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Review of iTunes Music Store 757

Posted by pudge
from the music-over-my-head dept.
Daniel_Staal writes "Apple's recent release of their music download service created quite a discussions here on /., with a lot of opinion and speculation. In light of this I thought I'd poke around, kick the tires, and see how it actually works." Staal's review follows. The Wall Street Journal also has a review.
Daniel_Staal continues:

First, the disclaimer: I'm an Apple supporter, having used them as my desktop system since my parents got a IIe back when they were new. I run several Unix servers, but my desktop of choice has always been Apple. Also, while I like listening to music, I'm no audiophile, and can't usually tell the difference between a 192kbps MP3 and the CD it is encoded from. My best speakers are on my computer, and they are Monsoon flat panel 3-piece set.

Ok, on to the review. iTunes Music Store requires the new version of iTunes of course, for which Apple has updated the brushed metal interface again (Apple, why do you come up with this great Aqua interface and then never use it?). My first stop on any new program is always the preferences, and Apple's added some new options for this version: "Sharing" and "Store." I don't have any other computers worth streaming music too, so that's off, and I turn off the one-click shopping. I like having a shopping cart.

The store itself is presented as a special playlist in iTunes, just click and it connects. It presumes a fairly wide iTunes window, wider than I usually use, but the stuff I wanted was all on the left side so I'm fine. The default store layout is obviously Amazon-inspired: new additions, up and coming, editor's picks, and most popular all being highlighted. Genre is a pull-down menu on the top left: all the picks change and the background color. Click on an album to view it in a two-pane view: info above and songs below. There are easy links back at any point, or up the hierarchy. Double click on a song to hear the preview (not just the first 30 seconds, they seem to actually choose them).

That's the basics. There are two levels of search: the search box in iTunes and a Power Search available from inside the store. The Power Search lets you search by song, artist, album, genre, and composer. Users of Limewire will find it familiar. Clicking Browse puts up three panes across the top: genre, artist, album. Once an album is selected the songs are available below.

On to the interesting stuff: actually buying songs. I select a song I've got a poor p2p copy of and click buy, and it asks me to sign in with my Apple ID, or create one if I don't have one. This is where I have my first problem. I have an Apple ID, but entering it puts up a message saying I've never used it with iTunes Music Store before (well, duh) and asks me to review the terms and conditions. Then it directs me to the account creation screen, with my info already filled in.

Of course, the account creation screen won't let you create a duplicate account, and asks me to log in. Can we say endless loop? How about bug that should be fixed?

I create a new email address, and make a new account. No problem. Log in, select the song and a couple others. Click "Buy Song," enter credit card info (which is then saved into the account, on Apple's server) and the songs download quickly. I had one more blip: one song had trouble downloading (I assume server load) and was told to try again later, with a menu option. It worked several hours later.

The selection is broad, but not yet very deep. Many albums I found are in partial status, with only one or two songs. Several artists I was looking for were not listed at all. Considering this is just roll-out that isn't a major issue (they weren't big artists, at least not in the U.S.). Everyone should be able to find at least some of their picks available.

Also, some albums are listed as "Explicit" or "Clean." Notice I said "albums": if one song in an album has a label they all seem to, though I didn't do an exhaustive search. Since this is structured as song-centric, I feel they should have labeled on a song-by-song basis.

Enough with the marketing stuff, this is /. The files, as was mentioned in the announcement, are in AAC format. Let's see what we can do with that, shall we?

First options: inside iTunes. iTunes can convert one format to another normally, trying it on a 'protected' AAC file returns an error. Also, trying to burn an MP3 CD with one on the playlist just skips burning the AAC files (or returns an error if they are the only files.) Fair enough, we didn't really expect the capability to circumvent all controls to be built in... (Though you can of course burn regular CDs.)

Next, let's see what can be done with the file itself. They are saved, just like any other iTunes music file, in the iTunes music folder. The icon has a little lock on it, to indicate its 'protected' status. A few clicks later and the file is owned by guest:nobody chmod 777 and in a world readable folder. (Assigned to guest.)

So much for one definition of protection. [Ed: I renamed the file to .m4a (not protected) and set the permissions to the same as my other tracks, and iTunes would still not let me convert it to MP3.]

I can also play that file as another user on the same machine. I would try other machines, but I only have the one Mac at the moment.

The only other Mac player I can find that claims to play AAC is only for Mac OS v9, and does not appear to recognize the bought file, so no help there. I do however have an app that hijacks the audio stream before the speakers and allows you to play with equalizers, balance, etc. Oh, and it lets you save the result as an MP3 as well as playing it through the speakers.

I fire it up and a few minutes later I have an MP3 that I can't tell from the AAC. So much for that definition of protection.

Is this service for everyone? Probably not if you are a hard-core audiophile and can tell the difference between a 128kbps ACC and the original, but for most of us: it works. I can do what I want with the file, even get it to MP3 if I need it, though it is hard enough that I have to actually think about doing it (which means I won't do it unless I need to). I'd love it if it were cheaper, but I probably would not buy twice as many songs at half the price. Finding songs is easy, buying them is easy. (For reference: $0.99 per song does not include taxes, taxes will be listed in the invoice you are emailed.)

I'll probably spend too much money there.

