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+ (earlier today) well, of course we were all downloading and playing with the new iTunes 4 before Steve Jobs even finished his excruciatingly long presentation, and had a lot of good jokes at his expense while he did (mostly related to Steve’s taste in music, and the shills they assembled for the day), but we’re already loving iTunes4, having listened to each others’ playlists all day long. As for the Apple music store, it’s going to be huge, so I don’t need to post much about it, but here goes anyway.

My very early take on it, now that they seem to have worked out their bandwidth kinks that were slowing down the experience earlier today, is that, while I haven’t yet decided how I feel about the usage restrictions (albeit reasonable ones) on the AAC files, and any possible privacy issues that go with them, browsing this music store is going to be like crack for people like me, not to mention for people like video producers who have to search for just the right song, and then get it quickly and easily. I’d be especially happy if we could get the independent labels involved (more on that below). In a lot of ways, this is what I’ve been asking for since I played my first mp3, and a lot of what we worked into the GIA music service (there are a lot of shared features, and we spent a good amount of time today comparing Apple’s interfaces to ours). Finally, a stripped down, essential interface for previewing and purchasing music. To quote Dr. Dre, “Man, somebody finally got it right.” The fact that Amazon and Audible couldn’t get this right together — they had the assets to do it years ago — and offer it to the PC market first is a real missed boat on their part. The 30-second sample feature for every track is killer, and fun, too… we tried to do it a year ago.

That said, we need the independent labels here, as they could benefit from this the most. For rock n’ roll, that means Dischord, Matador, Kill Rock Stars, and tons more, but just as much is true for other kinds of music, especially international, classical, and electronic music, where a lot of the best-selling, most popular music simply isn’t on the majors. I would love to hear Apple is reaching out to them - an API for independent labels to submit digital music to the store’s editors for inclusion, or even better, to create their own iTunes storefronts, would be especially great, or a relationship with a site like Epitonic or Insound. If this is one place where the overhead of having an exponentially bigger inventory is nominal, why not level the playing field for the independents, at least in this one place, and give us more choice? I’d be willing to work on making this happen, and if anyone else is as well, write me and let’s get started.

We’re probably also going to see people using this in a lot of ways we might not initially expect. Filmmakers are going to be able to browse through thousands of songs across genres and preview them, 30 seconds at a time, to find the right song for a moment, and if you want a copy of the song for the rough cut, no more hunting around for an mp3 or buying the CD - just spend $.99 for the song. Likewise, it’s not hard to imagine people with disposable income to spare just buying digital copies here of albums they already own on CD — for $10 an album, that might be more convenient to some people than digging out the CD and ripping it, and there’s the instant gratification of downloading and playing right away. It’s easy to drop $10 for an album… but $10 at a time adds up real fast, especially when your duplication system costs nearly nothing, warehousing is just a matter of adding terabyte drives, and distribution just amounts to incrememntal bandwidth costs, which Apple already has to spare thanks to their Quicktime site. This will be a cash cow for Apple, and for any record label smart enough to share.

p.s. the iPod updater for iTunes 4 is here.

+ Though Steve and Co. have made it a lot more attractive to buy music now, i’ll still be enjoying PodWorks for a long time, I think. That program’s the best $8 I’ve spent on entertainment since The Two Towers. Unfortunately, I just heard from Buzz that the iPod 1.3 updater that Apple put out today initially broke PodWorks — he’s already posted a fix, but wants to know if anyone runs into trouble.

update: there’s a great, and extensive, discussion about apple’s music service from about 2 months ago, with repeated mentions of its potential for independents, on Signal vs. Noise.

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04.27.2003: change is good for
new background (sort of), changes to the layout, and changes to the rss.

04.28.2003: iTunes Storefronts
Mockups — how independent storefronts could be integrated into iTunes, if Apple opens it up as a sales & distribution platform. archives