iTunes Minus

EDIT: Our mysterious friend, a Mr. Cruz X. Lefforts is not happy about his iTunes and needed a place to rant…it is Friday and why not?  So here, without further ado….

Cruz Lefferts is mad. Really mad. So mad, he’s talking about himself in the third person.

Cruz Lefferts wanted to believe that iTunes was The entertainment capital of your world, but Cruz found out that iTunes is only interested in his capital.

You see, Cruz had an opportunity to upgrade some of his library to the DRM-free, 256Kbps bitrate AACs offered by iTunes plus, but Cruz only wanted to upgrade a few select albums in his library. Cruz buys music for different reasons—not just for listening enjoyment. Sometimes he needs to research a song, sometimes he needs to hear a song he’s learning from the sheet music, and sometimes he wants to buy a joke. Cruz is just like that. But that doesn’t mean that Cruz necessarily cares about extra sound quality on a George Carlin rant—it just doesn’t matter. Isis’s Panopticon album, however, is something that Cruz wants to hear every friggin note of (and share it with friends in need of endarkenment). Cruz is pretty sure that Aaron Turner would approve, since he’s bought all the albums fair and square and seen three live shows for full ticket price. But Cruz digresses.

Why can’t Cruz choose which songs he wants to upgrade? This is an absurd vestige of the old music industry in what should be a beacon of the new. Cruz actually tries, within reason, to purchase all his music because Cruz thinks the artists he generally likes could use the money. If you’re into multiplatinum teenybop crap, then by all means, steal it. They only spend your money on cocaine and hair color anyway. But now Cruz is being punished when he attempts to upgrade, for 30¢ a song, his AAC files.

Mind you, sells the whole damned album for about what it costs to get one song on iTunes plus, and that’s at 192Kbps and no DRM. Okay, say you don’t want to give your payment information to a business in Russia. You can buy the album for 99¢/song from at 256mbps with no DRM.

But Cruz bought his version of Panopticon on iTunes, and rather than purchase it again elsewhere, he thought upgrading would be the right thing to do. But Cruz couldn’t just upgrade Panopticon, iTunes forced him to upgrade everything he’d ever bought from the iTunes music store that was now eligible for iTunes plus, including shit he doesn’t even really listen to anymore.

For those of you who find this whiny, Cruz apologizes, but they make it so hard for Cruz to be an honest consumer of music these days, especially when, in the midst of all these outrages, his clicking finger starts itching to find the Azureas icon on his dock and just torrent the shit. Apple ingeniously started the iTunes store on April 28, 2003, and since then, Virgin Megastores and Sam Goodys all over the country have been boarding up their windows and taping "retail space available" signs to their plate glass windows. Why? Because Apple made it too damned easy for Cruz Lefferts to sit on his fat ass and get his music over a cable modem in two minutes. But it’s the DRM and this stupid, draconian "iTunes Plus" upgrade that makes Cruz long for a life of crime. His CD towers were long ago donated to goodwill, and his local record shop is now a dry cleaners, so really the only other legal option is the gray legal area (not to mention the risk to your personal data) of a Russian music/mail-order-bride outfit, or Amazon, which is proving to be the best alternative to outright theft.

Which brings Cruz, at long last, to his point: We are in a period of evolution right now where the archdukes and demigods of the old economy are scared shitless for their survival, and are using their considerable reserves of raw power to screw the consumer into maintaining their outdated revenue streams. Well, the consumer is not going to put up with it for long because bittorrent is too damned easy, and when you’re pissed off because a company like Apple is considering the needs of its partners over its paying customers, it’s not only easy—it feels good.

Sure, Amazon is bucking the trend, but its music store started selling mp3s in earnest only this year, four years after the advent of iTunes. Shame on Amazon for that. Did they forget they were in the business of innovation? Was it really so long ago that they actually started turning a profit (4th Qtr. 2002, btw)? There are other notable exceptions. Radiohead let Cruz choose how much money he wanted to pay for their last album, and because he perceived that gesture as thoughtful, Cruz paid Radiohead £10. And in Cruz’s unscientific survey of everyone who also bought the album, it appears that everybody chose to pay at least something. Thom Yorke can finally afford to get that lazy eye looked at. Still, these two examples hardly constitute a consumer-friendly music biz.

So, Cruz Lefferts is thinking of stealing music from now on. He can take comfort in the fact that the artist really doesn’t  get a fair share of the $1.29 at iTunes anyway, and that if they are worth their salt as musicians, he’ll be able to see them on tour some time soon, when they can make their real money. But Cruz Lefferts has to remember that takes no responsibility for his actions should the Rapacious, Idiotic Assholes of America come knocking.

Cruz Lefferts is a freelance technology journalist living in (nice try, RIAA).
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