Sometimes teh stupid is too much even for a mythical beast.

InformationWeek blogger David DeJean keyed a post in which he complained about having to pay 30 cents extra for unprotected iTunes songs. In it he falsely complained that AAC is a closed format and did not mention the higher-priced songs are encoded at a higher bit rate.

When vociferously called on it, he did apologize for the error about AAC, but did that change his tune on the Apple/EMI deal? Nooooo!

All my facts were wrong, but my conclusion was still sound! And get off my lawn, you damn kids!

The iPod, iTunes on your computer, and the iTunes store are a closed system, designed to keep you captive. I see AAC and iTunes as . . . not exactly a DRM system, as I said to a couple of people in e-mails, but something nearly that restrictive.

The Macalope just typed “AAC to MP3 converter” into Google. He got over 2 million hits. One wonders if DeJean has used Microsoft Word in the past 15 years.

I still don’t love the EMI-Apple announcement, either. EMI may have seen the light on DRM, but it’s treated me like a thief instead of a customer for so long that it will take me a while to get over it.

The Macalope is at an utter loss to explain this graf. DeJean has apparently been beaten so long that he doesn’t want them to stop because they’ve been beating him so long?

Sorry. That’s the best the Macalope can come up with.

Also, DeJean is apparently so bewildered by the discount Apple’s giving on unprotected 256Kbps albums that the only way he can rationalize it is to assume it’s going to go away.

Does this mean, in fact, that album prices are going to be higher — that in a couple of months we’ll wake up and find new releases are one price and old catalog albums are another price? Probably.

And the gubbiment done put a trackin’ device in mah fillins!

If Jobs got DRM-free music and traded a price hike for it, as some of my correspondents have suggested…

The drunk ones.

…then he should ‘fess up rather than hide behind “it’s better quality.”

Oh. Dear. God.

It… it is better quality.

If Apple and EMI had offered protected 256Kbps songs for 30 cents more, these pinheads wouldn’t have said boo. But the fact that they took a huge step in the right direction is not only meaningless in their eyes, it’s somehow worse because they failed to have every member of the RIAA and the MPAA on stage apologizing for the last 70 years of recorded music and video sales and saying their entire unprotected collections would now be downloadable for free before dancing around with flowers in their hair as Leonard Nimoy sang Good Morning, Starshine.

But I want EMI and the other labels — and Apple — to work with me to make it easy to be honest. They way things are now, it’s easier to be dishonest.

Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait.

David, buddy, are you saying that you’d resort to getting an EMI song off a P2P network rather than iTunes because you can get it in MP3 instead of AAC?

What is wrong with you? You make the RIAA look sane.

Am I excited about the opportunity to pay more for music just because it’s finally starting to come in an open format the way it should have come all along? No, I am not.

It’s encoded at a higher bit rate! And if you buy the album, you’re not paying more! Just because you keep saying it’s paying more for nothing does not make it true. It just makes you a nutjob.

The Macalope isn’t sure what kind of crazy pills these people are on, but he recommends you stay far, far away from them. Even their imperious leader had great things to say about this deal, if he couldn’t bring himself to apologize to Steve Jobs for doubting his sincerity.

When did DRM become the worst thing in the world ever — so bad that it drove people insane? Was the Macalope off the planet when that happened or something?

  • Bob Jones:

    iTunes is capable of converting a DRM free AAC track to AIFF, Apple Lossless, MP3, or WAV without any other program needed.

    Even the 16 people who own a Zune can play AAC files.

  • I recently heard a new acronym that seems particularly apt in this instance:

    CAVE people.

    It stands for Citizens Against Virtually Everything. If they were sex-slaves on an all female planet of beer, they’d complain about the hours.

    At least they’re consistent.

  • Don:

    Major premise: Apple announced something.

    MInor premise: It involved music.

    Therefore: I must complain vociferously about it, accuse Apple and the music companies of underhandedness and conspiracies, and generally make a big stink even though I don’t buy any music from the iTunes store (and may not even own an iPod).

    The logic is irrefutable.

  • monkyhead:

    I don’t know what “AAC” is, but it’s got “A’s” in it, so obviously everybody knows it must mean “Apple” something. The fuppin’ baxters!

  • George:

    As I posted to his site as well…

    I needed MP3s this morning to work in my car stereo. I opened iTunes, selected several hundred AAC files, right-clicked, and told iTunes to convert them to MP3. A few minutes later, I had several hundred MP3 files which I burned to an MP3 CD (again in iTunes) with one click.

    He needs to clarify where the lock-in is coming from. I’m lost.

  • I like it how this guy seems to assume that MP3 is an open format. Maybe one should make him look there:

    Now if Apple had used Ogg Vorbis, a truely open format, then I guess he (and millions of other people) would have complained that very few mainstream software and players can understand it.

  • WH:

    I think I finally get it! iTunes is compatible with other players than the iPod – but only on Mac OS X! If you’re on Windows, it works only with iPods. I didn’t know that, but that is of course why they feel so locked in, the poor little ones! That they’re locked into an OS filled with proprietary formats is of course something no one care to mention. But, maybe someone should mention to them that if they buy a Mac, they can use iTunes with other players than iPods? Would they be happy then?

