My response…

My email every day gets a visit from Bob Lefsetz, not exactly sure who the guy is but he’s got some pretty strong and usually accurate opinions on the music industry. His latest target happens to be iTunes, which now offers DRM-Free and higher-bitrate tracks for a 30 cent premium over the standard 99 cent cost of a track. His gripes? A cumbersome implementation and that even the DRM free tracks have email and account info in them. I finally got up the chutzpa to respond and sent the following:

My response…

Why hate them?

Apple is offering an absurdly CONVENIENT product to distribute music to the masses in an affordable and reliable format. Now they offer music both without DRM and at a higher bitrate…for a premium price.

The bitrate argument means little to me as 256kbps doesn’t matter in a song which only needs 160kbps or 128kbps to cover all the audible frequencies. It’s just marketing targeted at audiophiles so they can brag about their high-end stereo. The key thing is the lack of DRM. That said, while they are selling you this music DRM free at a $.30 increase in price, it is still LICENSED and COPYWRITTEN. They still don’t want just anyone to start sharing these tracks with anyone.

They’ve simply allowed you – the consumer – to be able to play these tracks anywhere without using other applications to bypass DRM or having to burn the tracks to disc. It’s a convenience feature that the consumers have asked for, and just may be willing to pay that extra $.30 per track to get.

Simply put, if you don’t like the fact that information which ties the track to the buyer is included – DON’T BUY THE TRACKS! Go buy a CD or pirate the songs online. The $.99 DRM versions rely on the exact same information to prevent piracy and encrypt the files, expecting the non DRM versions to lack this information is illogical. Apple and EMI have simply put the onus on the consumer to not pirate. If they do now it’s even easier to catch them; plus Apple has covered its ass in the long run.

Lastly, the interface says outright that it will default to the iTunes Plus tracks if you accept it, and also clearly explains precisely where to change the preference back. After your first post I upgraded thinking that there was NO WAY Apple would have made something not consumer-friendly. I was right. The people who want DRM free music will use it, the people who don’t care will not, and the rest of the world will still invest in those antiquated CD things.



The second letter:

And they wonder why we hate them.

In case you’ve been out of the Net loop, when you buy an UNRESTRICTED track at the iTunes Store, it comes with your NAME and E-MAIL address EMBEDDED!

Why is it these fucks think we won’t catch on, that we’re ignorant and won’t spread the word how fucked up they are. Don’t they understand this is how they got in trouble in the FIRST PLACE? The INTERNET!

Just like Lindsay Lohan can’t cover up the fact that she crashed her car high on coke, Apple and EMI can’t cover up the fact that they’re fucking with us. This is WORSE than restricted/DRM/copy-protected music!

They’re trying to SCARE US back into the last century. Trying to trip us up, trying to keep us playing on their terms. EMI hasn’t given up on copy protection, they’ve just instituted a NEW ONE! Wherein they can trace your track if you choose to do anything untoward with it. Yup, if it’s your track that’s being traded P2P, you’re FUCKED! You’d better not open your music folder to P2P trading, your NAME might get out!

How fucked up is THIS? Why don’t you put a camera in my bedroom while you’re at it. Why don’t you require a list of every girl I ever fucked before I get into the gig. What’s next, SAT SCORES?

I thought the music was supposed to be your friend. But now it’s just part of the endless scamster scene populated by spammers and thieves looking to gain information, to strip us of our identities or beat us into submission. Yup, this is exactly what John Lennon had in mind when he made his music, a private FBI, that could fuck with you just like the U.S. government fucked with him, tried to get him deported. Lennon fought for years. There was an emotional cost. As for the FINANCIAL COST? He could afford it. Can YOU? If you’re sued by the RIAA can you even mount a DEFENSE?

In the future, the music will float freely, or be so abundant and cheap that you won’t need to trade/transfer/steal. But YOU’RE gonna have to sacrifice your rights now, along the way.

Where do they come up with this shit? How could they think they could get away with it? Are they really this afraid, this desperate, willing to do ANYTHING to protect their old business model?

As for 256kbps files… I’ve got thousand dollar speakers ( and I can barely hear the difference between the version of McCartney’s “Letting Go” I downloaded from iTunes and the 160kbps MP3 rip I made from the original CD. On cheaper speakers, on earbuds? NO DISTINGUISHABLE DIFFERENCE!

In other words, EMI just wanted to find a way to charge thirty cents more while RETAINING the copy protection. FUCKERS!

The first letter:

This is fucked up.

The way I understood it, you had the option of paying 99 cents for the usual version, or $1.29 for the hi-res one.

Seems simple enough. They exist side by side. You just choose which one you want. But NO!

So I upgrade my iTunes software, and then search for one of my favorite McCartney tracks, “Letting Go” from “Venus & Mars”. I’ve got some credit, I’ll buy it to see how good it sounds.

But when searching I could only find a handful of McCartney albums, lame ones like “Press To Play”. As a matter of fact, I only saw FIVE McCartney albums when I said to show me all that was available, 41 songs in all.

But when I went to the iTunes Store homepage, and clicked on iTunes Plus, I saw “Band On The Run”. But when I clicked on that…I got a message. “Do You Want to Set Your iTunes Plus Preference?”

“By selecting iTunes Plus below, you will always see the iTunes Plus version of an album or music video whenever one is available. You can change this preference by going to your iTunes Store Account page at any time.”

Why would I want to do that? I want to see BOTH versions.

But when I clicked “Cancel”, I found out I couldn’t look at ANY hi-res versions!

So I clicked okay, and then I found out I could no longer see the 99 cent versions!

So I went to change the preference. In Preferences, under the iTunes Menu in the iTunes software. But there was no option in “Store” to go back!

I was flummoxed. Had I lost 99 cent tracks FOREVER!

Then, furiously checking every menu in the iTunes program, under Store, I found “View My Account”. So I clicked on that.

Well, first I had to remember my password…

Then, once inside the system, at the top of my account screen, there was an option to “Manage iTunes Plus”. The fucking boilerplate gives one the impression that you will be able to see the hi-res/iTunes Plus version whenever one is available. It DOESN’T tell you that if you click this box you will never see the standard priced one AGAIN!

At least I remembered to go to my account page. Since you only see the iTunes Plus option once, you’ve got to REMEMBER that you clicked this option. Otherwise, you will believe music is now $1.29.

This is fucking nuts. This is bait and switch. This needs to end IMMEDIATELY!

When I go to buy a car, they don’t say if I want to LOOK at the one loaded up with options I can no longer look at the base model. Unless I remember that there are multiple levels and I go into the manager’s office and sign a waiver. And then I can’t look at the EXPENSIVE version unless I go back into the office!

And since you can only see one or the other, how many people are gonna no longer know that a cheap version is available?

Utter fucking bullshit.

Whom do I blame? Eric Nicoli or Steve Jobs?

Give us the option, cheap or expensive. That’s the American way, comparison shopping.

But not in music. The going out of business labels are CONTINUING to fuck their customers.

P.S. If you click to accept iTunes Plus, THEN you can see “Venus & Mars”. I clicked on “Letting Go”, I’m still waiting for it to download… Oops, I got an error code. Has the track been lost forever? Have I lost my money? Doesn’t seem like iTunes Plus is ready for prime time.

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