Of Cost and Format

There has been some discussion regarding iTunes and its Music Store from people (including Isaac) recently and I wanted to throw my hat into the ring as well.

There was question as whether the songs would actually only cost 99¢ when it actually got to the credit card. Indeed it does. And the albums do actually cost $9.99 as well.

iTunes CC Charge

As for the AAC format, I agree, the music from the iTunes music store is intended to sell iPods, that was its original and continued purpose. And as someone who uses iTunes all the time I didn’t even think about the format that it was in. I rip my CDs in that same AAC format because of the quality gain over MP3.

I also want to clear up what I have become aware is an increasing misconception. “iTunes” is a piece of software. Originally you could think of it as the Mac version of WinAmp — ie. it let you organize and play your digital music collection. This collection presumably came from decoding CDs that you owned (aka. ripping) — a function that it could perform for you. Lets face it though… in addition to our own music, most people acquired a lot of music (MP3s) from various other sources of varying legality. I’m not going into the ethics of all that now — but that was what iTunes did. It was a music player. Not only was it a music player — it let you organize your music as well. When you add music to your iTunes Library it can be copied into a directory structure which files it by artist and album name.

iTunes keeps extra meta data about the music it manages — more than you can store in the standard ID3 tags. In addition to the standard fare of artist and album name and track and disc info it lets you store artwork, ratings, EQ presets, and BPM as well as the date you added the song to the library and when you last listened to it — as well as a count of how many times you listened to it. And all of this data can be searched on or sorted by or used to create Smart Playlists. Smart Playlists are like ordinary playlists except that they are composed of songs that match a certain criteria or filter and are dynamic in nature so they can change as you add new songs that match the criteria. Examples of these could be ‘Top 25 Most Played’, ‘Never Played’, and ‘Songs between 5 and 6 minutes long’ — for example. iTunes also maintains a list of online radio stations in a variety of genres — a couple of which I listen to fairly often. It can also stream any other Shoutcast radio station and likely a few others as well - essentially any radio station that Winamp can play — so can iTunes.

About a year and a half ago (correct if I’m off on that) Apple released a version of iTunes that ran on Windows. So now, all of the features I mentioned were available to Windows users as well as Mac users. The real reason for the porting — iPods. An iPod when connected to your computer synchronizes with your iTunes library and all of your playlists are transfered as well.

Long story short… Apple wants to create an online music store so the natural place to put it is integrated with it’s digital music management software. This is why you need to use iTunes to access the store, it allows Apple to make the process of buying music online more transparent to the end users.

This was in response to comments from someone who didn’t realize that iTunes was not just the music store. So whether you want to download music from the iTMS or not, I personally haven’t used a better digital music program on Windows or Mac than iTunes. That is my 99¢.

Written by Colin Bate