• Create BookmarkCreate Bookmark
  • Create Note or TagCreate Note or Tag
  • PrintPrint
Share this Page URL

The One-stop Shop

Realizing that the iTunes Music Store (hereafter known simply as The Store) would be most successful if it were easy to use, Apple eschewed the typical Internet-commerce model of creating a Web site that users accessed through a Web browser. Although this model worked reasonably well for countless merchants, it invariably required customers to slog through Web page after Web page to find and pay for the items they desired. Apple wanted a service as immediate as the experience of going to a record store, gathering the music you want, and taking it to the counter.

To replicate this experience, Apple placed The Store inside an application that was already built for music browsing and that many of its customers were likely to be familiar with: iTunes 4.

Incorporating The Store into iTunes offered several benefits:

  • It's easy to access. Just open iTunes (version 4 or later), and click the Music Store icon in the Source List. If your computer is connected to the Internet, the iTunes Music Store interface appears in the main iTunes window.

    Starting with iTunes 4.6, Apple made visiting The Store even easier (or, some may say, more annoying). The first time you connect your iPod to your computer (or restore your iPod), iTunes launches and displays the iTunes Music Store page. To stop it from doing so, simply click the small X in the information window at the top of the iTunes window, and select a different item in iTunes' Source list.

  • It's a cinch to find music. First, enter a search term in the Search Music Store field, located in the top-right corner of the iTunes window. (This term can be an artist, album or song title, or even a single word.) Then press the Mac's Return key or the PC's Enter key. In very little time, a list of matches (including songs, album titles, and artists), sorted by relevance, appears in iTunes' main window. If you type Louie in the Search field, for example, you'll find links to multiple versions of the perennial frat-house favorite “Louie, Louie,” as well as songs performed by Louis Armstrong, Little Louie Vega, and 88 Fingers Louie.

  • It's tough to purchase music you don't want. The Store allows you to hear a 30-second preview of every song it sells. Just highlight the song you want to listen to, and click iTunes' Play button. Depending on the speed of your Internet connection, the preview quickly or slowly streams to your Mac or PC and into your ears. If you don't care for the song, cool; you've just saved yourself the trouble of purchasing the entire album, as you would have had to do in the bad old days. Continue to preview songs, and purchase just the ones you like.

    If you do purchase something you don't like, you're not out as much money as you would be if you shopped at a real record store. Individual songs at The Store cost $.99, and on average, single albums cost $10.

  • It couldn't be much easier to purchase music. Simply create an Apple account, locate the music you want to buy, and click the Buy Song or Buy Album button next to the pertinent song or album. After iTunes confirms your decision to purchase, it downloads the music to your computer.

  • Finally, when the music is on your computer, you can copy it to your iPod, play it on up to five computers, and burn it to an audio CD that you can play anywhere you like—all without leaving the iTunes application.

In short, the entire process is about as complicated as ordering and eating a Big Mac and fries (and a whole lot healthier!). Easy to use as it may be, however, The Store has hidden depths. In the following pages, I'll explain all that there is to know about The Store and tell you how you and your iPod can put it to the best use.

What's in Store?

When Steve Jobs flung open the doors of the iTunes Music Store on April 28, 2003, he boasted that The Store offered more than 200,000 songs from the Big Five recording companies: BMG, EMI, Sony, Universal Music, and Warner. This is quite a passel of music by anyone's standards. In the following months, Apple bulked up its catalog to the tune of one million songs (and counting), adding more music from the Big Five as well as incorporating the catalogs of several independent labels.

Although The Store carries a wide variety of audio recordings—everything from comedy to country to rock to classical to world music—the bulk of the material is of the variety that my college music-theory professor termed “pop tunes.” As we go to press, the pop catalog has some fairly glaring gaps—you won't find recordings by the Beatles or Led Zeppelin, for example—and offerings by such popular artists as The Beach Boys, Elvis Costello, and King Crimson are limited (okay, so I'm showing my age).

Such gaps can't be attributed to anyone's lack of forethought, because Apple would love to have these artists in its catalog. The difficulty is that the works are so popular that the artists and their representatives can afford to hold out for better terms, requiring Apple to cut a special deal with them. (Such a deal was made for the Eagles' catalog, for example.) As these deals continue to be cut, you'll see a better-rounded catalog.

You may never see the Beatles at The Store, however. Apple Records (the Beatles' label) and Apple Computer don't see eye to eye on this whole music-merchant business. Apple Records maintains that it's the only Apple entity entitled to sell music. The two Apples have been to court a couple of times over this issue (Apple Records has prevailed each time), and they're at it again. Perhaps when the Apples work this one out, the Beatles' catalog and the solo works of its members will find their way to The Store.

If you're interested in music that's not played on VH1 and MTV, you'll find The Store's inventory to be a little spotty. Soundtracks for musicals, for example, are virtually nonexistent; you'll find no soundtrack recordings for West Side Story, The Wizard of Oz (though the audio book is available), South Pacific, or Camelot. And if you're a classical-music buff, you'll find recordings of many of the compositions you enjoy, but not necessarily recordings by a particular conductor, orchestra, artist, or opera company.

  • Creative Edge
  • Create BookmarkCreate Bookmark
  • Create Note or TagCreate Note or Tag
  • PrintPrint