IMS Australia – first thoughts

Well, it’s about time, but Apple have finally rolled out the iTunes Music Store to Australia. Now I can see what all the fuss is about.

I can see that I am impressed with how easy it is – I’ll have to make a point to not impulse buy, because it’s just so easy to do. The integration with iTunes is so smooth as to be unbelievable – it is very easy to see that this is why they make iTunes and why it’s free. (Heck, the only reason I run Windows on my home PC instead of Linux is to use iTunes)


That said… I’ve been having some thoughts about the whole DRM experience. In no particular order, here they are:

  • I like the fact that you can authorise and de-authorise computers for a song’s DRM. When I first read the “5 computer” limit, I was worried because there was no implied time limit. 5 computers would only last me about 6 years (the two I have at home, plus their replacements eventually, plus the laptop I’m sure I’ll get in that time frame). Because it’s not a fixed limit, it’s not so worrying.
  • I also like the way that the authorisation is associated with the account, not the song – this would make it easy to move from one computer to another. (I also like the implication that I _can_ share my music library with friends – I can “loan” an authorisation out to a friend until I decide I need it back)
  • Have I bought a file or a license? It’s so hard to tell. But if it’s a license… how come I can’t re-download the song?
  • I know why they don’t do variable pricing, and in general I agree with it… but there are some silly cases. Example: I was looking at Missy Higgin’s “Live at San Francisco” album. It has a number of special “iTunes-only” intros – of about 15 to 30 seconds. They each cost the regular $1.69 Huh? For less than 30 seconds? I think you can assume no-one will buy that, so why bother? It’s not like you can even buy the album (in that case… that collection was marked “by song only”)
  • Again, have I bought a file or license? If I buy a song from an album, then buy the album, do I get the song price discounted? Why not? (And yes, the first two questions are rhetorical)
  • More on the “file or license” issue – a number of songs are in multiple albums. And no, these aren’t different recordings – I’m thinking of bands that have bought out multiple “Best Of” style albums (like Kiss and Queen). The songs are the same recording – they have no difference in their copyright status, just as reprinting a book edition (unchanged) does not extend the copyright. Surely, if I buy one copy, I’ve bought them all, right? (Then there are the EP “singles” as well)

These “file or license” questions are not simply rhetorical. Consider: if I buy a CD twice, I have two physical copies of the CD. If I buy a song from iTunes twice, I will just have a second copy of the file (assuming it doesn’t just overwrite) with no additional privileges – I would have just paid $1.69 for the privilege of copying the file, something I could do for free. It is easy to see that consumer protection laws will have to be updated to deal with purely digital purchases sooner or later.

(Now, I know that the iTunes DRM is easy to get around. Heck, it’s built right into the software – burn it to disc (virtual or real) and re-import as MP3s or AAC. That’s not the point.)

Some other comments:

  • Searching is a breeze. Damn shame that the first five searches I tried all turned out to be Sony labels (I checked later). But still, it was pretty good, and I’m sure that the back-catalog will continue to expand.
  • I love the “preview” feature for the music videos. How come they don’t have that for audio as well?
  • No TV shows for AU? Damn, and I was sooooo looking forward to downloading “Desperate Housewives”
  • I’m really going to have to think about improving my broadband speed – 512/128 doesn’t seem as cutting edge as it used to. 🙂
  • I’ll have to re-consider introducing a backup cycle – frankly, before now there wasn’t anything on my computer valuable enough to make me bother.

Well, to sum up: a cool piece of software. I can see my music purchases will increase – buying music at the price of a can of Diet Coke is a lot more tempting than buying a CD (half of which I won’t like anyway), and iTunes Music Store is a lot more convenient than trying to find the song I want on the P2P networks (which I gave up trying a long time ago). Thank you, Apple, for finally getting it out here (and boo-hiss to the various labels, especially Sony, that made the process so prolonged).