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Review of iTunes Music Store

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    are you crazy? How long till someone writes a virus that hijacks iTunes and makes you purchase thousands of songs?
  • More (Score:5, Informative)

    by pudge (3605) * <slashdot@[ ]ge.net ['pud' in gap]> on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @12:44PM (#5844821) Homepage Journal
    Here are my own notes on problems with enabling my account [perl.org], problems with [perl.org] (and benefits of [perl.org]) playlist sharing [perl.org], and extracting cover art [perl.org].
    • Re:More (Score:4, Interesting)

      by pudge (3605) * <slashdot@[ ]ge.net ['pud' in gap]> on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @01:44PM (#5845604) Homepage Journal
      Also: gsfprez [slashdot.org] tells me he can import the protected AAC files into iMovive, and it is converted to an unprotected (obviously) AIFF. Loses all the meta-information (artist, album, etc.) but better than using Audio Hijack, IMO.
    • by goombah99 (560566) on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @02:05PM (#5845850)
      Here's some tips that may fix the problems you encountered on the music store.

      First the one click sign up form has a small bug if you already have any apple account with a credit card. (e.g. mac.com, applestore, developer account, iphoto). The error messages they give are misleading as to the root cause of the problem but here is the trick to getting it to work. You must make sure that all of your apple accounts have identical info. when I say identical i mean exact. for example having a ten digit hyphenated phone number on one account and not on the music store record, or a different zip code will break it. Finally, counter intuitively, do not enter the security code number from the back of the credit card. the reason here is that the mac.com accounts dont have a place for it to be entered.

      if all else fails, create a fresh account with a new e-mail address.

      for cover art of all those tunes you did not buy from apple the best solution is clutter [sprote.com] a freeware app that works with itunes. it auto lookups the cover art using amazon.com. it has some other feeatures too. but mainly it works slightly better than the one built into itunes since it does a more successful job of recognizing when two songs belong to the same album and avoids storing the cover art twice.

      if you want to drag the cover art from clutter into itunes here is a procedure I recomend--I wish I could automate it. 1) open itunes and create a smart playlist of all track=1 tunes to get one tune from every album. 2) click on cover art display where it says "selection" and it will change to "now playing", 3) in the finder open ~/Library/Images/com.sprote.clutter/CDs and sort it by date.

      now iterate the following, start playing the first song in your smart playlist, clutter will fetch the album cover, the finder will show a folder containing a jpeg. drag this to the album art in itunes, press command -> to move to the next song in itunes. rinse lather repeat. the only proble I encoutered was as I said in some cases itunes cant figure out that two songs are from the same album.

      if you need high res cover art go to walmart's web site.

      ps I spent last night playing with the store and after i got it to accept my credit card (yep the credit company called me to see if this was fraud too--multiple charges in a row for the same small amount is a fraud flag not an apple bug). I bought five peices of music before i realized this was like eating potatoe chips. flawless instant downloads, pristine music. fairly easy to find what I wanted, and though some things I wanted are missing the breadth of their coverage in other musical forms is astonishing. I even bough some music form artists I had never heard before because I found it while browsing. I really enjoyed the ability to fill in my music collection with a few songs I used to have on vinyl but would never be willing to buy the whole album again just to get those favorites.

      and my conclusion is this. I've spent hours on kazza trying to download just a few songs I wanted. it rarely works the fist time since the servers beomce un avalaible or some dickhead entered the album decriptor wrong or the connection stinks or you cant find a decent bit rate or just part of the album..yada yada yada.

      after using the applse site I realized what steve jobs was saying when he pointed out on cnn that using Kazza is like paying yourself minimum wages since you can only get 5 songs (= 5 dollars) in a hours worth of work!!! hopefully in a few years the price will drop even more at which point it will be way better than free,

      THe only thing I was not too happy about was that I cant get these in mp3 format so I cant send them to my freinds with plain jane mp3 players. (you cant convert acc that you purchesed to mp3 in itunes--it will let you convert acc songs that you ripped yourself). I could burn a cd and re-rip them but by then the quality will be down. But franky this is just me being a weasel. its not fair use for me to mail songs around the globe.

      • by angle_slam (623817) on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @03:15PM (#5846827)
        The only thing I was not too happy about was that I cant get these in mp3 format so I cant send them to my freinds with plain jane mp3 players. (you cant convert acc that you purchesed to mp3 in itunes--it will let you convert acc songs that you ripped yourself). I could burn a cd and re-rip them but by then the quality will be down.

        This has been said by many people, but I don't understand why it would be any different from converting it directly from .AAC to .MP3. When you burn an .AAC to CD, presumably, it will be the highest quality you can possibly get from the .AAC. You then rip to .MP3, it should be the same as decoding from .AAC and encoding to .MP3 (indeed, that is exactly what you are doing, except the intermediate step of converting to CD, which shouldn't degrade the sound at all.)

        • MOD PARENT UP (Score:4, Insightful)

          by lordpixel (22352) on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @03:20PM (#5846894) Homepage
          Its the truth. Transcoding hurts quality. It doesn't matter if you burn first or not.

          Of course, I think this illustrates the point nicely. Out of the box iTunes 4 makes it just hard enough to make mp3s to discourage more casual use.

          Users with a legitimate need for mp3s (in car, mp3 player that doesn't do AAC) can get them, which is good, but it isn't one-click piracy either.

          Still, blank CDs are cheap but they're not free.
      • after using the applse site I realized what steve jobs was saying when he pointed out on cnn that using Kazza is like paying yourself minimum wages since you can only get 5 songs (= 5 dollars) in a hours worth of work!!! hopefully in a few years the price will drop even more at which point it will be way better than free,

        Good point. It's like that quote about Linux - it's only free if your time isn't worth anything. And I think the majority of Slashdotters do not consider their time to be worth anything.

