Innovative iTunes

January 19, 2004

in Accelerating Innovation

Are you using iTunes yet? I’ve resisted buying an MP-3 player so far for myself. That resistance may be crumbling. I think iTunes like Skype and Roomba are very disruptive innovations. All of these provide simple interfaces, are easy to use and change personal perspective.

This post is about iTunes and my observations including:

  • Digitizing my music collection
  • The demise of the CD
  • The download price
  • What I would pay for music
  • Insuring your digital music collection
  • Music and the phone
  • A summer teenage job opportunity?

    One fun reason I’ve been missing over the recent holiday break is traceable to my new iTunes habit. iTunes is Apple’s solution for selling music online. So why the fuss?

    PC media players have had a juke box function for sometime. Probably like many I had an assortment of music on my laptop and home PC, however I could never claim to have a digital collection or a home music server. Now I do. The combination of a recent laptop upgrade and a desire to move music to more places in the house led me to digitize my whole CD collection over Christmas. I’m still working on the old LP’s. It wasn’t a big collection, some 12GB so far in the new format.

    However the benefits are immediately apparent. iTunes can sort by artist, album, genre, year etc. I can shuffle play R&B and Jazz together. All this is not new, it is just that iTunes makes it elegantly simple, including burning CD’s from the results. As a consequence one old laptop with WiFi is networked to the home server and acting as the stereo interface in our family room. It takes up less space and with a new set of speakers provides great sound. In the living room I can run the laptop or the home PC straight into the home entertainment system.

    So more music at our fingertips, easier selection, and better listening at almost no cost.

    Some observations?
    I’m currently making a tradeoff between adding a Creative Wireless Music Server Remote and an iPod with at least 20gb. I think the iPod will win, I need a backup for my music. As there are no insurance policies for hard-drives that die.

    I’m seriously considering trading all my current CD’s for other used ones until I have nothing left to trade. I see no point in having CD’s in my house anymore. Soon I’m sure I’ll feel the same about DVD’s. I’m considering the best way to get all this music into my car. an iPod with voice recognition would be great. Then I could just iPod to current stereo.

    The download price for iTunes $0.99 per song is just too much. I’m not prepared to pay that for a track. I’ve already got more than I can listen to. However, iTunes has just launched an “allowance” product. So I could give my kids $x per week. I’d note that my daughter used a file sharing program recently to download a new album. She used iTunes to identify the songs. I think she secured the full album. (While not approving the approach the real issue it the gap between $99cents / Album $10 and free) My own experience of loading in my legitimately owned albums into iTunes was the additional utility I get from having accurate Gracenote records, the enhanced searching and the knowledge that my database (increasingly valuable) is not being infected by inferior quality. Paying a reasonable sum for additions makes sense to me.

    At $0.10 that is 10 cents per song the cost would be reasonable. In fact I’d commit my family to $5.00 per week immediately. (That is I think $230 more than we spent last year). At that rate we’d download some 2500 songs in a year. That is a more than you can eat strategy. Our interest in new music and artists would dramatically increase over time. The impact of this strategy would be strongly felt by music radio stations. What’s the biggest initial barrier to lower song costs? First is greedy banks. I believe they are taking approximately $.25 on a $.99 track purchase.

    I’m surprised there isn’t an insurance policy on my collection. Insurance provides the recording industry with two things they don’t have now. First they get to keep changing a few cents as long as you have the music. In conjunction with providing “database protection” which may well be worth more than a few cents a year with special charges for re-loading new registered to owner machines etc, they would get my full music profile. Recommendations etc. would then follow. A twist on the insurance policy would enable a micro payment for each time a song is played, so frequent and favorite tracks are never lost while the balance of the collection may have a hefty deductable.

    Lastly, iTunes suffers from not having “profiles” built in. Yes we can build Stuart’s music, etc. However, while holding it on the home server, it would be useful to know if that is son’s. daughter’s, etc downloads. Having them together helps, similarly being able to separate them may help your next dinner party. I’m also not sure what happens when my son leaves for college and take the full collection with him. What is the RIAA policy? By then he has been collecting and playing for years… however now his collection might be merged with other friends. Looks to me like Darknets are inevitable.

    I’d also like iTunes to connect with Skype, so I can share / pipe / run background music during a conversation. I think Gracenote is already busy with this.

    “When a music fan hears a song they’d like more information about, they simply dial a short code provided by the carrier or portal and point their mobile phone towards the music source for 5-10 seconds. Depending on their phone, the user will receive a message with related data, such as the album cover, artist and song name and links to purchase the download or ringtone. Older phones will receive a text message with the relevant data and instructions for purchasing ringtones and other content.”

    Lastly it dawned on me that entrepreneurial kids could just make a job of this over the summer. Transferring CD’s to the home server, setting up iPods etc. I may just encourage my son to try it. He could easily offer an additional “music hard drive etc. Not only would he get green stuff he would also enhance his appreciation for music. In a few years the same opportunity won’t even be available. Concurrently I think he would end up with an enormous collection. He could even offer a back-up service for key clients if he became really involved.

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