Ping: Country-specific or world-wide network?

Posted by Pierre Igot in: iTunes, Music
September 3rd, 2010 • 10:02 am

The launch of Apple’s new Ping network via the iTunes Store poses some interesting questions.

If you’ve ever shopped at the iTunes Store, you might have noticed that there isn’t just a single iTunes Store for everyone in the world, but an iTunes Store for the US, another one for Canada, one for France, one for the U.K., etc.

And as soon as you register with a credit card, you are restricted to purchasing music from the iTunes Store for your own country. You can browse the virtual shelves of other iTunes Stores, but you are not allowed to buy anything from them. (You can use the “Change Country” link at the bottom of the iTunes Store home page to switch to the iTunes Store for another country.)

This has been a regular source of frustration for me, because I am an avid fan of various artists from different corners of the planet, and they often release singles and other special recordings that are only available through the iTunes Store of their country of origin.

For example, there have been Paul Weller releases that have only been available via the iTunes Store for the U.K., and there are Jean-Louis Murat releases that are only available via the iTunes Store for France.

As a Canadian customer with a Canadian credit card, I am not allowed to purchase those releases. These limitations are obviously due to contractual obligations/legal issues relating to the distribution rights negotiated by artists or their record labels.

Ping, on the other hand, is a new network for following artists and friends and their music. Is it going to have similar restrictions? As a Canadian iTunes Store customer, will I only be able to follow artists and people who register with the Canadian iTunes Store?

That would be quite absurd, and yet right now if I try to reach the Ping home page for the French iTunes Store, I am asked for my user name and password and then taken back to the home page for Canada. Ping is still a brand new thing and not very many artists have a presence on it today. So I cannot really verify whether I have access to the pages for the artists from France and the U.K. that I’d like to follow.

The picture might get a bit clearer in the weeks to come. But if one does end up being able to access the Ping pages of artists or people throughout the world, then the question will obviously be: will one be able to purchase the music that they have or recommend?

I cannot see Apple not wanting people to be able to purchase the music that is promoted through the Ping network. At the same time, we are still stuck with country-specific iTunes Stores after all these years. How is Apple going to reconcile these two realities?

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