music appreciation


Sitting at home grading web projects this morning. Gerald's got the digital cable radio playing, and this is the first time we've (well, I've) listened to the "Party Favorites" channel. Too fun. From R.E.M.'s It's the End of the World As We Know It to The Bangles Walk Like An Egyptian to Jerry Lee Lewis' Great Balls of Fire , it's an unending, commercial-free stream of upbeat music that's ideal to hum along to while doing unpleasant tasks.

This is the kind of thing that makes me really like the new Apple Music Store. If I hear a song that piques my interest, I can hop online and buy it for .99. Instant gratification. I like instant gratification. Patience has never been my forté. And in my life these days, time is at a premium. I don't have time to go to the store and find the album I want. I don't have time to launch Limewire and search for a downloadable version of the song. Apple's made it fast, easy, and reliable.

I understand Joi's concerns about "giving in" to DRM. On the other hand, after spending a good bit of time (a) testing out the the impact of the DRM scheme, and (b) reading about it, I don't find Apple's implementation unreasonable or intrusive. At the end of the day, I can still do everything I would have done with a "non-protected" MP3--burn it to a disc, make a disc from a playlist, share it with a friend, play it on my iPod.

The music selection hasn't been a big issue for me...probably because my tastes aren't really cutting edge. My first test was to look for Little Feat, and I found lots of their stuff, which made me happy. (I don't need it, since we own all of their husband is buddies with the band. And yes, they're still touring. Still one of the best live bands in the world. And coming to Rochester next month. Woohoo!) Then I went looking for the song I'd heard at the drag show the night before. Bingo! Less than five minutes later Apple had my credit card number, and I had Bette Midler singing "I'm beautiful, dammit!" on my computer.

Like many others writing about this, I'd like to see the price drop a little, but for now, the convenience and novelty make it worth the .99.


My music tastes might be a little more left-field, so the selection wasn't great, but acceptable. I've been hitting up the 'request and feedback' link pretty hard. I did an unscientific rundown of albums I plan on buying in the near future and whether I can buy them on iTunes, here:

No. I totally *disagree* with their DRM approach, because it is based on the computer. Namely, my computer. There is a fundamental flaw here, IMHO. It goes like this:

If I bought a CD, there is nothing wrong with me buying a new CD player. I don't have to register my CD player, or unregister/reregister my CD Player everytime I want to clean it. But since I am using a computer, and a computer *might* be used to copy music (gasp)

I am the one reponsible for all of this, its all my fault, I have to register it, make sure that's up to date, etc. I suck at registering things. I lose numbers. I forget that I needed something before I wipe my machine. I know this about myself. But I should still be able to buy and play music. I don't agree with using the persons machine as a fixed device, they are by nature transitory (every 2-3 years at most).

When I buy a CD, I have bought what I percieve to be a piece of permanent media (it isn't, another one of my big problems with the music industry - they have said I can copy it if its for my use - but I can't copy my digital files more than N times, because they are somehow different). So I have a "permanent" CD. But when I download a file, that isn't permanent. I keep it on my computer, my computer crashes, and its gone. Woosh. I paid for it, and now I don't have it. All my fault right? I should have kept better track of it, given it better care. Except maybe I tried, but I can only back it up so many times, I can only register it this way or that.

Frankly, the recording industry needs to knock it off. If I buy a file, that's like buying a CD. If I want to copy it a hundred times because I have a hundred different computer systems, that's my business. I actually have 7 right now, and I work in a place with a bazillion. Why can't I play my files wherever I happen to be sitting? Because someone somewhere might copy files illegally? And this is my fault how?

It's a really cool idea, music on demand. I support the idea, I would buy stuff based on the idea, and I refuse to search through MP3 sites to find stuff that is "free" (both because I think its wrong and because I have better ways of spending my time). I would love to be able to download music, and use it. But quit telling me how to use it - if I copy it a million times and distribute it, then sue me. I think I deserve the right to be innocent until proven guilty, and this crap about registration and copying songs N number of times, no matter what N is, is yet another invasion of my personal right to use what I purchased.

I agree with your reasoning Andy, though I believe that the DRM Apple was forced to put in was an acceptable compromise to getting all 5 major music labels on board. A 'foot in' so to speak. Job's said that you can make "unlimited" CDs for your 99 cents. Ok, so burn your selection on CD, then rip to MP3, voila... you now have a version of the file which you may store on all 7 bazillion of your computers. =)

I think the Apple Store will be an unbelievable success, though getting a Windows client up and running asap is important.