    • Re:More (Score:3, Informative)

      by timdorr (213400)
      And here are my notes on the iTunes sharing protocol [neowin.net] ;)

      Anyone want to help make an online sharing service? Aka, the file-sharing service Apple didn't know they made available...
  • I love it. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @12:45PM (#5844834)
    I've spent more money on music in the last two days then I have in the last two months thanks to the Apple Music Store.
  • by Ars-Fartsica (166957) on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @12:45PM (#5844837)
    The songs are about what you would pay in a store for a CD, actually probably more on average. Now subtract the pressing, shipping, stocking, labor, etc costs which normally are taken out of the price at retail, and you have record companies making a mint if this in fact takes off.
    • Plus they get their 'media tax' if you put these songs to CD...
    • Which, if the artists hurry their asses up, will mean a fortune for the artists. You can't really compare this on a "cost per song" basis. Compare it to the price of CD singles which I've noticed are between $8-$10 now. That's a big savings when most singles are maybe 3 songs.
    • by Richard5mith (209559) on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @12:50PM (#5844907) Homepage
      That isn't right. A lot of the albums are $9.99 each (even when they have more than 10 songs), and that's a pretty hard price to beat. Amazon averages out a few bucks more + tax + shipping.

      But yes, the record companies, not having their distribution costs do stand to make a pretty penny.
    • add bandwidth, server cost and personel to maintain the system and customer support and you have about the same in the way of back end costs...but I guess you can get all those for free huh.
      • Wrong. The hardware and support costs can be amortized on a huge scale. How many hosting centers is this? How many distribution centers are CDs shipped from? Do the math, its not even close. Record companies are going to make a killing on cost davings alone if this pans out.
        • by platypus (18156) on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @01:40PM (#5845544) Homepage
          Wrong. The hardware and support costs can be amortized on a huge scale. How many hosting centers is this? How many distribution centers are CDs shipped from? Do the math, its not even close. Record companies are going to make a killing on cost davings alone if this pans out.

          I think and you are wrong, and that you are wrong for the same reason record companies are trying to get draconian with copy protection.

          If this takes off and record companies enter the game in a big way, it will take off big - very big. So big that it has the potential to badly damage the classic distribution chains. Music is the optimal good for distribution over the net in the state it has today (average bandwidth for the end user).

          Fast dsl/cable connections make the act of purchasing and downloading music in a compressed format unpremeditated buying.

          After online sales getting a significant share of the total revenue, there's suddenly a very low barrier of entry for anyone for this business.

          Why do musicians sign their soul to big music companies?
          Because they are the only one offering the the things they need (or believe they need in case of the first):

          - marketing power
          - logistics (they can make an album appear in every shop on the planet)

          It's clear the internet solves the logistics, and this is IMO the biggest hinderance for newcomers. It also could raise the absolute number of sales (unpremeditated buying etc.).

          But also completely new competitors could emerge, or artists might consider handling their own sales, which all will eventually drive down prices.

          The internet will hurt the record companies, that's why they hate it.

  • What the hell? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by billnapier (33763) <napier.pobox@com> on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @12:47PM (#5844861) Homepage
    This isn't a review, this is a story of one users problems and solutions. Reviews imply opinions on how easy it was to use, how quick it was, how easy it was to find.

    Any /. reader have a real review of this? Maybe some opinions on what they did right and what they did wrong?
    • Re:What the hell? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @01:05PM (#5845104)
      What did Apple do right? They created an Internet music delivery service that actually works. What did they do wrong? Nothin'. That said, not everything is perfect.

      The only thing I would change if it were me has to do with Rendezvous-streaming purchased music. I think you should be able to Rendezvous-share your purchased music just like your ripped music. That's not how it works. A Mac won't play an .m4p (MPEG-4 Audio Protected) file unless it's authorized to do so.

      But that's a minor nitpick. To get around it, burn your .m4p's to audio CD, then rip to .m4a (MPEG-4 Audio). I did this with several tracks, and while I could notice a slight difference if I really listened for it, the resulting .m4a's were totally acceptable.

      Furthermore, .m4a at 128 kbps is so much better than MP3 at 128 kbps that I'm reripping my whole library of 400+ CD's. I ripped them at 192 kbps and liked what I got, but now I'm reripping at 128 kbps and finding the same or better quality. The net result is that my 35 GB library will become about a 26 GB library, and I'll be able to put 1/3 more songs on my iPod. That's a big, big win.

      It would be nice if the music selection were a little bigger, but that will come in time. I didn't find any Daft Punk or Midnight Oil, but I did find "Mais Que Nada" by Brazil '66, and I consider that to be a great start.

      Buying a song is as easy as falling off a log. Click "Music Store." Type something in the search box, say "Cibo Matto." Scroll through the list of songs and find one you want, say "Sci-Fi Wasabi." Click "Buy Song." Type your password. (That's optional; you can have it remember your password.) Click "Buy" to confirm. (That's optional too; you can tell it not to ask you to confirm purchases.) Go get a cup of coffee or something. When you come back, the song is in your "Purchased Music" playlist, and already synched to your iPod. Ready to go.

      Total cost: 99. Total time required: less than a minute, not counting the download, and if you're on even halfway decent broadband the download will only take a few seconds. Gratification: instant.

      Burn the downloaded songs or albums to CD and stick 'em on your shelf. They're just like CD's you'd buy at the store, albeit without the liner notes and whatnot. That's okay. If I want the liner notes-- I don't-- I'll go to the store.

      Let's review. This system is faster, easier and more convenient to use, and more reliable than Napster or Kazaa or whatever, and it's almost the same price. Damn straight.

