Kyleのシリコンバレー通信(英語)

2008年6月号 iPhoneとSafariとiTunes,使い勝手はイマイチです

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So Apple has now become the number one music retailer in the United States, finally surpassing Wal-Mart. It passed Best Buy a month or two ago when it captured the number two spot, and that phenomenal growth has given Apple a truly astounding 50 million customers. Apple says that through iTunes they have sold over four billion songs out of their catalog of more than six million. Who imagined five years ago, when Apple first released the iTunes Music Store, that the company would be in such a position today? The Wikipedia says that the iTMS launched with about 200,000 songs, but provides no source reference. I suppose that number is as good as any other, but I did find an article in Wired from that time that referenced that 200,000 number (http://www.wired.com/techbiz/media/news/2003/04/58656) . Whatever it was, it was far minuscule compared to the six million available now but still proved highly popular. The Wikipedia states that "in the first 18 hours, the store sold about 275,000 tracks and more than 1,000,000 in its first 5 days" (but again provides no citation) and now we find that Apple has sold four billion. Stunning.

The Benefits of Hindsight

It is rather fun to go back and look at comments from pundits at the time the iTunes Music Store first launched, and the Wired article has a few: Iann Robinson, an MTV "news correspondent" at the time (I think that means he was a "VJ" or "video jockey") said "he was looking forward to seeing a lot more independent artists available at the iTunes Music Store." Wired quotes him saying "When independent music is on there -- boom -- it will really open up." Rather amusing, with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight. How much do we hear about independent labels on iTunes now? Not so much. Google for appropriate words and most articles are from 2003 and 2004. Apple offers an affiliate program (http://www.apple.com/itunes/contentproviders/) and has talked about encouraging "indies," but it seems to me that the major record labels still dominate the industry. Perhaps iTunes is the best option independent music makers have to promote their songs, and one promising sign is Apple's reference to having added one million indie songs as part of its iTunes Plus file format expansion: "With one million indie tracks just added, there's up to 2 million iTunes Plus songs to choose from and play on any iPod, other digital music players, and an unlimited number of computers" (http://www.apple.com/itunes/store/music.html). But searching apple.com for "indie" reveals only a press release from 2004 (http://www.apple.com/pr/library/2004/jul/21indie.html).

Another person quoted was Colin Crawford, then an executive at MacWorld publisher IDG, that "the service is likely to change significantly in coming months, with price drops and big growth in the library of available music." In his words, "It's a premium service at the moment," he said. "The audience that Apple is after here can afford the iPod and to pay for music like this. But by the time it comes to Windows, it'll be a lot different." He was half right. The library has grown but songs have generally remaining 99 cents in the United States, and iPods vary in cost from US$49 to many hundreds. But again, we are reading his words with the insight of hindsight. Perhaps some people at the time thought that iPods were too expensive and songs were too expensive. We've seen though that the market hasn't agreed with that.

I must admit that I am not an expert on music. My taste runs from the uncommon (Fresh Aire/Mannheim Steamroller/Alan Parsons) to the narrow interest (DJ Addison/tranceportal.org) to the ancient (Rossini, Vivaldi, Mozart, Bach), so I am somewhat bewildered by much of the music on iTunes. Popular music just seems rather alien to me. I find bands like Spitz to be much better than, for example, Britney Spears, whose new EP "Break the Ice" appears to be number one on some kind of iTunes popularity chart (newness, perhaps?). Nonetheless, I can find lots of material on iTunes that I like, and this is one area where the "indie" is certainly in control: podcasting. I am astounded at the variety and depth of podcasts available out there, and although a number of large companies produce their own podcasts, podcasts in general seem remarkably free of the sameness found in the pop music industry. Like websites, podcasts are a great equalizer, a technology that can give almost anyone a voice worldwide. Sometimes I don't think we sufficiently appreciate the communication tools we have available.

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