    Thought not.

  • John Muir:

    Monkeyhead has it! 😀

    WMV meanwhile … well that couldn’t stand for anything restrictive or proprietary.

  • It’s because by doing this, Jobs shot all their “Steve jobs is full of shit about not liking DRM” sacred cows dead. Dead, dead, dead.

    He also killed the “We want a choice in bitrates, and that evil bastard Jobs won’t let us”. That one’s dead. The “Why should I pay extra for an album when I own half the songs”? Dead.

    I mean, Jobs, in the last two or three weeks has really just fucked up so many of their pat arguments that they’re beside themselves. Why? Because now they have to *come up with something else to write about*.

    Yeah. No more standard OMGITUNESISTEHEVUL!!!!1111 articles.They’re still trying, but as you pointed out, they just look insane. And stupid.

  • I think what’s throwing people off is the retention of DRM on the lower bit-rate versions. If Apple/EMI had removed DRM across the board, they could’ve charged more for the higher bit-rate version probably without comment by the seething masses.

    As it is, it feels a bit dirty. You pay one price for a product, and another price for a product that actually works. I KNOW I KNOW… You’re getting more, you’re paying more, blah blah blah.

    I’m just sayin.

  • Follower:

    Excellent points by John Welch. The Macalope and this forum has already coined a fine name for this behavior: Insufficiently Shiny Pony Syndrome.

    “Because now they have to *come up with something else to write about*.”

    They need to start hiring better virus coders, then.

  • John Muir:

    Ergo consistency is more important to them than credibility.

    If only that actually meant they’d be ignored like they should be.

  • Quix:

    Funny, journalists have happily lived with Microsoft Windows + Office lockdown for years with rarely a dollop of outrage. And where were all the stories about PlaysForSure lockdown? Oh right, it’s not lockdown if you have multiple hardware partners, but a single software company calling all the shots (and making all the royalties). Uh huh.

    There’s just something about Apple that brings out the raving lunatic in some people. The fact Apple is actually in a dominant market position in one aspect of technology makes their heads explode.

  • I’m pretty sure that EVERYTHING is moving towards better quality in the digital domain. Perhaps the next thing he should improve is his writing.

  • At last, the Prophesy begins to fulfill itself:

    “…And so it came to be that Jobs did cast off the chains of licensing rights on Apple put upon it by another called by the same name. And slowly flexing its newly restriction free limbs Apple did arise unto its feet. Behold the radiant monolith that hath emerged! It was then that this magnificent pillar, with Jobs at its head, turned its focus on the four giants of hymn. Lo, His voice bellowed proudly and defiantly at the great beasts, ‘For to long have ye oppressed my followers’ measures! No longer will I passively observe such injustice done unto them! I, Jobs, demand that you release your chains upon the hymns of the faithful and of those that hath turned toward the light!’ And when the giants heard Him they quivered with such terror for they knew that they hath invited the wraith of Jobs upon themselves…”

    Jobs 23:45-52

    The Prophesy continues…

    “…And lo I did behold such an awesome sight. With the same chains that ensnared the hymns of the faithful did Jobs wrestle the first of the giants to the ground. When the once mighty behemoth struck the Earth a dreadful noise like a terrible thunder clap resounded across the land the likes of which hath never before been conceived. It has been said that families who had at that very moment just lost a loved one to the icy grips of Death did this day perceive their brethren sit up where they once lay, cold and lifeless. Upon inquiry each and every one responded with the same words: ‘I called out to Jobs, and he woke me.’…”

    Jobs 23:53-57

    These are the words of Jobs; thanks be to Apple.

  • 42:

    “Because now they have to *come up with something else to write about*.”

    They can start here.

  • LOL@The 16 people who own a Zune. I have one only because I won it as a free prize on a news broadcast viewer game. I have no idea what to do with the obscene brick. It doesn’t work on a Mac. It doesn’t even function AFAICT as a USB drive. Hell I can’t even sell it on eBay! What does that tell you? 😛 I guess closed systems like Microsoft’s Zune aren’t that popular.

  • It’s simple. Repeat a lie often enough and it eventually becomes the truth. Just ask any politician. Another example of the same behavior is the idea that cell phones cause cancer. I’m convinced that these pundits know exactly what they’re doing. They’ve got it out for Apple and are invested in their failure.

  • Nick:

    “David, buddy, are you saying that you’d resort to getting an EMI song off a P2P network rather than iTunes because you can get it in MP3 instead of AAC?”

    What planet is this guy David living on? AAC is MP4 audio. He’s complaining because he wants to use MP3 instead of the format that the MPEG, who came up with MP3, designed to replace it with?

    OK, so he’s on Windows, and he’s presumably such a Windows fanboy that he won’t use iTunes for Windows. Well, I’ve some news for him: Foobar 2000, favourite of teh audio-enthusiasts, plays AAC:

    So does Winamp. Heck, even Windows Media Player, out-of-date as it is, will play it with the right plug-ins. There’s likely others I don’t even know about. We’re usually being told by the likes of David that the Windows world is so rich in third-party applications. You know: developers, developers, developers.