      I don't wanna get all hyperbolic, but I really think this might change the world.
    • Re:What the hell? (Score:3, Informative)

      by squiggleslash (241428)
      I found the following:
      • The sign up process was buggy in my case. I tried unsuccessfully to register my card several times, finally contacted Apple, who suggested creating the Apple ID via the Apple Shop. This worked. This isn't user friendly.
      • The user interface is fairly easy to use, but things aren't always where you expect them to be. I guess it's difficult to get lost as nothing goes down more than a few levels before your choices are limited to "up" and/or the browser.
      • The classical selection is a lemo
  • by grub (11606) <slashdot@grub.net> on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @12:47PM (#5844862) Homepage Journal

    Via Apple: I'd like to download these songs please, here is my credit card number..
    Via Kazaa: g1bb0r m3 j00r l337 t00nz f0r fr33, d000000ddzzz!!!

  • From their site [apple.com]:

    The iTunes Music Store is fast and convenient for you, and fair to the artists and record companies. In a nutshell, you can play your music on up to three computers, enjoy unlimited synching with your iPods, burn unlimited CDs of individual songs, and burn unchanged playlists up to 10 times each.

    What do they mean by an unchanged playlist?

    • Re:Question (Score:5, Informative)

      by jamesoutlaw (87295) on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @12:53PM (#5844945) Homepage
      What do they mean by an unchanged playlist?

      Apple added this restriction to make it difficult to use iTunes to produce hundreds (or more) copies of a single playlist. You can burn a playlist to CD up to 10 times.. after the 10th copy, you have to make a change to the list- add or remove a song or two before the software will allow you to burn another CD. I have not tried this, but that's the way Steve Jobs described in during his presentation. I do not know if simply removing a song from the list and adding it again constitutes change, but I bet there is someone somewhere who has tried it out.

      • Re:Question (Score:3, Informative)

        this is steves sneeky way to get the record companies to think he is restricting the user.

        just make a new playlist with the same damn songs because iTunes counts the exact playlist file not the AAC files or other playlists with the same set up.
    • You can only burn a play list to 10 cds, after that you have to change the playlist if you want to keep burning those AAC's. Apple is trying to prevent people from burning a few hundred copies of a certain CD and selling them. That is there version of copy protection.
    • They mean that the playlist has the same songs on it.

      This is simply to prevent you from creating more than ten copies of the same CD. Personally, I think this is a great compromise. Burn a CD for home, a CD for work, and a CD for the car, and you can still burn the same CD 7 more times just in case the origionals get damaged.

      Of course you can just copy the CD, but hey, these are things to keep the honest people honest in the first place anyway.

    • Re:Question (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      What do they mean by an unchanged playlist?

      It means exactly that.

      When you go to burn a cd, you make up a list of songs to go on the CD. That's called a "playlist". What they're saying is that you can burn *that particular playlist* to a cd ten times without having to change it. Change the playlists all you want, burn all the *different* cd's you want, just not the *same* cd ten times in a row.

      Change it? Yeah, you know, remove a song from the list, add a song to the list. That sort of thing. The id

  • by pres (34668) * on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @12:48PM (#5844874)
    So I also set it up last night and gave it a shot. It was a easy setup for me (my apple ID worked fine) and finding and buying songs was a snap (7 songs very quickly before I stopped myself).
    They clearly didn't have a huge content base yet but they did have a easy way to request songs, artists etc that they didn't have yet.
    Definitely a big win for apple and consumer.
  • by feed_those_kitties (606289) on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @12:48PM (#5844875)
    You said you had trouble downloading a song, but that it worked fine later.

    Did you get charged twice for the song? Or is there some sort of mechanism that will only charge you for a successful download?

    !Sig

  • ID Problem (Score:5, Informative)

    by TJ6581 (182825) on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @12:49PM (#5844887)
    I had the exact same ID problem and here is how I fixed it:

    1) Goto http://www.apple.com

    2) Go into the apple store

    3) Signin using your userid

    4) Add your credit card info to you apple ID

    5) (optional?) I turned on 1-click shopping too, not sure if it mattered

    6) Go back into iTunes and go through the registration process. You should be able to use your existing ID now.

    I can definitely tell you that this worked for me but your milage may vary depending on the gremlins living in your house.

  • Hrm (Score:5, Insightful)

    by blitzoid (618964) on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @12:49PM (#5844888) Homepage
    Well, it didn't take that long to get past all the protection apple put in.

    However, I still think apple has it right with this music service (Even if it is apple-only right now) - they've made it rather easy to mix-n-match the songs you want to make your own compilations. Still sucks that it takes a lot of extrs work to make an mp3 CD.

    Then again, if you can fit 300+ mp3s on a CD, that's quite a bit of cash to spend downloading songs.
  • if an album has more than 10 songs it costs 9.99 if it hase 10 songs you pay 9.90 and then less than that it is .99 x songs.

    and the fact that you can burn a real audio cd that plays in cd players everywhere makes this so much better than other sevices.

    I don't know if you can print up the cover art or the CD art for lable printing but if you can that would kick more ass.
  • Tried to sign up for the service, it asked for the "security number" at the end of my credit card number. Everything was correct but it kept telling me that the security number was invalid (it's hard to mistype 3 digits... come on).

    I gave up and from the reviews I won't bother again. I also can't say I feel very safe with Apple keeping my credit card numbers in their servers indefinately.

    Does anyone happen to know if the transaction is even encrypted? What's to stop someone from snooping my account and or
    • I gave up and from the reviews I won't bother again. I also can't say I feel very safe with Apple keeping my credit card numbers in their servers indefinately.

      It worries me slightly too. I'll be keeping a close watch on my balance on that card. (Hmm, maybe I should get a card just for this?)

