Apple launched the iTunes Music Store (iTMS) in Australia
yesterday to much media excitement: If you haven’t invested in a sizeable technology stack, this might not seem like
a big deal. But it is, not least because it spells doom for your local music
store.

You might have noticed quite a lot of people around lately with
white earphones protruding from their heads. Most of them are listening to an
iPod. Up until now they had two ways to get music into their ears.

Either
they went to a record store to buy a CD which they would rip onto their
computer. Or they would chance their arm on pirate networks, infested with
record company poison pills and tricksy malware.

Once they had their
music, they could either play it on their computer (often plugged into
substantial speaker systems), or listen to it on their iPod on the go.

So
what happened yesterday? Well the biggest and best legal content distribution
system, and the only one to work with all those iPods (and my stereo) finally
launched in Australia after Apple lost patience with holdouts Sony/BMG. Unlike
everything else on the Net, your credit card has to match the country you’re
trying to subscribe for – so no iTMS in
Australia meant no iTMS for
Australians.

After feeding my credit card details into the system I was soon
searching through a huge catalogue.

I was initially disappointed. Between
missing the Sony/BMG content, and not having a lot of independents on board, a
lot of my favourite artists were either not represented or under represented.
Not much Ani DiFranco or Cat Power for example.

In their favour they have
truly excellent reviews of albums – so good that the next two
albums had I thought of buying were nixed by a scathing review. Then I hit a bit of
a purple patch and picked up Powderfinger’s “Vulture Street”, The Cure’s “Boys
Don’t Cry,” Mountain Goats’ “The Sunset Tree,” Hole “Live Through This,” Nirvana
“Nevermind,”
Iron Maiden singles “Powerslave” and “Revelations,”
Goldfrapp’s “Felt Mountain” and the soundtrack to “Natural Born
Killers.”

OK, so I got a little crazy. It’s very, very easy to
spend money in there and there were obvious holes in my collection. And at $16.99 per
CD (or $1.69 for a song) it’s a bargain if you listen to music the
Apple way. iTunes does thankfully come with an allowance system so you
can restrict how much your loved ones can spend in a week.

I liked the
Mountain Goats so much I burned it to CD so a friend could listen. I know
there are restrictions to what I can do with this music but to be honest my
natural listening behaviour doesn’t seem to be touching those
boundaries.

But the real value of the system became evident at 11 o’clock
that night when, full of red wine, I had a pressing desire to sing along to the
Bocelli version of Nessun Dorma. $1.69 and 3 minutes later it was blaring out of
the stereo. Try and get that sort of instant gratification from a record
store.

In the medium term I’ll probably keep going to Landspeed Records
on Garema Place here in Canberra. Mostly to discover music I don’t yet
know about. But the generic record stores in the mall are in big, big
trouble.

Get Crikey for $1 a week.

Lockdowns are over and BBQs are back! At last, we get to talk to people in real life. But conversation topics outside COVID are so thin on the ground.

Join Crikey and we’ll give you something to talk about. Get your first 12 weeks for $12 to get stories, analysis and BBQ stoppers you won’t see anywhere else.

Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
12 weeks for just $12.