Death by anecdote

Sven Rafferty declares the iTunes Store a fad that will be killed by CDs.

Apple is up against a difficult problem before it. DRM. What to do about it.

Uh… well… put.

While the most lenient in the business, it still won’t let you play it on other non-iPod devices such as Creative’s offering or the home entertainment system by Sonos.

OK, one more time for the slower students in the class:  that’s how Apple tries to keep you buying iPods.  That’s their business model.  They make it inconvenient – but not impossible – to move your music to another player.

They also just make cool players.

This is starting to become an issue not just with techies but with regular non-technical users as well. I’ve already heard a few people tell me they went back to buying CDs because, “It won’t play on my [insert hardware device here].”

The anecdotal evidence is incontrovertible!  The iTunes Store will fail!

With such a change in current, Apple will start to see its sales level off at the Store.

Really?  And that’s supposed to start, what, now?  Just because “a few people” told you they were going back to buying CDs?  Did people just suddenly become aware there’s DRM, even though it’s been on every song ever downloaded from iTunes?

Sure, the lazy at heart may still go with a quick download here and there…

OK.  Stop. 

…but for the most part, you’ll start seeing more and more CDs being purchased (or visits to AllofMP3)…

Stop.  Stop.  Stop.

…as more users become aware of Apple’s desire not to share FairPlay with others.


Sven uses the example of Beck’s latest release The Information to try to prove his point.  He says you can easily buy the CD for $12.99 – presumably from a brick and mortar outlet – compared to $11.99 on iTunes.  He derides the videos as “cheesy” and says “no one cares about those”, probably because he doesn’t realize the CD actually comes with a DVD with the videos on it.

But let us conjecture two possible purchasing scenarios.

  1. A customer buys Beck’s album off the iTunes Store and burns it to a CD.  Cost:  $11.99 + 50 cents for the CD media = $12.49.  Elapsed time:  maybe an hour for the download and the burn.
  2. A customer goes out to the store and buys the CD and included DVD.  Cost:  $12.99.  Elapsed time:  maybe an hour if he doesn’t stop at Starbucks.

Now, the results are not exactly the same as you can’t burn the videos to DVD via iTunes.  But nobody cares about those, right Sven?  (In this instance there is some backup for that as the videos are not studio productions, but lower-quality home-made stuff.)  But you end up with a DRM-free copy of the music for 50 cents less from iTunes and, more importantly, you didn’t have to get off your ass to do it.

While Sven is apparently against the vice of sloth, he also has a problem with the virtue of thrift.  Possibly he’s a Presbyterian.

Truth is, the iPod will not be number one for ever and when that happens…

Intelligent chimps will rule the Earth?

…Apple will no longer make money off of the iTunes Store as other venues for the other players will be available.

Unlike now, when no other venues for purchasing music online for other players are available.

Wait, what?

Further, as additional music lovers become more frustrated with DRM in the coming months…

What is so freakin’ special about the next few months?  Is it DRM Awareness Dayz or something?  Is Cory Doctorow going door-to-door to tell YOU about the evils of DRM?  WHAT?!

…they, too, will find themselves back in Target, Wal-mart, or online at Amazon, purchasing hard copy material as they once did in the ancient times of the digital frontier.

Because a couple of dudes Sven knows are doing that.  And Rick is, like, a total trend-setter.  He had a troll patch way before they were cool.

Until that happens, legitimate stores such as Apple’s iTunes Store will see a leveling and most likely a spike in illegal downloads…along with some rise in hard copy sales. Maybe. Hopefully, however, Apple will be smart enough to avoid this and really play fair.


Look, it’s FairPlay that brought the record companies to the table in the first place.  Without FairPlay, the iTunes Store wouldn’t exist.  But Apple also benefits from FairPlay.  The reason you can’t play a FairPlay-protected song on a Zune is the same reason you can’t use Schick blades on a Gillette handle.

If Sven and his buddies want to “stick it to the man” by buying CDs (wait, don’t the record companies want you buy CDs anyway?), that’s their business.  But none of the rest of us really need to watch another episode of “The Anecdote That Crushed Cupertino”.

  • Maybe those few friends are powerful people… who buy buttloads of music…… like billions of songs…. wait…. no, probably not true. Imaginary friends are always nice and very convincing.

  • DDA:

    I thoroughly agree with The Antlered One that CDs are about to kill the iTune (not just Music any longer) Store. But it should be pointed out that the “buy & burn” scenario will result in lower quality music than the store-bought CD.

    Of course Sven should be smacked upside the head with the info that Apple makes next to nothing off a purchase from the iTune Store; as The Antlered One says, it’s all about iPod sales for Apple.

    I’ve never bought a song off the iTunes Store, although I’ve gotten a few freebies from promotions. But I own an iPod or two and they still play my (ripped from CD) music which is just fine by Apple, I’m sure.