      Does anyone happen to know if the transaction is even encrypted? What's to stop someone from snooping my account and ordering themself a ton of songs under my name?

      It is listed as encryped, though I haven't a

    • The so-called 'security number' is something different than the last three digits of your CC-nr. You can usually find it on the backside of the card somewhere close to the signature field. On mine there are the last four digits of the CC-nr. followed by the three digit security code. See if you can find that and then it should work. Good luck.
    • Tried to sign up for the service, it asked for the "security number" at the end of my credit card number. Everything was correct but it kept telling me that the security number was invalid (it's hard to mistype 3 digits... come on).

      The security number typically on the *back* of your credit card. You'll see it on the signature line, next to the last 4 numbers of your CC#. So if your card number is:

      1234 4321 4567 9876

      You'll see something like:

      9876 654

      on the back of your card. Those last three number
  • Trade-offs (Score:5, Interesting)

    by vought (160908) on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @12:52PM (#5844928)
    I think the quality of and restrictions placed on the files are acceptable. From all the compaining in the last article on this service (1400 posts!), you'd think Apple had announced a listen-once for $1.00 service.

    The selection of music, while not great initially, will be expanded. They don't want me to subscribe. It's $1.00 a song - easy impulse buy. I get to choose what to do with my music - I think the copy restrictions are pretty reasonable - of course they fit my usage pattern.

    I get the convenience of buying music relatively easily and painlessly, at an acceptable quality level, and without wasteful and largely unnecessary packaging. In the vast majority of cases, I (the consumer, the one who SHOULD be dictating the rules) get to pick and choose within the selection of music offered.

    At least Apple is trying to give people what they want. There are some downsides to this service, but even the most stringent fair-use advocates have to admit that the itunes store is the current high water mark for selling music on the internet without Draconian restrictions.
  • My own opinion about the store is that it's great, and you need to use it to get a feel for what it's like. For me, to have the service built into the same app that plays the music, and to be able to buy the songs and have them automatically downloaded without you having to physically put them in the correct spot yourself is great. Really I didn't know how much I was going to like the service until I actually used it.

    There is a strange thing (perhaps somene could enlighten me on it as to why) - if you lis

  • iTunes Music Sharing (Score:5, Informative)

    by tbmaddux (145207) * on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @12:52PM (#5844931) Homepage Journal
    The reviewer paid little attention to the music sharing abilities of iTunes 4. iTunes 4 uses Rendezvous (allow UDP from source port 5353 and UDP multicast to 224.0.0.251) to automatically discover other libraries and their associated playlists (according to preferences set on each running "server" copy of iTunes) on its local subnet. The actual connection is made using DAAP (Digital Audio Access Protocol, allow inbound TCP on port 3689).

    This lets you, for example, play back any of your MP3s or playlists stored on a central desktop server running iTunes from any of your other home machines, via whatever network setup you have. The music is streamed to your laptop via Airport, for example. That's pretty cool.

    But there's more! You can also connect to any server, even those outside your subnet, using the Advanced>>Connect to Shared Music command, and then typing daap:// followed by the server you want to reach. Some browsers (I tested this with Camino) will even support passing such a URL on to iTunes. This is freakin' amazing. Commercial free radio, on demand. You choose what to play from each station's playlist! Now all we need is some sort of service to search/find running iTunes "hosts." Or, wait for the lawyers to kill it... it's too good to be true.

    Caveat: to play an AAC purchased from the Apple Music Store in any case, you must be one of the 3 "authorized" machines.

  • But what about the rest of us? I haven't checked for a Windows version of iTunes, but I don't think one exists, and I'm certain there isn't a version for the Linux machines I'm running at the house.

    Also, a buck a song still seems a bit much to me. So, it looks like I don't have a choice but to wait until some large music company realizes it could make a killing selling MP3/OGG/[your favorite format here] (and why not host several formats to choose from---storage is cheap) tracks at a quarter a download.
    • I've read that Apple apparently has promised access to th iTunes Music Store sometime in the near future. QuickTime 6.2 in general can play AAC files, but it looks like the most current Windows version of QT is 6.1. I imagine 6.2 will be coming out Real Soon Now for Windows.

      Yes, .99$ seems a bit much for me, per song. Some albums have a discount, coming out cheaper than n songs * $1 and what I'd pay in the store, so for situations like that, I'd totally buy it at the Apple Music Store.
    • A windows version is in the works, and to be honest nobody really cares about linux. They figure the geeks will just get it working under wine.

      .99 a song is a bit steep considering I could get a used CD cheaper. Why no OGG/MP3/<insert format here>? Two reasons: There is a new format every damn month and DRM (the real reason).
  • by red5 (51324)
    So far the only real complaint I'd have against the apple store is the light selection in comparison to amazon.com. I'm beginning to think this is the real reason they made safari and the browser was an after thought.

    Also some one-hit-wonders have protected their one hit by not letting it be purchased alone (Dirty Vegas - Days Go By). Sorta goes against the whole principle of downloadable music empowering the consumer.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    The iTunes 4 software is quite possibly the best software I have ever seen (15 years in software development). The AAC song files sound great.

    iTunes 4 is very intuitive. Menu buttons change icons depending on context, windows navigate where they should with no delay, backwards/forwards works, etc. you don't even think about it. The experience reminded me of the first time I shopped at Amazon.com (logical layout, recommendations, appropriate links to other items, etc.)

    I spent three hours playing with it
  • It would eliminate the protection problems any of these music download sales thingies impose.
  • Support RIAA (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Alric (58756) <slashdot AT tenhundfeld DOT org> on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @12:59PM (#5845032) Homepage Journal
    If I'm going be supporting the RIAA with my money, by god, I want CD quality and the ability to manipulate the files however I wish.