Andy wrote:
"No. I totally disagree with their DRM approach, because it is based on the computer. Namely, my computer. There is a fundamental flaw here, IMHO. It goes like this:"

What's to disagree with? A company develops a product that has a specific use (even you recognized that it was developed based on the computer as a music reproduction device). You either have a use for it or you don't.

It's akin to me saying I disagree with the approach that the people who produce PAM cooking spray took. There is a fundamental flaw there. PAM is an oil based spray product. Why is it that they can dictate to me how to use it?

I want to use it as a car engine lubricant as well as a cooking spray, but after a short while my engine will burn up if I do. They should go back into the lab and develop the product I, personally, need.

But you see, they only offer it as a cooking spray and that is why I buy it and that is what I use it for. When I need engine lubricant, I buy oil formulated for just that.

If I should want the benefits of Apple's download service, I will purchase them and not expect them to be other than they are. If I need the benefits of CD music then I purchase that.

What I don't see as necessary is pointing out the ways that engine oil fucks up my food.

I was going to make a point similar to what g wrote, but, well... that would be kind of silly now. As long as we accept the "unauthorized duplication i s a violation of applicable laws" stamped on every retail CD, then we accept that the record companies can attach terms to the sale of music. As potentially annoying as the DRM is, I don't feel that I can fault them for seeking a technology solution to enforce those terms of use.

That said- yeah, of course I wish that someone would make a service as slick as iTunes music store, DRM-less, with every song, ever recorded, anywhere, and cheap. In the meantime, this works.

Ross K wrote: [[In the meantime, this works.]]

Only partially.

The reality of the situation is that the DRM approach works for (a) Mac users (currently the only format available) who (b) want to pay for their music and are willing to put up with the limitations imposed by the DRM. Liz said [[I don�t have time to launch Limewire and search for a downloadable version of the song.]] Liz, how long does it take to launch Limewire? (my experiences have shown it to launch pretty quickly)

If your real issue is with Piracy, that's another thing altogether. Yes, Apple has found a way to make downloading mp3-ish music files "legal". Whoopie. $9.95 per CD's worth of mp3-ish files is still a lot of money considering you're not getting a physical copy of the CD, nor a jewel case to store it in, nor any CD cover nor liner notes.

The music industry has been ripping off consumers for far too long and while the Apple plan is a nice first step, it's still too costly for the average downloading consumer.

If the record industry really want to make this work they'll provide some additional content to the CD's they create (videos, multimedia presentations, interviews, artwork, etc.) to make purchasing the actual CD more enticing and then drop the price of CDs by at least 50%. The record companies seem intent on sticking with 1980's CD pricing mentality and are continually surprised when a 90's and 00's mindset won't play along.

If Apple wants to make the scheme work they'll drop the provision that only allows for a certain number of playlist groupings of the song -- unless you burn it to CD and then rip it back into a (pure) mp3 format. That produces a loss of signal, deteriorating the quality of the song. That's unacceptable to me.

Given the number of filesharing applications and alt.binaries newsgroups, it seems as if this is a nice first step but one that falls way short of what's needed.

Count me solidly in Andy's court on this one.

I'm with Liz on Apple's service on two points (1) selection - it will get better. Imagine in less than a years time convincing 5 major labels to buy into this and then getting more than 200,000 songs encoded, build a front and back end and launch it to the waiting masses of pessimistic critics. it's amazing what Apple did; (2) DRM - it's no biggie really. Geeez. Duplicate a playlist and switch the orer of two of the songs. Unless you'd rather download crappy 128k bit rate questionably encoded songs with lousy quality and propigate it around your own community like an unprotected SARS case and you'll get what you deserve - bad audio.

Finallly, it will be out for Windows end of year. I mean windows users waited more for USB implementation after the original iMac implemented it.

More of my comments are posted at here..

A quick follow up, thanks to this posting on slashdot: is reporting in this article that Apple's Music Store "which went live Monday, sold an estimated 275,000 tracks at 99 cents apiece in its first 18 hours". According to an article on Britian's The Register "That works out at over four tracks sold every second

In the same article The Register also asks the question that is at the heart of all of this debate for me: "Now, Apple is charging punters 99 cents per track. It would be interesting to know how much of that goes to artists (performers and composers), how much to the labels and how much is left to Apple." A Forbes online article states "The iTunes Music Store will initially offer 200,000 tunes, paying the record companies an average of 65 cents for each track it sells." So Apple makes .99 - .65 = .34 on each song. The record company takes the .65 -- but how much is actually going back to the Artist?

As for CDs, CNN online has a pie chart of how the money gets divided on a $16.95 sale. The "Royalities to artist and songwriter" slice comes to $1.99.

