Grauw’s blog

iTunes review

November 7th, 2004

As a followup to my Free Download Shop post, I tried out iTunes today, which became available in the Netherlands not long ago. Basically a good experience. Easy and effective searching, nice interface, quick, and the files you download have few restrictions (5 computers, unlimited burning). Pricing isn’t cheap (generally €1 per song, €10 per album), but I guess it’s acceptable. The main two downsides I encountered were:

  1. The catalog is not very exhaustive. The 69 Eyes – Gothic Girl? Nope, not in it. Marco Borsato, 2 Unlimited? Nothing. Theatre of Tragedy: no, Finntroll: no (Dream Theater: yes). Even common English 80s stuff like Total Eclipse of the Heart or Manfried Mann’s Blinded By The Light isn’t there. Never mind stuff like (game) soundtracks or J-pop :). The Vanilla Sky or Trainspotting soundtrack are nowhere to be found. Of course almost all of the recent mainstream songs are there, but that’s not what the majority of my MP3s (and CDs) consists of.

    Another example, it only has the most recent J.M. Jarre album Aero, without the 5.1 DVD of course which you will get when you buy the CD for €10 more. When I search for Mike Oldfield albums though the list that turns up is impressive, many more than you’ll find in most stores. So there’s a definite plus.

  2. The AAC format with DRM (.M4P) which is used only plays in Apple’s own iTunes and Quicktime software. Not that I dislike iTunes, it looks pretty decent, but the player I use is Winamp and I’d like it to stay that way thank you very much. Now, there is an AAC/DRM plugin for Winamp, however it depends on iTunes being present on the computer, and even then the equalizer and visualization plugins don’t work. Not terrible, I barely use them anyway, but annoying nevertheless because it’s a loss of functionality. That aside, I prefer AAC over WMA, of course ^_^.

I also wonder what happens when for example my harddisk would crash and I’d loose all my music files. I don’t think I can download them again without having to pay.

Anyways, concluding, unfortunately with the current situation it is still not possible to create a ‘legal’ version of my MP3 collection except by purchasing all of it on CDs. This is not a problem for whole albums (as long as they’re not rare), and I actually prefer to do that, but when you’re after just a single song few people will buy a whole CD for that. I especially see a role for online music stores in that area, and also for albums which are hard to get otherwise (for example the soundtrack of the MSX game ‘Space Manbow’ or the Final Fantasy VI Piano Collections).

For the songs that are available on iTunes though it does pretty well. I guess that next time I’m looking for a nice song I heard on the radio, I’ll look for it on iTunes. An occasional euro doesn’t hurt, it helps the artist, and iTunes is a pretty easy and fast place to download. Let’s just hope the integration of their audio format with non-Apple players will become better in the future.

p.s. While browsing around on iTunes I stumbled upon an album called Symphony #2 for Dot Matrix Printers (iTunes link), by a group called The User. They make electronic music based on matrix printer sounds. Quite surprising, and quite weird as well ^_^.

Update: One more thing, after installing iTunes the software seems to find it necessary to add two (!) services which are constantly in memory, even when not using iTunes. Needless to say this is quite annoying, especially as I can’t find a way in the iTunes preferences to turn them off. I had to manually use regedit to delete the key from HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run. Fortunately it did not seem to reappear when starting iTunes, so hopefully this is the end of it.