You know, when Napster announced its subscription music plan, I never gave it a second look. Not because I assumed it wouldn’t work with my Linux box or Katie’s Mac, but for one simple reason:
No matter how many songs you “buy” on the plan, once your subscription lapses, they’re all gone.
Want to stop paying $15/mo? Say goodbye to your music.
Napster goes out of business? Say goodbye to your music.
On the other hand, suppose I’ve bought a bunch of songs from iTunes at 99¢ each, and I decide I don’t want to buy any more from them? No problem. If the marketplace changes two years from now and Apple decides to abandon the iTunes music store, I can still listen to songs I bought from them.
Amazingly, some people still need this explained to them. John Gruber of Daring Fireball writes, “I thought this was obvious, but, judging by my email, there seems to be a fair amount of confusion…” Forget the math, do the logic first!
There is one flaw in Gruber’s logic regarding CDs vs. subscription music: while I expect CDs will be playable over the next decade or two, eventually they will go the way of vinyl records. However, if I were to bet, I’d expect my CD collection will be playable long after Napster To Go has, shall we say, gone.
Wow. I guess some people have a lot of faith in Napster’s continued existence.
My only complaint with iTunes isn’t with the marketing model. iTunes operates like a large music store and some of the more obscure titles I’ve looked for (to replace stuff from my BearShare days) just haven’t come up. Other than that, it’s worked very well.
iTunes’ business model, coupled with the business models of the other services available, infuriates me on a regular basis. The contracts they have with record labels mean that certain artists will never appear on iTunes, and even if you buy the CD, it often won’t include the radio edit, forcing you to pay a ridiculous price (sometimes an import price, even) for remix CDs rather than just hopping on the net and buying one track. (Yes, Evanescence, I’m talking about you.) Or, because artists switch labels, you’ll find two albums exclusively on iTunes, three only on Napster, and one on the new Sony service. And the one you want is always on the service you don’t have. (Yes, Harvey Danger, I’m talking–exaggeratedly–about you.) Particularly evil is what happens with soundtracks: songs by artists appearing “courtesy of” other companies are left out entirely. I don’t want the soundtrack to Where the Heart Is, but it’s going to be the only way to get the one song I want from it…..which is the one song not available on iTunes. (Yes, John Hiatt, I’m talking about you.)
And by far the worst effect of label-sponsoring as far as I’m concerned: the utter lack of comedy and parody albums on iTunes. Rhino Records is fantastic and I love them for giving a home to all the demented stuff I adore, but WHYYYYYY did they have to be affiliated with BMG? Now, not only would I have to use Napster to legally download “Bulbous Bouffant,” but I would have to pay for it for the rest of my life and hope like hell there are sufficient other people gullible and/or dedicated enough to keep the service going.
To be fair, though, exclusive offerings by electronic music services give record stores a better chance of staying in business. *.sigh.* Wonder if Tower has the Vestibules?