Euro iTunes – The Next Day

There are, I’m told, 700,000 tracks available in iTunes. That certainly does sound like a lot. What are they, though? I must confess, my first few searches came up blank. There I was, yesterday, having just subscribed, thinking “I’m 35. Technologically savvy. iPod owner. Credit card. I AM the physically embodiment of the demographic that iTunes is aimed at.”

But I couldn’t find any of my favourite artists. Later on in the day, my friend Neil happily told me what the problem was: I listen to weird stuff that no-one is going to put in a music store launch.

That’ll be it then. No Autechre. No God Speed You Black Emperor. Certainly no Plaid. Oh well.

But plenty of the Darkness and the Corrs. But where’s The The? Only four tracks from Brian Eno?

Anyway, on with the shopping. I adjusted my expectations that iTunes would offer me every track I’d ever wanted and started to treat it like a mid-sized branch of Fopp.

And suddenly it became a lot better.

Signing up was a little random – I entered my details on no less than three separate occasions during the day, seemingly without a hitch. But after the service was finally happy that it really did have my credit card details, I was off to hit Mastercard for lots of multiples of 79p.

Perhaps Apple would care to explain why British subscribers pay 79p (€1.19) for a track and our European neighbours pay €0.99? Is it a reward because they’re better at football, or is it because British music execs have more expensive lunches to pay for?

Navigating through the iTunes store is incredibly easy – and a handy breadcrumb trail will lead you back down each level, from track to artist to genre to home. You can’t get lost, and this has to be the easiest music store navigation out there. Compare it to MyCokeMusic, which had me punching my TFT before I gave up and wrote the rest of my £10 off.

Celebrity play lists are a great idea – featured artists list a CD’s worth of tracks and they’re right there to buy – though there are only five playlists at the moment, and one of those is from Moby.

And that’s it, really – that’s all you can say about it: it works fantastically well and it’s easy. Click on the track you want and it’s downloaded. Then it’s on your iPod and you’re listening to it on the bus.

I suppose it’s expected with a catalogue this size, but there are a few howlers in the track information – weren’t they given the info directly from the labels, or did some work experience person at Apple US shuffle 70,000 CDs into a PC? Even the most casual scout through the store throws up listing errors frequently – my personal favourite being the David Sylvian track “Taking the Evil”. It is, in fact, called “Taking the Veil”, and is about a completely different thing altogether. Freudian slip?

In short, if your music tastes are similar to 95% of the nation then you’ll get along just fine here – iTunes really is an amazing achievement. If you normally buy your music in a petrol station, then you’ll be laughing. You know who you are, Dido fans.

If you’d had an iPod since day one, then suddenly it all makes sense.

Definitely the best and cheapest (but not by enough) music store out there.

Apple iTunes

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Fraser Lovatt

Fraser Lovatt has spent the last fifteen years working in publishing, TV and the Internet in various capacities, and believes that they will be seperate platforms for at least a while yet. His main interests at the moment are exploring where Linux is taking home entertainment and how technology is conferring technical skills on more and more people. Fraser Lovatt was born in the same year that 2001: A Space Odyssey was delighting and confusing people in the cinemas, and developed a lifelong love of technology as soon as he realised that things could be taken apart, sometimes put back together again, but mostly left in bits or made into something the original designer hadn't quite planned upon. At school he was definitely in the ZX Spectrum/Magpie/BMX camp, rather than the BBC Micro/Blue Peter/well-behaved group. This is all deeply ironic as he later went on to spend nine years working at the BBC. After a few years of working as a bookseller in Scotland, ("Back when it was actually a skilled profession" he'll tell anyone still listening), he moved to England for reasons he can't quite explain adequately to himself. After a couple of publishing jobs punctuated by sporadic bursts of travelling and photography came the aforementioned nine years at the BBC where he specialised in internet technologies and video. These days his primary interests are Java, Linux, videogames and pies - and if they're not candidates for convergence, then what is?