Sunday, April 6, 2008

iTunes Store: I bought another lemon

By my reckoning, I seem to attract more than my fair share of problems from the iTunes Store. With the memory of the iTunes Store Audiobook Debacle of 2007 having barely faded, I've been hit again. On 10 March 2008, I purchased “Heretic Pride” by The Mountain Goats. On 17 March, I lodged the following problem report:
Support Subject : Songs 
Sub Issue : Sounds bad
Platform : iTunes/7.6.1 (Macintosh; U; Intel Mac OS X 10.5.2)
Song Name : Autoclave
Location : Specific time 00:00:52 (hour:min:sec)
At 00:52 there's an audible skip/repeat in the drum beat,
and then at 00:54 there's a repeat in the lyrics: "my ...
my heart's an autoclave". This is present whether I play
the track on iTunes (Mac Pro) or my iPod.

Now, my friend Dale assures me that the stuttering is not a feature of the song—he bought the CD, and there's no such skipping. Matt from Customer Support credited me a song, and gave me the following instructions:
Please wait two weeks before purchasing this item again. This will give Apple time to investigate and resolve the issue, if possible, or remove the item from the store.

Now, of course, “Autoclave” is just one song out of eleventy billion they must have online, and I'm just one guy reporting a problem. But, to my mind, the translation of the advice is this: ‘I can't personally do anything about this—I'm just in customer support. I'll report the problem, and it might get fixed. If it does get fixed, it won't happen within 14 days, and if it doesn't, it might get pulled altogether. Or it might not. In any case, we're not going to tell you, but here's a song credit, and, uh, good luck.’ Awesome.

So I waited a full 16 days, threw the song in the Trash, and re-downloaded “Autoclave” with my song credit. Same problem: two distinct skips at around 52 seconds. Indistinguishable from the track I originally downloaded. In fact, you'd have to assume it was the same track. Interestingly, they did have different MD5 signatures, but even if it had been re-digitised (or re-transcoded) from the original source, clearly no one bothered to check it out with respect to my very specific comments.

A follow-up to my original report produced much the same response, this time from Mark:
I have submitted it again for investigation, but I can't say when the issue will be resolved. Please feel free to try purchasing again in a few weeks.

Another song credit, and an even less specific timeframe. Outstanding.

To be honest, I might try downloading it again, but I might just pocket the song credit. I suspect I'll just rip it from someone else's CD—The Mountain Goats will have received their share of my $A 1.69 for the track, so I certainly won't be feeling bad about that. Five weeks and two emails is more than enough of my time and energy as an unpaid beta tester for Apple's track library.


  1. What have I done? I've taken a competent talented BSD expert, and turned him into my whinging Pom grandma!

    Please forgive me for what I have done, for I meant no harm. Grant me the wisdom to recommend Windows next time!

  2. At least it's not just me (or you). I have the same skipping version of Autoclave, and I've downloaded it twice now too (after waiting two weeks). I'm going to see if they'll give me my money back for the whole album, and I'll go buy the CD. I don't expect to have much luck, though.