I strongly believe in supporting artists. I prefer buying CDs straight from the artist whenever possible (I love how Christine Kane goes around from show to show and sells CDs out of the back of her van after a performance). Other artists like Ani DiFranco are trying to do it all themselves, from making the music to recording, producing and distribution as her own label. How can you not support that?

On a side note, in talking with Liz in the hallway she asked me "you got a file, you trashed it... so how is that different that buying a CD and breaking it?"

Difference: I understand the world of breaking physical things. I can take care of a physical CD with z-e-r-o education. Don't touch the shiny side, and don't sit on it. OK, got it.

Computers are different. Backing them up is HARD. (anyone made bad backups lately?). I have to know a lot of things to keep them secure. People try to hack them. They break not in response to something that I understand but because things A and B conflict with C, but no one has documented that. In short - CD's offer an ease of use and an ease of understanding that is not present in modern filesystems.

It's frustrating to hear that I can only burn it to 'n' number of CDs, and it has always bothered me that I can't "legally" copy a CD - I should be able to save myself from my destructive lifestyle without re-purchasing my CDs.

I'm now at a point that I am re-buying a lot of the music I had in college because the CD (and TAPE - remember that???) media is failing for various reasons. I have no delusion(s) though, if they were computer files I'd be just as screwed - old formats, etc.

If we really want to get into it - then aren't I buying a right to liten to the song? and if so how come I can't re-get that song no matter where i am or what I have to play it, so long as I am still me ? I am all for compensating artists too - what I don't like is re-compensating record companies everytime there is a shift in how I want to store my music - and the fact that ever device that takes one kind of music media and converts it to another (Cd burners and lots of other techs) is heavily fought and regulated by that industry so I am right back where I started - buying media again and again. I have purchased twenty-two copies of Led Zeppelin "ZoSo" and I think that's a bit over the top.


Andy -- an upcoming segment on "What the Tech". deals with software to used to burn cds, with an emphasis on backing up your HD. :-)

Once again, I'm right with you on this subject. You wrote: [[On a side note, in talking with Liz in the hallway she asked me �you got a file, you trashed it� so how is that different that buying a CD and breaking it?�]] And the primary difference is that with a digital file you are able to make backup copies with relative ease. If my HD dies, taking all of my files with it, I (hopefully) have all of my files backed up and should be able to recover them. If I break a purchased music CD, it's gone for good.

(BTW, I once told a class you could run over a CD with a car and not break it. Next class two students came in gleefully telling me I was wrong. Luckily they'd used an old CD...)

[[If we really want to get into it - then aren�t I buying a right to li[s]ten to the song?]]

I think so. You're purchasing access to the song and in this case, access via the media it was pressed upon. Recent legal actions have upheld the right to play a DVD on a Linux box despite software maneuvering around various encryption codes. Seems to me this is along the same wavelenghts.

Media Economics comes into play through a tangential note here. Take a look at your collection of VHS tapes. Then take a look at your DVD collection. Or how about your LPs (remember vinyl?), cassette tapes (and/or 8-Tracks if you've got 'em), and CDs. It's no mistake that the electronics industry keeps creating newer and "better" ways of viewing movies and listening to music. With every new machine comes a desire to do duplicate purchasing of titles already in your collection in the older format.

I'll reitterate a point I made earlier: The technology to make illegal duplication of electronic media is already available and in use. The avenues of distribution to diseminate and collect those files are also available and well in use. As such, there are many simple ways now for people who are so inclined to bypass the legal ways to acquire electronic media. If the electronic media industries want to compete in the modern electronic world they have to stop pretending that the 1950s paradigm of sales and distribution is still viable.

Apple's DRM is a nice first step towards acknowledging a paradigm shift is essential. And, Apple's DRM is working -- for now. My guess is, however, that once the novelty has worn off and people become aware of the limitations of Apple's media, sales will level out to something far below expectations. I wouldn't at all be surprised to find that, as a result, activity on such "alternative" resources such as Limewire or Direct Connect, etc., increases. Wouldn't that be ironic?

I'm not sure what the solution is, but I know that Andy's frustration with having to re-purchase (and re-re-purchase) the same music is very common and something we share.

In response to Andy's and fivecats shared frustration with the... I'll call it "re-licensing" of music for each new iterative format: while there is validity to the argument that a consumer shouldn't have to pay for multiple versions of the same recording, it is often true that recordings actually change with each iteration of format, improving in quality with each new iteration. Furthermore, there are significant development and (re)mastering costs associated with each new iteration which must be passed on to the consumer.

So the argument: does licensing a tune on an 8-track cassette when 8-track is the day's hottest technology warrant you the right to the same tune in DVD-Audio format when it's eventually released?




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This page contains a single entry by Liz Lawley published on April 30, 2003 8:49 AM.

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