My music-reviewing hero Glenn McDonald beat me to the punch with his insightful iTunes Music Store (iTMS) critique, though i would posit to Glenn that the concept of iTunes expands far past iTMS and is not meant for people with collections very much bigger than mine and obsessions even less so, as it took me the better part of two weeks and two dozen gigabytes to get my entire collection loaded in.
I’d encourage you to read his very intelligent essay, but one point that i don’t agree with is “that the more I try to incorporate the iTMS into my life the more chillingly I realize that I probably think it’s part of the problem.” I know myself to have significantly less than a tenth of the discs Glenn does, and iTunes has allowed me to suddenly appreciate good songs stuck on obscure singles or boring albums, while also making it so easy to create new compilations that i’ve been doing it every morning. As Glenn puts it, “The iTMS is not a paradigm shift, it is a belated solution to a logistics problem that the internet created,” but that problem may ultimately lead the antiquity of music as a limited physical commodity in the not too distant future.
In his conclusion, Glenn says, “TV poisons our culture, and I hate the idea that music can be a toxin, too.” His idea is that iTunes has done for music what HBO has done for movies — destroy the art by making both the great and the terrible into the casually viewed. However, i think iTunes does everything but poison culture — it offers a new generation a decade-lost opportunity to shop for singles. Not only singles, but any single song. Music’s toxin is radio, poisoning us with paltry forty-song playlists and bands clearly being mined for their single hit single rather than any sort of prolonged shelf-life. Maybe, just maybe, iTunes will help consumers my age and younger diversify in the way the rack of 45s did when i was five years old. Maybe radio-play artists will stop pumping out so much album-filler when iTunes users are just buying their hit singles, while the real artists suddenly start making up for lost back catalogue sales.
Or maybe not. Who knows? I’ll leave you with one final nugget from Glenn: “The iTMS is not a way to connect us to music we love, it is a way to sell us music we like.” I agree with it in the sense that Glenn does, in that if i love a piece of music i want to buy it with all of its permanent context, but i think that the music connoisseur/collector/reviewer in him might have slightly obscured the utility of what iTunes and iTMS has to offer.
More commentary coming as soon as i get these last 1787 songs rated.