Tuesday, April 29, 2003


Window Shopping at the Apple Music Store
by Wayne Robins

As a longtime Mac user, I was happy to see Apple goose the online music business with its new Web music store. Having made a deal with the Coalition of the Clueless (the big four and a half conglomerates that dominate the music industry) you can now download individual songs for 99 cents each, and entire albums, most for $9.99.

Upon free upgrade to iTunes 4, The Apple Music Store manifested itself as a click-on category in my iTunes source list. The home page, as I write, features a picture of Eminem as "exclusive artist." Which means there are two Eminem tracks exclusive to the Apple site: "These Drugs," with D12, and "The Way I Am," with Marilyn Manson. It's a little disingenuous to package these two tracks and call it an "album," (price $1.98), but at least you can choose the songs individually for 99 cents. The site also offers "exclusive" tracks from U2, Bob Dylan, and Sheryl Crow and about a dozen similarly mainstream artists.

Assuming statistical legitimacy, the site says the top three songs downloads are by U2, with "The Way I Am" fourth. Beck's "Sea Change" is the number one downloaded album, with Crow's "C'mon C'mon" and Kelly Clarkson's "Thankful" following. So much for the notion of Mac folk thinking differently.

I used the Power Search device to see what kind of odds and ends I might be able to find for my 99 cents or $9.99. My first search, for the New York new wave classic "Marquee Moon" by Television turned up a blank, as did anything else by Tom Verlaine and Richard Lloyd's groundbreaking band.

There were no Beatles, except for the pre-Fab Four relic in which the boys backed British pop hack Tony Sheridan on standards like "Ain't She Sweet" and "My Bonnie." There was nothing by the Rolling Stones, nothing by Hawkwind, Amon Duul II, or Dion and the Belmonts. There was no Professor Longhair, and only seven Christmas songs from the great Fats Domino.

And yet there was a fine selection of material from the avant-garde tenor sax great Pharaoh Sanders, a Cal Tjader album ("Contemporary Music of Mexico and Brazil") which I'd never heard, ample Paul Simon, Steely Dan, an excellent selection of Phish material, Jerry Jeff Walker's commendable "Viva Terlingua!" live album, and Ryan Adams' "Gold." You can have your Aretha Franklin from both the Atlantic and Arista years. There are half a dozen Who albums, but only four Grand Funk Railroad tracks. The advantage here, again, is that you can buy just about any album track for 99 cents, download, and burn your own customized discs.

In tekkie parlance, Universal appears to be an early adapter, EMI looks like Luddites, and Sony, Warner, and BMG seem sort of stuck in the middle. Speaking of which, a power search showed no matches for the track "Stuck in the Middle with You" by Stealer's Wheel, but a tune with a similar name by Marvin Sease did show up. Obviously, the iTunes music store is still a work in progress. I'll let you know if I decide to buy anything.

(c) 2003 Wayne Robins. All rights reserved.

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