    Of course with copy-protected CD's and such, this option might be dying slowly.

    Apple needs to get in tight with independent music labels and let bands choose what they want to charge for each song, minus some standard fee. For example, Apple can charge $.45 per song transaction fee, and if the band wants to each song to cost $.50, then the band would only get a $.05 return on each song.

    They should really try to establish a legitimate community around this service. I'm thinking of something like AudioGalaxy, but with artists being fairly compensated.
    • by signer (599834) on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @01:32PM (#5845435)
      My husband and I are actually working on this. Any suggestions are welcome. Check out http://www.emergentsound.com (or click on the link in my sig).

      The main problem with $.50 songs is that the credit card companies charge a minimum flat fee per transaction, on top of the percent-of-transaction fee and the monthly account charge, so it's close to impossible to sell anything for less than a dollar or so.

      Example: If you've got a $.35 flat fee plus a 2% transaction fee (and you ignore the monthly fee since you hopefully have lots of transactions to spread it out over), you're looking at having a maximum of $.12 to cover the expenses of the seller and recompense the composer and artists. Let's assume the seller can make back their expenses including bandwidth and web hosting fees, plus computer upgrades and a sysadmin to keep track of all the database issues and automation, with only $.04 per track. (This seems fairly optimistic to me unless you're a huge corporation subsidizing this sevice in some way.) That means that each person in the band will make $.02 every time a track is sold/downloaded. If we further assume that all four artists want to earn close to minimum wage (say low end of $5.00/hour, 40 hours/week), they need to sell 10000 songs per week to earn just over $10,000 a year each. That might be a little difficult for an independent musician without access to radio air time.

  • Alternate view (Score:5, Interesting)

    by sweetooth (21075) * on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @01:02PM (#5845056) Homepage
    On to the interesting stuff: actually buying songs. I select a song I've got a poor p2p copy of and click buy, and it asks me to sign in with my Apple ID, or create one if I don't have one. This is where I have my first problem. I have an Apple ID, but entering it puts up a message saying I've never used it with iTunes Music Store before (well, duh) and asks me to review the terms and conditions. Then it directs me to the account creation screen, with my info already filled in.

    Of course, the account creation screen won't let you create a duplicate account, and asks me to log in. Can we say endless loop? How about bug that should be fixed?


    I've signed up two accounts since the store opened and both went from the terms and conditions screen into the store once I had succesfully logged in with an existing apple id. I would say this is probably an isolated incidant. Or at least one of low occurance as it's the first place I've seen the error reported.

    The selection is broad, but not yet very deep. Many albums I found are in partial status, with only one or two songs. Several artists I was looking for were not listed at all.

    It's a new service and Apple admits freely that they are adding music as quickly as possible and are only adding what the music labels have agreed to provide.

    Also, some albums are listed as "Explicit" or "Clean." Notice I said "albums": if one song in an album has a label they all seem to, though I didn't do an exhaustive search. Since this is structured as song-centric, I feel they should have labeled on a song-by-song basis.

    This is most likely due to how the songs/albums are provided to Apple by the labels. When you go to a store and there are two copies of an album one is clean and the other is explicit it is because one or more songs on the album are considered to be that way. This very well may have to do with the voluntary labeling the record labels have been doing. This is hardly an issue, and for many parents letting their kids get music using iTunes is probably a good thing. So I don't see how this could possibly be an issue, nor do I see a reason for it to be changed.

    First options: inside iTunes. iTunes can convert one format to another normally, trying it on a 'protected' AAC file returns an error. Also, trying to burn an MP3 CD with one on the playlist just skips burning the AAC files (or returns an error if they are the only files.) Fair enough, we didn't really expect the capability to circumvent all controls to be built in... (Though you can of course burn regular CDs.)

    Of course you can't burn MP3 cds, of course you can't convert the song directly to mp3 in iTunes. That would blatently break the copy limitations and the record companies wouldn't have allowed Apple to go through with it. However, the easiest way to beat the copy protection is either convert the AAC file with another app that ignores the protection or burn a regular cd from iTunes and then rerip the song into the format of your choice. Of course you are burning and ripping a reduced quality song and then encoding it into yet another lossy format (probably) which is only going to reduce the quality more so there isn't really a great reason to do so.

    This service isn't for everyone. It's for people that primarily listen to thier songs on thier computer, ipod, or maybe the car. Anyone with a nice stereo isn't going to want to go this route due to the reduced quality of the songs. My experience with the system has been good so far. I don't see myself buying a lot of music because of a couple of reasons. First, the price per song is not low enough to justify the low quality of the reproduction. If I go to the store and buy a cd I'm getting several songs for around $1.00 - $1.50 each depending on the artist, label, and number of tracks on the cd. These are in high quality format on the cd and I can rip the entire cd to whatever quality format I want. I also get a jewel case and liner notes etc. When I get a song from the
  • So... you're saying that it will refuse to convert to an MP3 for you. Yet it will burn it on a CD? And I'm guessing that it will let you rip CDs to MP3s? Is there any Mac software that will allow burning and mounting virtual CDs?

    (Note: I don't actually have a Mac, I'm just cracking this in my head.)
  • I love the service. (Score:5, Informative)

    by BMonger (68213) on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @01:05PM (#5845101)
    It seems a lot of people have issues with the service... which is fine. For me personally, the service is great.

