Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Review: iTunes Music Store Australia

Earlier this month, I wrote pretty enthusiatically about the opening of Apple's iTunes Music Store in Australia. I joined up pretty much straight away. I've already purchased some singles, a couple of albums, and an audiobook. So, how's it panning out?

Let me start with some criticisms—there aren't many of them, but they're not insignificant either. And then I can get back on with being the Apple fanboy I'm rapidly becoming. Firstly, and this quite possibly says more about my taste in music than it does about the store, the range seems to have some gaps. Here's just one example: the other day, for some reason, I searched on ‘Simon and Garfunkel’. (I realise that any rock cred I had three seconds ago has now vanished.) Nothing. There's some Art Garfunkel stuff, and there's some Paul Simon stuff. But, unless I'm blind, there's not a single Simon and Garfunkel album. And it's not like they're obscure. According to the RIAA in 2003, "they remain the best selling duo in history with sales of 38 million albums". You would think they would make the cut.

I am a big fan of audiobooks. The first thing I noticed is that the range seems to be pretty much identical to Audible.com. I assume it's just a straight licensing deal. Audible.com's range isn't terrible, but there's a lot of junk in it. At least iTMS seems to be making an effort to put an Australian front-end on it, with an ‘Australian Authors’ category on the front page. Browsing audiobooks, though, just plain doesn't work. Try this: starting from the iTMS home page, select Audiobooks, and then Arts & Entertainment from the categories list. A column-based browser comes up, but you're right back at the start of the entire iTMS catalogue. That is, not in Arts & Entertainment, and not even in Audiobooks. That's just broken.

My final criticism is a relative one: it's too damn easy to buy music. Now, that's fine (in fact, it's great) if:
  • you know what you're doing, and
  • it's your credit card that's linked to the instance of iTunes.
Both of those criteria are true in my case, but pretend they're not. Once a credit card is registered, that's it—as far as I can see, there's no ongoing or periodic authentication of the user of iTunes, so purchasing a song involves clicking one button. There's no password, there's no pop-up, nothing. Again, in my case (and probably yours, too), this is most definitely a feature, but if I had children, I'd want to be pretty careful about who was firing up my copy of iTunes. (Of course, the bigger issue here is that Microsoft Windows has such ad hoc user-level security. And, yes, I'm still running iTunes on Windows. This is explained elsewhere.)

These issues aside, I like iTunes Music Store. In particular, the ability for a consumer to purchase individual songs is long overdue. Since signing up three weeks ago, I've already purchased more music than I did in the last three months. The user interface is slick, and the integration with the rest of iTunes, and hence my iPod, is seamless. I have no doubt someone is making a pile of money from iTMS—probably Apple, possibly the recording companies. I imagine conventional music retailers are starting to worry.

1 comment:

  1. Hi There,
    We also got excited at first about iTMS but have found that emusic.com has a wider selection (though it is a subscription based service) and the songs wind up a fair bit cheaper.

    Also in iTunes (on my mac at least) I get a pop up asking if i'm sure I want to buy something and asking for a password. There is a don't show this next time option but I leave it unchecked for security. Is it possible you ticked this? Also you can always log out if you're worried about security.