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Author: Robert Watkins

My name is Robert Watkins. I am a software developer and have been for over 18 years now. I currently work for people, but my opinions here are in no way endorsed by them (which is cool; their opinions aren’t endorsed by me either). My main professional interests are in Java development, using Agile methods, with a historical focus on building web based applications. I’m also a Mac-fan and love my iPhone, which I’m currently learning how to code for. I live and work in Brisbane, Australia, but I grew up in the Northern Territory, and still find Brisbane too cold (after 16 years here). I’m married, with two children and one cat. My politics are socialist in tendency, my religious affiliation is atheist (aka “none of the above”), my attitude is condescending and my moral standing is lying down.

11 thoughts on “IMS Australia – first thoughts”

  1. yay!!! itunes is very addictive, watch yourself. i quickly spent $100 in the first month of having my ipod + itunes combo here in america.

    you can preview audio, by the way. all you have to do is double click on the song. dont worry coz that wont buy the song. the only time it will buy the song is if you click on “buy song” button.

    and yes, boo hiss to sony bmg! and boo-hiss that you have to have an australian credit card to buy from the australian itunes store! what about expats like me???

  2. Thanks for the preview tip, Celine… I’ll make a lot of use of that (particularly in trying to decide if I want to shell out for the entire album).

    And I’m _defintely_ going for the shopping-cart model, Simon – the potential for impulse buy is far too huge. Heck, I bought three songs last night when I was only going to stop at 1!

  3. If the DRM is that easy to get around – why bother with it? I guess perhaps it is “sufficiently difficult” to keep them out of legal trouble.

    Also, I am not sure if 1.70 is good value yet, I guess if you cherry pick songs it is. But I must be a bit old fashioned, I like to listen to albums as they were built by the artists, including the “bad songs” which may grow on me. Heck, I miss having 2 sides – flipping a record over always seemed to open up the album more… but I am a dying breed I guess.

    Also, you are paying for a lossy format, it is not the same data as if you bought the (well mastered) CD – most people probably wouldn’t worry about this though – I can tell the difference on my studio grade speakers at home, but mostly from years of amateur music production teaching my ears to tell the difference…

    But it is about time !

    My wife is more then keen to use it, especially the TV program thing once they roll that out (I will have to watch the credit card VERY closely).

  4. $1.69 is definitely still in the impulse-buy category – I can’t see it being more of an obstacle than a $1.29 price (though both are probably more psychologically intimidating than $0.99). It’s easily cheap enough that I wouldn’t bother going through the effort of finding a free version.

    The album price is a little more intimidating, and I’m not sure the video clip price is tempting – I don’t think of a video clip as being worth three times the song. In many cases these days, when you buy a CD, you can get a DVD with the music videos, or a live concert, as well.

    The DRM is in the good-enough category. It’s not so restrictive that people have to by-pass it, it doesn’t get in the way of common tasks (e.g. burning a CD for that long road-trip), it allows loans (after a fashion), and it doesn’t have any implicit expiry clauses. Only people really interested in “sharing” music will bother bypassing it, I think.

    As for your wife’s spending habits, that’s where the Allowance feature comes in. 🙂

  5. W.r.t. iTunes and Linux: perhaps you should try out SharpMusique. It’s a tool made by the (in)famous “DeCSS” Jon Johansen to access iTunes (buy music and save it _without_ DRM, apparently) from Linux. Disclaimer: I haven’t tried it myself yet, so I don’t know how well it works, if at all. Check it out at http://nanocrew.net/software/sharpmusique/

  6. Pepijn, it’s not that I couldn’t access the iTunes Music Store from Linux (or play the files)… it’s just that I find iTunes to be a much better player and music organiser than the Linux equivalents. Good enough for me to use Windows even. 🙂

  7. I tried out SharpMusique now, and it works (although it’s buggy and you definitely won’t want to use it for anything other than buying songs or albums). One HUGE advantage (for me, at least) of it is that it saves the files as unencrypted, DRM-less MPEG 4 audio files, which you can then play anywhere and use as you see fit, instead of being restricted to whatever iTunes lets you do with them. As far as I can tell it’s perfectly legal (at least here in the Netherlands), since you paid for the song.

  8. He, iTunes and the rest of Mac OS X is why I don’t have Windows at home. One step at a time, I guess 😉

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