    Last night I bought the CD Thrive by the Newsboys for $9.90. At my local Best Buy the CD is $14.99. I'm not much of one to shop around so maybe I could have found it a dollar cheaper here or there. In essence, I saved $5.00. Yeah I had to pay a quarter or so for the CD-R but whatever. From the time I clicked "Buy Album" to the time my computer ejected the burned disc it took a total of 12 minutes. A good 95% of the time that I listen to music I will buy a CD, bring it home, encode it (used to encode to MP3 160, now AAC 128), then burn a copy to keep in my car. Very rarely did I use the original CD as I have a Jeep Wrangler and things have disappeared before. So quality wise I haven't lost anything either.

    Are the record companies making a mint off me since they don't have to press the CD's or make the cover art. Possibly. But I saved $5.00 plus gas/time. They were already making money off me anyhow.

    I was actually impressed with the number of artists they did have. I'd say they had a good 3/4ths of the artists I wanted to listen to and as this is just the beginning I'd anticipate more in the coming months.

    I personally am going to be using this service as much as possible. It may not be for everybody... if you're so high strung on a "down with the RIAA" mission and you feel that you're giving them more money than before then I wouldn't recommend it. My thought is that even if they are getting more money I am losing less. Which is what I care about. If you don't have a cable modem speed connection then it's probably not the cat's pajamas either. Maybe you don't like the selection. Fair enough. If your favorite P2P network works for you that's fine too. As far as ease of use and reliability goes, I'm feeling that this is something I will definitely continue to use.
  • My impressions.. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Gavin Scott (15916) on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @01:06PM (#5845129)
    Got a chance to play with the store and the new iTunes on a friend's Mac yesterday.

    In general I think this is absolutely a Killer App, and there's a lot of money to be made by Apple, especially if they can get into the Windows marketplace. Clearly Microsoft has dropped the ball on this one as even a cursory look at the Apple set up has one wondering if there will even be any music stores in five years, or even any commercially pressed CDs.

    Music is the perfect on-line purchase (even better than books :-) when compared with brick-and-mortar retailing or even traditional on-line sales. The ability to browse and listen to *all* the available tracks is just wonderful.

    But it looks like there are still some obstacles to be overcome. Why is there so little music (relatively speaking) available at launch? Why are many popular artists (the Beatles for example) completely missing? Why are so many albums only half there??

    Ok, maybe a lot of music is controlled by companies that haven't signed on with Apple yet, but I got the feeling that the record companies really don't trust this system yet and are still afraid that this is going to somehow increase the illegal distribution of their music (like people would buy music from Apple rather than rip it off an original CD).

    Is it paranoid to think that perhaps the reason that there are so many albums with only half of their tracks available represents an attempt to see whether these tracks show up more often in song-sharing p2p netowrks than the tracks that haven't been offered?

    So I wasn't as impressed as I was holping, only because probably 75-80% of the music I would want to buy isn't yet available on the service.

    Assuming that the record companies eventually realize that they can make a hell of a lot of money this way with no distribution costs, and that it doesn't lead to any more theft than unprotectable CD sales already do, and if Apple can win the Windows market as well, then they might eventually make more money off this than computer sales.

    One really obvious thing that's missing: the ability to search by song lyrics.

    I'm guessing that the actual AAC files downloaded to the Mac are encrypted using a key that's tied to your .mac account and that gets installed on the system when you "register" that system to be able to play your music. It will be interesting to see what the proccedure is if you have three "registered" systems and one of them is stolen or goes up in smoke. Do you permanently lose one of your three system registrations?

    I assume that the CDs burned from iTunes are ordinary CDs and there would be nothing stopping someone from turning around and ripping them to mp3.

    G.
    • Re:My impressions.. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Ducon Lajoie (30475) on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @01:28PM (#5845395)
      I've played around a bit with the store, and I think the principal reason for the partial catalog are licensing issues.

      On some albums, some songs have different copyright owners. Depending on the licensing contracts, distribution contracts, relations between labels and rights owners, there might be some tracks or albums for which it was not practical to clear the rights required to make them available on Apple's music store.

      I fully expect that if the mostly positive response to the service translates into sales, you'll see that everyone will want a piece of it and the catalog will grow very quickly.

      Similarly, I'd love to see Apple offer a spot for independent musicians, but if they signed the five majors on the deal, I'd expect the labels' lawyers took care of that possibility already...

      As for the Beatles, I think Michael Jackson owns the rights to most of their albums, but there also was that trademark lawsuit by Apple Records... I'd be curious to know if the settlement still that reportedly prevented Apple computers to get in the music business still stands.
    • Re:My impressions.. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by tbmaddux (145207) * on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @01:36PM (#5845488) Homepage Journal
      It will be interesting to see what the proccedure is if you have three "registered" systems and one of them is stolen or goes up in smoke. Do you permanently lose one of your three system registrations?
      If so, that would be more than interesting, it would suck!

      On the other hand, if Apple does provide some method of de-authorizing your machine other than from within iTunes while your machine is still working [apple.com] then it opens up a can of authentication worms. Namely, what's to keep you from calling them up repeatedly to "deauthorize my machine" when what you're really doing is making a 4th, 5th and 6th machine to play your songs on... and how would they distinguish between the two cases of someone whose machine was stolen and someone who is trying to gain access for a 4th machine?

    • Re:My impressions.. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by mithras the prophet (579978) on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @01:45PM (#5845619) Homepage Journal

      More songs are coming.

