Sunday, May 21, 2006

My problems with iTunes

My CD collection numbers around 600 CDs and I have managed to import most of them onto iTunes. The only ones not done are those that I have looked at and thought that I will never want to listen to again. Milli Vanilli is the only one that springs to mind but I know for sure there are others. So to all intents and purposes my iTunes and therefore both my iPods now house my entire CD collection as well as all the songs I have bought at the iTunes music store.

Yet I still wonder whether online purchasing of music will ever totally replace the concept of buying CDs or records or whatever the "hard" format may be. Why? Because there is something tactile and emotional about the act of going into a shop and buying music that cannot be replaced by buying online.

There are so many CDs that I have bought purely because I have been browsing through a rack in some obscure music shop and happen to have glanced at that old album by whoever, then bought it. I have been attracted to it by the artwork or the colour or any number of random reasons but I have bought it by chance and that is what is missing from iTunes, chance.

I go into the iTunes music store and regularly buy music but usually it is music that I know I want. It might be a song that I have to learn to play, it might be an album I have been thinking about buying for a while or it may be, as is increasingly the case, a funky compilation album where I have been able to listen to a clip of each song before I purchase. But, and it's a big but, when I really, really want an album I don't actually feel like I own it unless I have bought it at a shop on CD. Last week this phenomenon became apparent to me when the Red Hot Chili Peppers released their latest. I like the band, primarily because Chad Smith, their drummer, is a favourite of mine, but I also like their music. I was a but sceptical about buying the album, thinking that the band has become a cynical money making machine, but I wanted the album anyway. I wanted the real thing.

I know I could have paid less and got it online and even though I can burn a CD from iTunes and print the album artwork and put it in CD case it just doesn't feel like proper ownership to me. I want proper artwork with proper sleeve notes and the like.

Pearl Jam, another of my faves have a new CD out and I'll buy the hard copy CD of that because I want it in my collection. Undoubtedly iTunes has made it much easier for me to buy music as anyone can go online and look for obscure albums or artists and buy their stuff. That, as far as I am concerned, is good. It's just that this virtual music business is an accompaniment to the real thing.

If I was Mr Apple I'd try to make iTunes more "human" by putting in some kind of fuzzy logic browsing feature. One where you hit a button and it takes you to an artist with a tenuous link to the last one, or something like that, I don't know. I'd also try to give more in the way of "sleeve notes" when you buy online. It would be good to read detailed notes about the music on your iPods display. There are lots of albums I buy where I want to know who the musicians are and usually that is not possible when I buy online.

On the other hand I'm probably just old and unwilling to adapt. Most people using iTunes probably don't care at all about buying "real" CDs and, in a few years time, they won't even know what CDs are.

The only thing I know for sure is I wouldn't want to be a music store owner in this day and age unless I was Steve jobs!


Janin said...

It's all compressed low fidelity audio. For a true to life aural experiance you need a properly machine pressed (NOT CD BURNT) well mixed 48Khz sampled stereo. On a high end system (Jobs's crap nice design but still low fi) contraption gives you choice at the cost of audio quality. Personally I would prefer to listen to two tracks at full frequency and bandwidth than my whole collection through a tin can.... And yes I know .mp3 is supposed to loose the frequencies outside our hearing range but those same frequencies Impart something unique to music which when remouved makes it rather souless.

Rhythmic Diaspora said...

Janin - Thanks for that info. I really don't know if I could tell the difference in quality to be honest. Maybe years of playing the drums has fucked up my hearing or maybe I'm just a heathen. Either way i'll listen more closely to see if I can tell any difference.