directly here in North America.

Yet if I go to an online music store such as the US iTunes Music Store, there’s not a trace of a Jean-Louis Murat recording.

Is this really the utopia we’ve been hoping for?

One of the great benefits of an online music store, in theory, is that it should give you instant access to whichever music you want to buy, including music that’s not even available on CD.

Instead of having anything that might resemble this utopia, we have online music stores selling downloadable music that are even more restrictive than their counterparts selling CDs. In online music stores selling downloads, the music is not any cheaper, it’s in a lossy music file format — and you can’t even find as much music as you can find in online music stores selling CDs.

If I am allowed to “import” music from here in Canada, why shouldn’t I be allowed to import music from the French iTunes Music Store?

The way things are going (we don’t even have a Canadian iTunes Music Store yet), it’ll be years before online music stores selling downloads even come close to matching the offerings of online music stores selling CDs.

I realize that there are “contractual” and licensing issues to solve for each country. But obviously these issues are not preventing from selling music to me here in Canada.

The future is probably not in generalist online music stores such as the iTunes Music Store, but in online music stores set up by the artists themselves and selling their music world-wide to anyone who’s interested in it, regardless of where they live.

And given that Apple has yet to license its copy-protection technology to third-parties so that they can sell their own music in an Mac/iPod-friendly format, I am not very hopeful.

Online music stores selling downloads — and the iTunes Music Store in particular — are so far from fulfilling my hopes as a music lover. It’s distressing. We need online stores selling loss-less music files to a world-wide audience at a price lower than the price of CDs — and with a guarantee that most of the money is going to the artists.

I realize that Steve Jobs and Apple had to find a compromise with the music industry in order to even get this thing off the ground. But now it’s time to take things to the next level. What’s the point of having online music stores that are so limited in their offerings?

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