I know I’ve already talked about the iTunes Music Store, but some things have been happening lately and I want to point them out. This is extremely exciting.
Ladies and gentlemen, the stars are aligning. I’m not sure if there’s something in my musician’s genes, or what it might be, but I can feel something big happening here. Big like, “change the face of popular music as we know it forever,” big. First off, it’s almost unquestionable that the other non-iTunes download services (subscriptions?) are pretty much laughable. They have a few more songs than the iTunes Music Store (maybe for the next few months), but you can’t actually do anything with the music. You want to stream the music over the ‘Net? Okay, that’ll cost $9.99 per month. You want to download it? Well, if we let you, that might cost extra. Burn it to CD you say? How about another $0.80 for each track? Put it onto your MP3 player? Not a chance, especially not if it’s the best selling MP3 player in the world.
My first question is this: Why would anyone use a service like that? If you really love music, you’re not going to let someone else tell you that you can’t do perfectly legal things with it. And I’m not talking about obscure things, I’m talking basic digital music stuff. I want to burn a CD. That’s basic. But these services treat me like I’m a criminal, and they’re giving me my “outdoors time” for the day before they lock me back in my cell.
Note to other music services: Your days are numbered.
I’ll explain why I say that. It’s obvious that any music lover would rather buy a song on iTunes that they can transfer between computers, put on MP3 players, and burn to CDs than buying from some other service, saving 10 cents per song (if that) and only being able to listen to it while you’re sitting at your computer and connected to the ‘Net. That’s a cinch. When you throw the subscription price of these other services on top of that pile, and you realize that you pay ten bucks a month even if you buy only one song that month, you hear a distinctive cracking, crunching sound. No, that’s not Windows Media Player (well… maybe). It’s their subscription rates falling through the floor when a better alternative becomes available.
But here’s where it gets exciting. Up to this point we’ve just seen Apple becoming the de-facto standard in digital music downloads. That’s not a stretch to believe. Here’s the amazing part. As that audience grows (and multiplies by approximately 20 once the introduction I linked in the last paragraph happens) the music industry will be focusing a lot more attention on iTunes. It will be a very important barometer for popular music, as it is already becoming.
So people are looking at what it takes to get to the #1 slot in the iTunes music store, and it turns out that it’s not all that hard. The iTunes music listening base is quite broad, actually. It turns out that not that many people really love the “hits” and the vast majority of them are listening to… well… everything else. The iTunes Music Store sells about 500,000 songs each week, so to be able to get to the top of that list with only 1500 sales is incredibly easy! Those numbers also confirm what we’ve all always thought. Namely, “Who listens to this cheesy pop crap anyhow? It’s not that good.” It turns out that while it may be more popular, it’s likely that it’s not all that much more popular. That explains why you might not like listening to the radio. “Top 40” stations are missing what 96% of their possible audience wants to hear.
So we’ve seen that getting into the top ten is almost as easy as falling off a log as far as any motivated musician would feel. And getting there means a much higher number of downloads and free publicity to the now huge audience of iTunes users. Now, here’s the important part. What if I could get my own personally recorded, personally written songs on there? What if I, Josh Lewis, was able to actually make money selling music without having to even think about record label deals, distribution, advertising, etc? We all know how music would be affected if artists didn’t have to worry about record deals and could just produce music and somehow "magically" get it out to their audience. What if I could do that?
And thus is the path to musical stardom paved for those who can sense the changing of the wind. Have fun pondering that one, folks. I’d better get some recordings ready. 🙂
(Update: Since I posted this last night, BuyMusic.com has put up some ads on their site, which I will link to directly. They’re available only for Windows Media Player. (Of course. Stooges.) One features rock star Tommy Lee taking out some pent-up aggression on a guitar that looks strikingly like the one in Apple’s own ads. (Looks like these folks don’t like the idea of losing their jobs to much.) The other two here and here mimic Apple so strongly that it’s enough to put a bad taste in your mouth. So apparently the only way to try to compete with Apple is to be Apple exactly, while mocking Apple? Why is it that when these people debut their music service, all they can do is acknowledge Apple in every piece of PR? Why mention Apple at all? Why copy Apple? It just shows that they’re desperate to topple Apple and yet aren’t confident enough to do it on their own legs, on their own ideas. That’s really sad.)