Monday, September 15, 2008

MEMO TO iTUNES: KISS IT!

Something about iTunes has me seeing red. My disgust with the ridiculously and inexplicably successful digital media player and retailer began one week ago when Alejandro, a friend of my friend Marcelo, expressed interest in having me DJ at a club that he's about to open. His goal is to attract an exclusive foreign crowd and create a cosmopolitan international flavor with the kind of cutting edge music you hear in the discos of New York, London and Milan (which, by the way, is my favorite city to go clubbing). Here in Buenos Aires, the DJs are pretty lazy, playing the same songs night after night (that hideous remix of Alanis Morrissette's "Uninvited" AGAIN?!) and rarely seeking out jams that you'll want to track down the next day after you've slept off your hangover. Maybe it's because porteƱos have lousy taste and aren't particularly discriminating when it comes to music. You see them bobbing up and down to generic electronica in clubs like Amerika as if it's the best damn thing they've ever heard.

But boy do I digress! After our meeting, I went home to create a DJ mix CD to give Alejandro and his partners a taste of my musical taste. As I started to add music to the playlist in the DJ mix program that I was using, I discovered that some of my favorite dance songs--e.g., "Deep Sleepless Night (Dino Lenny's Old Skool Mix)" by Mad8 Vs. Shawn Christopher--were not among the options in the search field when I clicked on "open files." The reason: I purchased them from iTunes, and therefore, there is a lock on the m4p files (which is the format of music downloaded from iTunes), so they can be played only on an iPod or on iTunes itself.

I rolled my eyes and sighed. Controls against piracy and file sharing are one thing, but if I purchase music, shouldn't I be able to play it anywhere I want to? Shouldn't I be able to burn it onto a CD (remember those?) and listen to it on an actual CD player? Yes, some of us still have those antiquated pieces of machinery--not everyone wants to listen to music via headphones or on a computer all of the time. And I have yet to experience great sound from one of those speaker contraptions in which you can dock your iPod and listen to the music sans headphones.

When did it come to this? I can remember buying entire albums on iTunes in the past (The Pixies Bossanova, Blink-182's Blink-182 and Morrissey's You Are The Quarry, among them) and later burning them to CD. So this must be a somewhat recent development. I suppose the goal is to prevent people from buying music and then sharing it. But how much is enough? When does the protection of recording artists become tyranny over consumers? And are we not supposed to be able to make mix CDs for our friends--and lovers--anymore?

God bless Kid Rock (above) for not caving in to iTunes' near stranglehold on the music retail industry and refusing to license his music to them. He says that if people love your music, they will find a way to get it, even if it's not on iTunes. He's right: His 2007 CD, Rock N Roll Jesus, has been one of the hottest sellers for months now, and you won't find it in an iTunes store near you.

I've thought about boycotting iTunes, but I figure I'll just be patient. I'll hang on to it for now, but my trips to the online music store are history. Eventually, a program will come along that will be able to unblock all my iTunes purchases from the last few years. And hey, I'm already holding out for butterflies; I can hold out for this, too.
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