  • DDA:

    Bah! That’s what I get for not proof-reading well enough. That should be “CDs are NOT about to kill…”

  • V M Respectable:

    What is it with pundits and not realizing the iTS exists only to sell iPods, and that customers could use telepathy and a cup of coffee to get their music and Apple would be pleased as punch as long as they then put it on an iPod?

  • Harold:

    “While Sven is apparently against the vice of sloth, he also has a problem with the virtue of thrift. Possibly he’s a Presbyterian.”

    HA! HA! HA! Classic. Funniest thing I’ve read all morning!

    HA … HA … ha … sorry am I the only one laughing?

  • Adrian B:

    “Look, it’s FairPlay that brought the record companies to the table in the first place. Without FairPlay, the iTunes Store wouldn’t exist. But Apple also benefits from FairPlay. The reason you can’t play a FairPlay-protected song on a Zune is the same reason you can’t use Schick blades on a Gillette handle.”

    I do think Apple benefits from the lock-in, but I’m not sure that Apple actually would continue to use the DRM if the weren’t forced by the record companies. If Apple could sell DRM-free songs I think they would choose that path and ditch FairPlay completely.

    In terms of easy of use, which is what Apple is al about, the DRM is allways a hassle. And the iPod success was well established long before the iTMS opened, so it’s no like that would suffer. They still makes the coolest player.

  • John Muir:

    No, I also found that line particularly piquant!

    It’s nice to hear a pundit so misinformed to think that the iTunes store is in more trouble than the record industry who (as everyone and his dog knows) have been suffering declining sales every year since Napster first drew blood.

    There won’t be CD’s in the long run, or any other equivalent hard copy you can browse in their thousands at the high street. DRM downloads will likely have a longer life. But eventually I can only see data freedom winning out eventually, with musicians making their money from other merchandise and of course the crazy old notion of live gigs instead of through the magic of vinyl and CD.

    Once a business model like selling recorded music has been as damaged as CD’s are now by technology unforseen at its release (p2p) there is no way to put the lid back on and pretend the wheel never got invented.

    Nice head in the sand analysis by our man Sven. Extra points for ignorance of the market!

  • Blain:

    No, no, it’s like rock-paper-scissors! CDs will kill the iTMS because there is no DRM (only rootkits). iTMS is putting a dent in P2P because of ease of use. And of course, P2P is killing CD sales.

    But you know what will trump them all? I have it all figured out. Vinyl is back in vogue, because of the sound quality. And while vacuum tubes give a warmer feel than transistors, neither are really clean.

    More than that, people do not want players that are too tiny, because I saw one and think it looks too fragile. Finally, a hand crank-powered device does not have to deal with batteries meaning never running out of charge!

    I expect gramaphones will be the next iPod killer. Watch out, Apple! iVictrola will be the next big thing!

    I should be a tech pundit.

  • Sven convinced me. I decided to ditch my iPod and now I walk around with my CD player and my 300+ CD’s when I go for a walk. I love the freedom. I love the portability. Gone are the days when I have to fit my library of music on such a small little player. In fact, I am going to buy a boom box, one of those industrial strength ones that I can carry on my shoulder, or better yet, tow behind me on a wagon with all my CD’s. Yes! Yes! Yes!

  • doppelf:

    Spot on! Come for the articles – stay for the comments.

  • Boatdrinks:

    As an intelligent chimp, I found your comments inappropriate and unfounded. I will have you know that we are in fact currently ruling the Earth. Well, at least the United States. That you were not aware of this fact still does not excuse your specieist remarks. We in the White House are not AMUSED!!!! Your tax returns better be in order, Buster!!!

  • I’ll just have to take your word for it that this Sven guy doesn’t know what he’s talking about when it comes to iPods. I couldn’t get past this piece of fiction:

    While the booklet liner notes blew away the sleeve with lyrics protecting vinyl of yesteryear, it kinda got old after a decade or so ago.

    First, it’s poor writing. “after a decade or so ago…”? Second, it’s just flat out wrong. It is fact that album art always did and always will blow away any lame-ass CD booklet that gets crunched up when you try to put it back in that crappy little “jewel” case.

    I live in Austria, and have pretty much ditched vinyl for convenience reasons. But the other day, I was in a “Best Buy” type store, and they had a HUGE vinyl section. Apparently, it is still going strong here. All of the new releases were there, and they looked beautiful with their 12 inches spread out all over the place. It took me back and made me want to make a trip to the storage unit to pull out all my records just to gawk at them.

    Unfortunately, the records are in Oregon.

    I am in Vienna.

    That’s going to hurt my back.

  • Well, hey, if you were Sven that’d be enough to write a piece declaring that iTunes will see sales decline because people are going back to vinyl!

  • Pat:

    In Outter Left Blogistan there is the unit of measure called a Friedman. This is equal to six months. As in, “Iraq will get better in one Friedman.” We should find a suitable tech pundit and name a unit after him/her. Perhaps a Dvorak?

  • Dan:

    Between Sven’s odd grammar, his professed love of CD linear notes and his inscrutable use of the word ‘thurst‘ in his title, I don’t know how any of you made it past his first paragraph.

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