      Check out this quote from NYTimes article [nytimes.com]:

      Tom Walley, chairman of Warner Bros. Records, said he expected to make the company's entire catalog available on the service, and that any delay would be due more to problems in working out the technology than to business issues.
    • The first consumer CD players were released in 1982 but the Beatles weren't there. Indeed they didn't show up formally until 1987 with the one exception of a limited release of Abbey Road in Japan in 1983 [rarebeatles.com].
  • eMusic? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by g4dget (579145) on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @01:08PM (#5845158)
    How does Apple's service compare to eMusic [emusic.com]? They give you unlimited downloads for a monthly subscription, and they use MP3, not AAC.

    I would guess the music selections are different, but on balance, I think I would prefer something like eMusic to Apple's $1/song.

    • by jpellino (202698)
      "Backwater" does not begin to describe eMusic's library. I was able to satisfy my more eclectic and obscure tastes in music for a few months while it was a novelty, but that's about it. I'm not going to subscribe to an effectively static content base like eMusic when Apple's is around. Check out the top downloaded albums on each service. 'Nuff said. If you want to make money with music (remember, these are businesses, not public services) then you'd better get the largest number of the most popular son
    • Re:eMusic? (Score:3, Informative)

      by spoot (104183)
      I personally like emusic. But it does have a really oddball selection. If you are big on jazz... it's great. Just about everything Coltrane and Parker ever recorded. I personally like traditional music. Just tons of bluegrass, blues and the like. Just yesterday the Blind Lemmon Jefferson 4 disc box set went up on-line. Well worth the 10 bucks a month for me. However, if you?re looking for the big chart toppers of today, it's not for you. Plus... no drm. I look at emusic this way... for 10 bucks a month I ha
  • by toupsie (88295) on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @01:43PM (#5845581) Homepage
    I went to the Apple store to look for my favorite band, Led Zeppelin. No luck. All Jobs had was "Dred Zeppelin". But a funny thing I discovered was that the work "Dick" was listed as "D**k". So Dred Zeppelin's cover of Led Zeppelin's "Moby Dick" was listed as "Moby D**k". Do a search on "Dick" and you will find all Dick's are censored, even if they relate to a whale.

    I am sure the rest of the naughty words are handled that way on the iTunes store. It must really suck to be a Richard at Apple.
  • by Cereal Box (4286) on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @02:02PM (#5845820)
    Eh? Every third post is "Apple's compressed music sounds like crap, it's 128Kbps, that's garbage. No way would I pay for such terrible quality." It seems like you guys are paying more attention to the bitrate than the sound and have made your mind up that any music encoded at 128Kbps couldn't possibly be near CD quality. I've not heard any music encoded in AAC but I wouldn't find it impossible to believe that music at 128Kbps could sound good.

    I've heard a lot of claims (right here on Slashdot, no less) that DivX encoded video looks just as good as MPEG2 encoded DVD video (which is encoded at a significantly higher bitrate), so why do you guys find it so hard to believe that relatively low bitrate AAC audio could sound as good as MP3 audio of a higher bitrate?
  • by Entropop (636592) on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @02:03PM (#5845827)
    What I find particularly nice about this dealy is that one doesn't have to log into some really poorly layed out web page with terrible graphics of Brittney and N'Sync splattered all over and with banners flying all about crashing into each other. It is a natural extension of iTunes and a pleasant aesthetic experience. It works just like the player, type in the name of your favorite band (that everyone has heard of) and the songs are layed out in front of you just like your own collection.

    What I think will make this service sucessfull is that one merely has to click on the song for it to become part of one's collection. Songs can be attained just as simply as if they were already on one's harddrive and so the natural defense mechanisms we've all built up for traditional retail establishments and online retailers will be that much weaker. See a picture of a pretty pop star, click on it, and recieve instant gratification for not much money.

    I mean, think about it. It really is kind of an ugly experience to log into amazon.com, their page is really quite ugly. And web browsers, if used to buy online mp3s, are not generally very well linked with your player (you tend to download to your default folder and then have to copy from there into iTunes.) Anyway this store makes spending money a really slick and easy thing to do. (cheaper and safer than sex) I just hope that some day it will offer some obscure music that I can't buy in music stores. Then I'll really get off on it.
  • by Arpie (414285) on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @02:35PM (#5846242) Homepage
    I think this service is great. The .99 impulse buy price sounds like a "magic number" to me.

    If I was Steve-o Jobbs, I'd allow and motivate people to use the Apple stores (or other stores, Best Buy, Circuit City, Ratty Shack, etc.) to access this service. Wouldn't it be great for the non-tech-savvy does-not-have-a-broadband-connection is-afraid-to-install-new-software customer to go into a store (with a nice fat broadband connection), pick the songs they want and walk out with a custom CD hot off the burner?

    Of course, there might be snags (they wouldn't want the file you bought to be accessible by another anonymous walk in customer), but it's probably easy to work around.

    Kudos to Apple anyway.
  • Audio Hijack Pro (Score:5, Informative)

    by mirko (198274) on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @03:07PM (#5846684) Journal
    I do however have an app that hijacks the audio stream before the speakers and allows you to play with equalizers, balance, etc. Oh, and it lets you save the result as an MP3 as well as playing it through the speakers.

    This app is called Audio Hijack Pro [rogueamoeba.com].
    Fantastic value for 30$ only.
  • Independent Labels (Score:5, Interesting)

    by floatt (559003) <slashdot&annette,net> on Wednesday April 30, 2003 @03:55PM (#5847338) Homepage
    I think the Apple service looks pretty good too. I just wish I could get my label's music on it. I mean, I didn't expect Jobs to fly his jet to my house and ask for copies of our cds or anything, but it would be nice if there was an avenue to get music not made by one of the five majors on the service. Everyone want to do me a favor and request music from "Stop, Pop, and Roll" in the requests section? I'd be a big help!

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