    Actually … here you go, David: comparison of media players from Wikipedia, audio format support section. It took me all of 10 seconds to look that up:

  • Sigivald:

    I think the key thing you’re missing is that he’s talking about his feelings, not about the actual decision by itself.

    He doesn’t love EMI, he says. He doesn’t trust them, because they “treated him like a thief” (which is silly, since they’d happily sell him a non-DRM CD at any time).

    Once you realise he’s talking feelings, rather than rational analysis, it makes a lot more sense, doesn’t it?

    (And to quote Lord Julius, “Find out what that man’s been smoking and have an ounce of it delivered to my chambers!”)

  • Dave:

    @Sigivald, Re: “feelings”

    No, it still doesn’t make sense, because he doesn’t explore the SOURCE of those feelings: i.e. himself. Instead, it’s all about what Apple and EMI have done (or maybe what they haven’t done, it’s hard to tell).

    If there’s a real causal link between his feelings and Apple or EMI, he still hasn’t explained it. He’s hiding behind a ranting whining attitude with little or no apparent basis in reality.


  • Jim Cook:

    One correction: “gubbiment” is actually pronounced “gubment.” A true redneck drawl eliminates the useless middle syllable. Being a native resident of the deep South, I am well versed in the dialect.

    Otherwise, smashing article and analysis.

  • James Bailey:

    Sigivald is talking about truthiness of course.

    From Wikipedia

    Truthiness is a satirical term coined by television comedian Stephen Colbert[1] to describe things that a person claims to know intuitively, instinctively, or “from the gut” without regard to evidence, logic, intellectual examination, or actual facts

  • David DeJean is an idiot. DRM-free and higher bit rates are good, especially the DRM change (for me the bit rate sweet spot is actually 192). In the long term, people will be able to buy their songs where they want and play ’em where they want.

    There hasn’t been much comment on the practical effect of these changes though: a 30% hike in the cost of songs. That’s music to the label’s ears…

  • Mr. Blister:

    It would have been nicer if Apple had separated the two issues: 1) Offer low and high quality tunes with different pricing, and 2) Remove DRM for EMI and like-minded labels.

    It makes sense to charge more for higher quality, but to charge more to remove DRM…hmm. That stinks! *

    * this post in no way defends David DeJean’s blither blather.

  • Mr. Blister – You restated the position I put forth earlier. Consequently, I agree.

  • Playing devil’s advocate for a while here, so please bear with.

    The closest business analogy to what Apple/EMI are doing/have done is unleaded gas. For those old enough to remember the switch from leaded to unleaded fuel, we were never given a sound reason as to why unleaded fuel should be more expensive, since lead was *added* to the gasoline to make it leaded in the first place.

    The popular perception of the time (right or wrong) was this : since a step is being left out of the manufacturing process, the gas should be cheaper not more expensive.

    I imagine this is how it is with all those arguing and raging against the price hike, myself included. Once you have the original file set up, making copies is nearly effortless and for all practical purposes a zero cost. (Side note: this is not taking into account infrastructure costs, just the human labor involved) Since DRM had to be added to the music file, there is an argument to be made not paying to encode the music with DRM should result in significant savings to EMI.

    At the same time, Apple/EMI cannot claim $0.30 per copy of expense for every track sold, as the change needs to occur to only the original file in a one-time transaction.

    The reality is this price increase just mysteriously happens to put the new DRM free music on par with a physical CD in my neck of the woods – about $16. Isn’t that an odd coincidence? Shouldn’t the fact that I am not getting anything physical with a download (jewel case, liner notes, plastic wrap, et cetera) mean lower costs for me when compared to a CD purchase?

    Of course the DRM-free music is a great development. I won’t argue that point at all. I just fail to see why I should pay more for what shouldn’t be there in the first place, especially when there are demonstrably lower costs involved with the download than the comparable physical product. So where am I wrong in this?

  • @ Buster

    In this type of economic market it’s not necessarily the supply variables that determine prices. This is by no means a competitive industry. Sure, there are lots of, say, rock bands, but there is only ONE Beatles and ONE Jay-Z and ONE Rancid. What will really determine price is the buyer’s willingness to pay or not pay for the product.

    My first notion is that the higher price per song was a compromise; Steve Jobs said “Give us DRM free music!” EMI came to the table and said, “If its DRM free, some of those downloads will be pirated, so allow us to charge more to make up for it, otherwise why should we bother?” Then they argued about what percentage would realistically be pirated and finally agreed on 30%.

    Then they realized that most people don’t know jack about DRM and won’t know why they should pay a higher price for what they perceive is the same song. So the agreed that also making them higher quality files will justify the extra $0.30 for 90% of the dum dums who buy from iTunes (I love the iTS, but seriously, you should have to pass a 6th grade spelling and grammar test before being allowed to write a review FFS)

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